Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Toppy(ph), pifficated(ph), stink-a-rooed(ph), Liza Minnellied, in the bag, he sees the bears, and Boris Yeltsined. There are at least 2,964 words that all mean essentially the same thing: drunk. How do I know? Well, our friend, Paul Dickson, has counted. Hes the author of the new book, Drunk: The Definitive Drinkers Dictionary, and hes here now in the studio, sober I assume.

Mr.�PAUL DICKSON (Author, Drunk: The Definitive Drinkers Dictionary): Yes, as always.

BRAND: Okay, good. So what are some of your favorites that you collected?

Mr.�DICKSON: Some of them have great stories to them, like blotto, which is a wonderful term invented by G.K. Chesterton(ph), and he thought all the other terms for really being drunk were no good. And blotto is a wonderful one because later, Edmund Wilson(ph), who created his own list of drunken terms, said that was the ultimate stage of inebriation was blotto.

Its so useful that it even shows up in The Simpsons. Theres a character who says: My name is Otto; I love to get blotto. So one of my favorite new ones is feng shuied, which is the idea that somebody has had something to drink and maybe rearranged the furniture in their brain through drink.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DICKSON: And there are a lot of other

BRAND: Or at least, thats the excuse.

Mr.�DICKSON: Thats right. But they go with the time. And the first really great list of drunken terms was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had a list of 228 terms, which are - in 1737.

And then all of a sudden, these other people, over the years, Dickens made a list of them. H.L. Mencken made a huge list of them. Langston Hughes made a list. And part of it was there was this fascination with the euphemism for drunkenness because even Franklin said, look, this is a terrible condition, but people, they dont have the courage to say, well, Uncle Frank was drunk at Thanksgiving. They say, well, Uncle Frank got a little bit squiffy(ph), or Uncle Frank got a little bit tipsy, or Uncle Frank got a little bit tiddly.

BRAND: Let me just ask you this, though. Cant you just make I mean, it seems like so many of these words are just made up on the spot. Cant you just make up some?

Mr.�DICKSON: You can. But every one of them, and I spell out the rules in the book really easily. I have to find it in print. I have to find it in a novel. Part of the deal is there are always new ones coming along, and the book comes out just now. And Ive already had people who have heard about this. And after this, therell be more, wholl come and say I just found this or

BRAND: I got one for you.

Mr.�DICKSON: Whats that?

BRAND: Robert Siegeled.

Mr. DICKSON: Robert

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Lets add that one in.

Mr.�DICKSON: That would - but

BRAND: Just for fun

Mr. DICKSON: but nobody - you cant do that. It has to have a

BRAND: Its only for public radio at this time.

Mr.�DICKSON: Only for public - Robert Siegeled.

BRAND: I mean, you could do them all, Noah Adamsed. You know, I mean, you could do everybody. You could do anybody. I mean, Scott Simoned.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DICKSON: Scott Simonized. I mean, you could do anybody.

BRAND: Well, okay, were having a lot of fun with this. And these words are really fun, but youre not making fun of people who have a serious alcohol problem.

Mr.�DICKSON: No, nor am I celebrating what is a huge social evil, a huge problem in this country and the rest of the world. But what I am doing, I guess if Im celebrating anything, its sort of the way we deal with language, the way we treat each other, the way we see each other. But I mean, its not meant to be a validation of this condition.

But its really sort of an inquiry into the way the language develops and the way that famous writers - I mean, Dickens and all these writers in their writing, right up to the most modern novelist - have to deal with this subject, and so they come up with ways of describing it.

BRAND: The book is called Drunk: The Definitive Drinkers Dictionary, and Ive been speaking with Paul Dickson. Thank you.

Mr.�DICKSON: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: To see illustrations from the book and to add your own synonym for being off me pickle, go to npr.org.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Robert Siegeled. For the past week, weve been branded here on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, Madeleine Branded, very soberly, I should add. Madeleines been co-hosting. You go back to California.

BRAND: I go back to California. Its been such fun.

SIEGEL: Its been great fun for us. And on Monday, Melissa Block will be back.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: