Sunday, 7 July 2013

Binge (drinking) - A Whiskey Alement

Drunk, Lout, Yob, Pissed, Locked, Plastered, Drinking game
"Binge Drinking is as British as Rain"
Photo by Katarzyna-Bens Photography


Noun. Mid-19th century.
[from BINGE verb]

1. A soaking. dialectical M19

2. A bout of heavy drinking etc.; a spree. slang M19


Verb. Present participle & verbal noun bingeing, binging. Early 19th century.
[Origin unknown.]

1. verb trans. Soak. dialectical E19

2. verb refl. & intrans. Have a bout of heavy drinking etc.; go on a spree. slang M19

3. verb trans. Liven up, ginger up. slang L19

Binge, especially when used in the phrase binge-drinking, feels undeniably tabloidesque. However, at the risk of sounding like a morally-outraged Daily Mail columnist, binge-drinking is undoubtedly the blight of modern British and Irish culture.

For anyone that's never been to one of our fine city centres at night, a transformation takes place at around 9pm. Our beautiful and historic streets are suddenly engulfed by marauding packs of staggering, hormonally-charged louts, intent on little else than consuming such copious amounts of alcohol that they're destined to pass out on a street corner in a pool of their own vomit (though not before picking several fights, dancing on someone's car while wearing a traffic cone and aggressively groping complete strangers while windmilling across a crowded dancefloor).

Drunk, Binge drinking, Britain, Ireland,
Photo by McSaoul
If you think I'm exaggerating for effect, I'm not - binge-drinking has become culturally ingrained. The intention of going out to get pissed, locked, hammered, mullered, plastered or wasted (to use but a few synonyms) is stated quite openly, as are the shameless recollections (if there are any) of the previous night's festivities. It's strange that there's an oddly euphemistic tone to these expressions: getting plastered sounds like a bit of a laugh with some mates, whereas to get drunk sounds a bit taboo, like something a middle-aged man might do at an office party where he was, quite frankly, an embarrassment to all.

If you think you're not a binge-drinker (apparently most of us think we're not), you might be surprised as to what binge-drinking actually is. Although there's some contention over the precise definition, the World Health Organisation defines binge-drinking as "drinking six or more standard drinks" in one session. Considering that this only equates to three pints of beer, it's not surprising that a lot of us underestimate the extent to which we may be binge-drinkers. Considering what it does to our bodies, this is a potentially lethal mistake.

Of course, alcohol isn't the only thing one can binge on, so might I suggest that we reclaim this small and rather ugly word of unknown origin for altogether more healthful pursuits? A book binge perhaps? Or even a Lexicolatry binge, defined (by me) as the reading of more than ten posts in one session; you could even go all the way back to aardvark and work you're way through to binge. Rock 'n roll!

"Binge Drinking is Fun?"
Artwork by Tray Butler
If you have any thoughts on bingeing, alcohol-related or otherwise, do please leave your best morally-panicked comments below.  


  1. What you describe is what takes place on some Greek islands in the summer...I've noticed that drunk British people like flashing their butts in the middle of the street too. What's up with that?

    Greeks binge drink too. Although it starts at around 11pm and finishes after 2am.

    Personally, I usually binge on tv series episodes.

    1. I'm bingeing at the moment on Downton Abbey, and rather fine it is too. As for "mooning", I've no idea Evi. Apparently some bingeing Brits think it's big and clever ...

  2. *looks at Ed in disgust* So that's Britain by night? How can you all be known to be so civilised, yet be so uncultured at night? I don't get it.

    1. *shakes head in disgust"

      It's the shame of Britain and Ireland, Bibi.

    2. I must say, I know some people who only go out to get drunk, too. I don't get that either, there's nothing fun about passing out in a dark alley or throwing up all over yourself.

      Ed, maybe it's a trend we missed. We're so uncool.

  3. I've seen this phenomena--Fourth of July and all--folks do a lot of binge drinking and it is NOT pretty. Your observations are interesting. I appreciate your comments and information. No matter how bad the word--it is a novelty to know how such words get into our vocabulary. Have a great day! :o}

    1. I wouldn't mind so much if it were restricted to just special holidays, Beth. But it's *every* weekend - *every* night in some places.

  4. I cannot tell a lie, I have been a binger (is that a word? Most likely not...) on a number of occasions. The last time I had a binge was a couple of years ago at the office Christmas party (a very popular binge venue in the UK) and I absolutely set out to do it. I find that this is the difference between a mature person binge and a youth binge - I can control when I do it now and I couldn't then! For the vast majority of the last 20 years (probably minus no more than 5 days), I drink in moderation and can pretty much take it or leave it so clearly, for me, it isn't about the drink, it is about the binge. Mmm, that's a sobering thought...

  5. I started drinking brake fluid recently, but I can stop anytime I want.


    1. *groans, facepalms and drinks antifreeze simultaneously*

      Talking of bad jokes, my headline pun doesn't work. I was under time pressure when I wrote it, but that's no excuse. I should have stuck with "whiskey", as in "a whiskey business", OR "alement", as in "a dangerous alement". I got greedy and now I'm paying the price.

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