Friday, 12 November 2010

Not so think as ..

There is much fuss and reflection about the British propensity for drink (although it seems to have gone unnoticed that Britons are actually consuming less alcohol than we did 10 or even 5 years ago) with some even suggesting that it is indicative that English has more words for drunk than Eskimos have for snow. Whereas the sober French for example have it so imbued into their culture that they rarely get drunk and do not require or have the variety of synonyms that English has. (The small matter of not actually knowing how many words the Eskimos have for snow doesn't seem to impair the debate.) These suggestions rather miss the fact that English has a larger vocabulary than most other languages - including French. England and the English speaking world has Protestant traditions (the country of the Plymouth Bretheren after all) where drinking was frowned upon - if not made illegal. So when you examine the other words for drunk it turns out that most terms are borrowed and are either ironic or euphemistic or just emphasise disapproval. Have you been slaughtered or just pickled? Or only whoozy or tight? After all none of these words is unique to alcohol consumption - far from it! This doesn't prove that Britons are more drunk - or less sober - than other nations but just that they are linguistically inventive. And no, I haven't been on the sauce.

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