Wise-guy lexicographer Paul Dickson, a consulting editor at Merriam-Webster, has long held the record for collecting the “Most Synonyms” for any term in the English language. He made the Guinness Book of World Records with 2,231 terms meaning “drunk”—beating out no less than Benjamin Franklin, who published his own list (The Drinker’s Dictionary) in 1736. But records are made to be broken . . . .
Enter Drunk, wherein Dickson breaks his own record by a mile with more than 3,000 terms for tipsy: blitzed, roasted, on the sauce, whazood, whiskey frisky, and Boris Yelstinned. And thousands more.
An introduction puts the list into context: Why are there so many synonyms for “drunk” and how did Dickson get to collecting them? Dickson’s wacky terms are annotated, too, and lushly illustrated, explaining the twist and turns of a language that has thousands of ways to describe somebody who is two sheets to the wind. How, for example, does a word like “blotto” go from the lips of P.G. Wodehouse, into the writings of Edmund Wilson, before landing with Otto from The Simpson’s (“My name is Otto, I like to get blotto”).
It’s a terrific exploration of language and a meditation on drinking culture throughout the ages.