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Odd drinking phrases from history

By Lia Sanders on 19/12/14 3:00 PM

When it comes to booze, English gets properly creative, totting up 141 euphemisms for being drunk (at last count). Sadly though, some of the best expressions have fallen out of use. After digging through the archives, we have found some few phrases that we are setting out to revive.

Drunk as a fiddler

There are many variations on ‘drunk as a’, from drunk as a lord to drunk as a broom. This one supposedly derives from the fact that fiddlers were paid for their performances with drinks.

Like an owl in an ivy bush

Describing the vague stare of a drunk person, it comes from the solemnity of owls and the fact that ivy was a plant of Bacchus, the god of wine. Poor owls get blamed for a lot of drinking – you can also be ‘drunk as boiled owl’.


Whatever its modern day meaning, jug-bitten used to mean intoxicated because of what the contents of the jug had done to you.

Feel as if a cat has kittened in one’s mouth

Used to describe the morning-after hairy mouth feeling, this expression was first coined in a 17th century play about Moll Cutpurse, a notorious London crook.