October 08, 2003

*What Do You Know?

About drinking cliches...

This one is a request from the Bartender...and one thing you kids should know is: Take care of your bartender and your bartender will take care of you.

He wanted to know the origins/meanings of these cliches:
Hair of the dog that bit you.
Drunk as a skunk.
Drunk as Cooter Brown.
Blind drunk.
Here's mud in your eye.
Never pet a burning dog.

"Hair of the dog that bit you."

Ancient cures often called for a second dose of whatever caused the problem in the first place. The Latin name for this was similia similibus curantar, which meant "like cures like." If someone was bitten by a dog, the remedy involved placing some of the dog's hair in the wound. The treatment for a hangover was another drink the next morning. The two ideas were combined and the second drink was called the hair of the dog that bit you.

"Drunk as a skunk."

This is probably popular only because of the rhyme. It is unlikely anyone has seen a drunken skunk. Possibly alludes to "stinking drunk."

"Drunk as Cooter Brown."

Do you live in the south? This phrase is mostly a southern one, and originated sometime between 1900 and the 1940s. If there was a Cooter Brown, he has been forgotten. It is possible this evolved from "drunk as a cooter." A cooter is apparently a turtle in the south? Y'all are weird down there. ;-)

"Blind drunk."

If you drink enough, your vision becomes impaired, of course. As early as 1622, poet Jeremy Taylor wrote:

For though he be as drunk as any Rat
He hath but catcht a Foxe, or whipt the Cat.
Or some say hee's bewitcht, or scracht, or blinde.
Which are the fittest tearmes that I can finde.

"Here's mud in your eye."

This one comes from horse racers, apparently. They would use this one teasingly, which equated to: "I hope the horse you're riding finishes behind mine."

"Never pet a burning dog."

I didn't find anything on this one...although a lot of people use it as a funny quote. I think it is fairly recent and has no deep meaning or origination. Just a guess.

Posted by Jennifer at October 8, 2003 08:08 AM


Re: blind drunk
Then there's the folks who drank methanol instead of ethanol...

Posted by: nic at October 8, 2003 12:22 PM

In all my years tending bar, I never knew the origin of those commonly used phrases.

Posted by: Sgt Hook at October 8, 2003 04:00 PM

How about the phrase, "Three sheets to the wind" ?

Posted by: serenity at October 8, 2003 09:00 PM

I missed one - Good eye Serenity!

Posted by: The Bartender at October 8, 2003 09:02 PM

3 sheets to the wind refers to a ship's sails. The "sheets" held the sails...if they were loosened, the sail was in the wind and the ship would lurch about. Much like a drunken person walking.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 8, 2003 10:21 PM

Blind Drunk comes from prohibition days when people used to brew bathtub gin, occasionally making wood alcohol (as nic pointed out, methanol) instead of drinking alcohol. This'd cause you to have vision problems in moderate doses and living problems in larger doses, i.e. Dead Drunk.

Posted by: Kin at October 9, 2003 07:56 AM

Very cool stuff. I was impressed by "3 Sheets". Most people get that horribly wrong, thinking that sheets are the same as sails. Here's is a bit more detail on the phrase:

On the big sailing ships of the Napoleonic era there were 3 main sails, one on each mast. These were the foresail (foreward), mizzen (middle) and lateen (rear) sails. "Lying to" meant turning a sail to face into the wind. This was often done with the mizzen and lateen sails but almost never done with the foresail because when the foresail was sheeted to the wind the ship became very difficult to control. Additionally when all of the main sails were "lain to" the forward motion on the ship would stop (which was the purpose of the maneuver but not something that was often appropriate on a sailing ship). There was no longer a stabilizing force exerted by the keel and the rudder became useless. They would then wallow, buck and haw as Jennifer noted, tossed about by wind and water.

Therefore the specification of three sheets to the wind.

Posted by: Jim at October 9, 2003 09:30 AM
"I didn't find anything on this one...although a lot of people use it as a funny quote"

I have another tip that I like to give people: Never play leapfrog with a unicorn!

Posted by: The Bartender at October 9, 2003 01:36 PM

Never pet a burning dog

I first saw this quote as one of the startup tips for the PC game Warcraft 2. Probably around 1996 or so.

Posted by: Jeff at June 3, 2004 09:59 PM

Who was Cooter Brown, as in "drunk as Cooter Brown"?

We called Cooter Brown's Tavern & Oyster Bar in New Orleans and were given the following story. Cooter Brown lived along the Mason-Dixon line at the time of the Civil War. He had family on both sides, and, not wishing to be drafted by either the North or the South, he decided to get drunk -- and stay drunk -- so that he wouldn't have to fight in the war. Inebriety has been measured against Cooter Brown's extended binge ever since.

Posted by: Ooga Booga at December 3, 2004 02:05 PM