When I'm looking for rare euphemisms to include in this column, I don't turn to drink, but I do turn to Drunk: The Definitive Drinker's Dictionary. Paul Dickson's amazing collection of 2,964 terms for being tipsy, lubricated, guzzled, or uncorked is a euphemism-palooza.
In past columns, I've looked at terms from Dickson such as circling over Shannon and admiral of the narrow seas, but his unique lexical brew deserves a longer sip. In the spirit of columns on the Dictionary of American Regional English and Green's Dictionary of Slang, here's an all-Drunk euphemism roundup that's sure to impress the folks at your local microbrew, bistro, pub, or AA meeting.
wearing the wobbly boots
This reference to the stagger of a boozehound is one of many terms for inebriation that refer to the challenges of walking while tipsy, such as legless. Another allusion to the drunk's unsure walk offers an apt assessment of alcohol's influence on the ol' thinkbone: zombified.
I assume this involves bourbon but not, I pray, falling into the fryer at KFC.
elevated with the juice of the grape
This lofty expression was coined by Charles Beauclerk in Nell Gwynn: Mistress to a King, and I feel it elevates this column with the juice of poetry. The drunk lexicon is such a pleasure because it runs the gamut of expressiveness in English, from the hoity-toity-ness of elevated with the juice of the grape to the blunt humor el whappo'd. Other wine-centric euphs include in the grip of the grape, smitten by the grape, and out nibbling the grape.
lit up like a kite
Lit up is itself a term for sauced, and there are extensions aplenty, including lit up like a ballroom, carnival ride, cathedral, Christmas tree, firefly, lantern, lighthouse, store window, skyscraper, Star of Bethlehem, and a honky-tonk on a Saturday night. As often as drinkers are said to be lit up, they are referred to as full. Dickson writes that the term full of loudmouth soup was the winner of a contest conducted by BBC correspondent Tom Morton in 2008. That phrase has many cousins, such as full as a bull, lord, goose, pot, pig's ear, and tick on a fat cow.
The origin of the phrase lies with a story about Winston Churchill as a teenager. The future prime minister was so sauced on mead he attempted to shove a blueberry scone down the trunk of a sleeping elephant in the London Zoo.
Jumbo's truck, addendum
I wish that were true. Alas, Jumbo's trunk is merely British rhyming slang for drunk.
jober as a sudge
This is a spoonerism that I imagine was coined in a state of joberness.
The Oxford English Dictionary also records this one, which is defined as "Drunken, intoxicated; given to, characterized by, or proceeding from drunkenness; intoxicating." This 1804 use shows its metaphorical reach: "Sooner..Than I, to frenzy temulent, with love, False to its palpitating precepts prove." The OED also records variations such as temulentious, temulentive, temulently, and temulentness. If this word caught on today, it would be more likely to spawn variations such as temulent-y and temulent-pocalypse.
drunk like Sinatra
Many terms reference a famous lush, like this reference to ol' blue eyes. Hoist enough pints and you might also find yourself Jan Michael Vincented, Jimi Hendrixed, or Boris Yeltsined. My favorite use of a name in Drunk comes from a fictional character: la femme drunkita.
drive the porcelain bus
This refers to the vomitastic aftereffects of drinking, though I find it less respectful than praying to the porcelain god. Another toilet-centric term recorded by Dickson is porcelain-ready.
done a Falstaff
This Shakespearean reference to literature's jolliest buffoon lends credence to my theory that Falstaff is the Rosa Parks of alcoholic characters who provide comedy relief. Another Shakespearean term describes an alky as Tight as Andronicus.
daffy with sentimental water
If you've ever known a drinker who said things like "I love you, man" and "When this all gets sorted out, I think you and me should get an apartment together!" you'll appreciate the linking of inebriation and sentimentality.
For more Drunk-ology, you'll have to buy the book, which goes for about the price of a martini but lasts so much longer. You don't need to be zambonied, materially altered, not in Kansas anymore, guarding the gates of hell, gazumped, or accidentally horizontal to enjoy it. I guarantee you'll love this book whether you're stone-cold sober or out in left field with a catcher's mitt on.