A Translation Question.

A reader sent me the following request found on Facebook; it’s by Ivan Sokolov, a young poet and translator in Russia:

Now, a question for my English-speaking friends. Is there a word or expression you know to mean ‘get drunk’ in a good-humoured way, especially to emphasize that the guy enjoyed the drinking (or at least the taste of the booze)? Something like ‘feeling merry’ or ‘being flushed’…

It’s just that in Russian we have this wonderful verb “налакаться” (lit. ‘to lap a lot’, which has a strong association with a cat licking up something delicious) and it would be nice to render this Russian connotation of revelling in the booze in English as well. The meaning of the Russian idiom is much stronger than ‘merry’, it’s almost ‘boozed up’, but it lacks all the violent connotations of the English synonyms (like ‘plastered’ or ‘hammered’), which puts me at a dead end. Can you think of something?

There are, of course, many synonyms for drinking and getting drunk in English, but most of the ones I know are probably out of date, and besides I’m not coming up with one that has the merry connotations desired, so I’m passing the question on to the crowd at the LH Saloon.


  1. George Grady says

    There’s an entire book dedicated to just this topic: Intoxerated, by Paul Dickson.

  2. J. W. Brewer says

    There’s “feeling no pain,” meaning “has had rather quite a lot but isn’t unhappy about it and isn’t really causing difficulties for others,” and also “buzzed” although that may imply “no longer sober, but not THAT intoxicated.” Then there’s the ten stages of drunkenness from Dan Jenkins’ novel Baja Oklahoma. At one point in my life I could have recited them for memory, but now I have to google up a link where someone has transcribed them hopefully accurately, e.g. http://coudal.com/archives/2011/04/dan_jenkins_10.php

  3. For me, “feeling no pain” is a pathological condition, of course, though I’m rather used to it by now.

  4. Dan Davies Brackett says

    “two (or three) sheets to the wind” comes to mind – a nautical expression, from the days of sail. A sheet is a line used to secure a sail in position – if 3 sheets are in the wind, not tied down, the sail is definitely out of control and flapping, and the boat’s not moving much (and moving erratically when it does).

  5. “two (or three) sheets to the wind” comes to mind

    Aside from the question of whether people still use it, to me this is a simple description of endrunkenation, with no particular implication of merriment. The Russian verb implies the pleasure of a cat lapping up milk, not primarily the ensuing condition.

  6. I could be wrong, but as a native Russian speaker, I don’t feel any enjoyment or merriment in “налакаться” when used to describe a person who got drunk. This meaning is different from the one used when talking about cats or other animals, and the dictionaries seem to confirm this: ” 1. Полакать чего либо вдоволь (обычно о животных). 2. перен. разг. сниж. Напиться до полного опьянения (о человеке). Толковый словарь Ефремовой. Т. Ф. Ефремова. 2000″ and “1. О животных: лакая, насытиться. Н. молока. 2. Напиться допьяна (прост. неод.). Толковый словарь Ожегова.” We probably need the whole sentence to understand the context. Also, the words “нализаться, нажраться, наклюкаться, набраться” are quite similar and don’t imply any merriment, at least in most cases.

  7. Ah, that’s good to know; I wasn’t familiar with this sense of the word, so I was just going by what Sokolov wrote.

  8. I immediately thought of “sozzled”, but that’s just another way of saying “drunk”…

  9. There’s ‘tipsy,’ although that probably doesn’t convey a sufficient degree of drunkenness. Then again, among some of my more puritanical older relatives, saying (with pursed lips) that someone might have been a little merry the other evening meant they were falling down drunk.

    Oh, what about saying that someone looked to be somewhat the worse for wear? Maybe too old-fashioned and possibly regional.

  10. Another one: well-oiled

  11. How ’bout “in his cups”?

  12. Yes, I like “in his cups”; it doesn’t imply merriness, but it certainly has no connotation of censoriousness.

  13. Jeffry House says

    I’m going to “tie one on”. I think that emphasizes the process, and the pleasure as well. For me it also emphasizes the destination of full inebriation. You can’t tie one halfway on.

  14. Another good candidate.

  15. There’s “tight” as a possibility, or even better, “lit.”

  16. David Marjanović says

    Oh, that reminds me of illuminiert in German!

  17. That reminds me of a completely off-topic question:

    In baseball a pitcher who is having a very good game is said to be “lights out”. What is the metaphor behind this?

  18. La Horde Listener says

    “Pickled” or “plastered” come to mind, as does “all liquored-up”, possibly “get snockered”, but I could do better. I recommend your searching Google images for “Wacky Packages Stickers Plastered Peanuts”; look for the cartoon showing the jar full of “plastered” peanuts, not just the single peanut. If you begin laughing as hard as I usually do, then you had better pack a lunch and kiss the day or eve goodbye ’cause hours could be spent oogling the Wacky Packages cartoon artwork. Also, look up “Ernie Kovacs’ Holiday Commercial for Dutch Masters Cigars” on YouTube, okay? That one includes at least a couple rather uncommon terms for what you’re seeking. Adorable question by the way.

