Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Combing through the volumes of GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG, checking out the owl situation, getting to the bottom of this "drunk as a boiled owl" business. I used all three volumes (A-E, F-O, P-Z) to write this "post," aren't you proud? And so I slip slowly into my twilight years of muttering to myself. Here's "owl-eyed," meaning drunk, and yes, I can see that, especially since Cole Sanchez sent me a "link" to a "web" site called "Hungover Owls" or something - why won't I "link" to it here? I don't know! Did some of those owls look exploited? Probably not. I got depressed for some reason. (See also.) But owls do look drunk, apparently. I should have figured that out before now. Which came first, though, the owl or the boiling? I guess that was my primary concern. WHY BOIL THE OWL? The first printed example they give of someone being "drunk as a boiled owl" comes from 1862, though someone was "as drunk as an owl" - a plain old owl, non-boiled - in 1770. BUT! That made me look up "boiled," and in 1877 "there is a balm for a headache caused by last night's debauch to have it said you were 'slightly cheered' or 'stewed' or 'boiled.'" But that's a little later than the boiled owl. So did the boiling of the owl come first? I THINK NOT. Because I looked up "stewed" - meaning drunk - and that goes back as far as 1616. And obviously being "boiled" is a variation on being "stewed" so when you're "as drunk as a boiled owl" maybe you're "as drunk as a drunk owl," huh, well, that's a little redundant. You can be as drunk as a lot of different things according to this book, including a "bowdow," which I guess is a mishearing of "boiled owl" - the book doesn't say that, I'm just guessing. Hmm, looking back I see that the original phrase that puzzled me was "sore as a boiled owl," which does make more sense now, but I think I need to get out Volume Three again and have a go at "sore." This is my life now.