Under the monkey

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Inebriation is a state that is interpreted internationally by a colourful range of similes. For the French you are as sober as un chameau (a camel) but as drunk as un cochon (a pig), une grive (a thrush), or even une soupe (a soup). In Lithuanian you can also be drunk as a pig (kiaulė), or then again as a bee (bitelė) or a shoemaker (šiaučius). Elsewhere you can be drvo pijan (Macedonian) drunk as a tree; jwei ru ni (Mandarin) as mud; orracho como una uva (Cuban Spanish) as a grape; bull som en kaja (Swedish) as a jackdaw; itdek mast (Uzbek) as a dog.


Afterwards, it’s not always a fish the world drinks like:


beber como uma esponja is Portuguese for to drink like a sponge while uwabami no yo ni nomu is Japanese for to drink like a python and geiin suru, Japanese for to drink like a whale.


Interestingly it’s often one country that translates the issue away from their borders. opilý jako Dán is Czech for to be as drunk as a Dane while ubbriaco come un marinaio inglese is Italian for as drunk as an English sailor.


Then there are the metaphors. The Danish, who have already developed a reputation, offer at have tommermaend for having a hangover (literally, to have carpenters, i.e. hearing the noise of drilling, sawing etc.)


But it’s the Germans who seem to own up to the scenario with a range of vocabulary to reflect it:


einen Affen sitzen haben to be dead drunk (literally, to have a monkey set on one)


sternhagelvoll completely drunk (literally, full of stars and hail)


Backhendlfriedhof (Austria) a beer belly (literally, cemetery for fried chickens)


Katzenjammer a very severe hangover (literally, the noise made by mating cats)


And there’s an intriguing interpretation of colour idioms:


Blau sein (German) drunk or stoned (lit. to be blue)


être gris (French) to be drunk (lit. to be grey)


être noir (French) to be drunk (lit. to be black)


leissza magát a sárga földig (Estonian) he’s very drunk (lit. he drinks himself to the yellow gourd)


Those who have not experienced sgriob (Scottish Gaelic) which translates as the itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whisky may have suffered from olfrygt (Viking Danish), the fear of a lack of ale (in parochial keeping with bjor-reifr (Old Icelandic) cheerful from beer-drinking.


English itself is not short of descriptions:


hozzy nozzy (Rutland dialect) not quite drunk


as full as a fairy’s phone book (Australian slang late 1900s) drunk


zig-zag (Tommies’ slang) drunk


cherubimical (1737) drunk

But it’s probably the Russians who have the most detailed vocabulary:


pogoda shepchet to take time off from work or a desire to get drunk (literally, the weather is whispering)


busat’ to drink alone


deryabnut’ to drink quickly in order to warm up


gorlo to drink from the bottle


vspryskivat’ to drink in celebration of a holiday or a new purchase (literally, to besprinkle)


daganyat’ sya to drink in order to get drunk, to try to catch up with the amount of drinking that others have already done


otglyantsevat’ to drink beer or wine after vodka (literally, to gloss a photo print)


ostogrammit’sya to drink 100 grams of vodka as a remedy for a hangover

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