  19. Quoth WP’s baseball glossary s.v. lights out, the implication is that everyone on the opposing team will be retired in short order, so the ground crew might as well turn out the lights and go home.

  20. Another interesting baseball term is walk-off home run – a home run by the home team in the ninth inning which puts them in the lead, thus ending the game. (And the usage can be extended to any action that similarly ends the game – walk-off hit, walk-off walk, etc.) It was coined by Dennis Eckersley in the 1980s, who used it in reference to the defeated pitcher’s lonely walk off the field, but has been recast in people’s imagination to refer to the home team’s victorious walk off the field. Either one works, I suppose.

  21. La Horde Listener says

    Toasted. A warm, 100% pleasurable experience. I used to try rigging up those little cocktail umbrellas into parasols for my Barbie Doll, but they never stayed open and were too short. Better was wrapping her in aluminum foil for faux space adventures.

  22. ivan sokolov says

    hi everybody,
    thanks a lot for your hearty contributions 🙂
    julia was right that usually the russian word is used derogatively, but in my context there’s a great share of irony, because the protagonist is describing a very pleasant event from his past
    i loved what you all wrote. perhaps, ‘in one’s cups’, ‘tie one on’ and ‘toasted’ are my favourites from this list, although i do seem to prefer ‘well-oiled’ to them. but this discussion was very helpful. thank you!

  23. Buzzed, I think. Sozzled, plastered etc implies having over done it, to me, while buzzed means enjoying the drink without any ill consequence.

  24. “Soused”, I think, at least *sounds* wonderful, although its literal meaning isn’t.

  25. “High” captures the pleasure pretty well, though it’s hardly ever used for alcohol any more.

  26. Am I the only one who thinks “three sheets to the wind” implies that you have cut loose and are having a really good time?

  27. Not to me (any more than any other synonym for “drunk”), but I’m curious to know if others feel as you do.

  28. “Well lubricated” — in the context of alcohol, I don’t think it has any sexual connotation (unless you’re supplying a wider context) —& seems to mean having a jolly time while slightly sozzled.

  29. Practical Pirate says

    squiffy ˈskwifē/
    British slang for slightly drunk. Also used in Australia and New Zealand given their Commonwealth linkages.

  30. Charles Perry says

    There seem to be more terms for being exceedingly drunk, such as the Scottish “miraculous.”

  31. “Pissed” probably deserves a mention, if only for the confusion it causes North Americans.

  32. marie-lucie says

    I have heard Canadian men using “pissed” in a definitely unconfused manner.

  33. There are a fair number for “happily slightly drunk” like tipsy, buzzed etc. (This is clearly the Slightly Less Than Two Glasses Of Wine peak discovered by the secret order of the Inebriati. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIv96reVlAE) “Happily very drunk” would be, in Scots, “well away”.

  34. I confess to having been lubricated on a small number of occasions.

  35. According to my Catalan friend, in Spanish the infinitive form “ir contento” means to get merrily drunk, to drink with the implication of “happy” or “merry”. If you say “Juan va contento”, then you’re saying Juan is getting happily/merrily drunk.

    The literal meaning is “to go contentedly” or “to go happily”, but it’s never used for its literal meaning.

    I asked her if “ir contento” could mean/imply (or apply to) anything else, and she said, “No. It’s always in the context of booze.”

  36. There’s “pre-gaming”, which definitely suggests that you’re drinking to enjoy yourself, but that specifically applies to drinking before an event and I think it’s fairly modern- the word came up recently and my parents weren’t familiar with it. Plus it’s more “enjoying the effect of the alcohol” than “enjoying your drink for any actual flavor-related reasons”.

  37. J. W. Brewer says

    I find the “pre-gaming” concept rather sad and desperate-feeling (esp in context where people are trying to get themselves drunk quickly before going to an event where they may not be able to obtain additional alcohol), but maybe those who do it think they’re enjoying themselves?

  38. The people involved generally seemed to be enjoying themselves, yes? In my experience it was almost always used in reference to events where alcohol would be available but prohibitively overpriced, if that makes any difference. Football games, for instance- I always assumed it started out as tailgating slang, not that I have any evidence of it. Could be from anywhere, I guess, it’s not like football fans invented the sports+drinking combination.

  39. In German there’s a similar concept, vorglühen, lit. “pre-glow”, meaning to drink before going to a club etc., often done because alcohol is expensive at the place one is visiting.

  40. “lit up” ?

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