Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Drink Like a Fish

Paul from Boyne City asked about the idiom to drink like a fish. It means to consume large amounts of alcoholic beverages.

The image evoked is of a fish immersed in water constantly opening and closing its mouth, as if drinking. Fish need oxygen to live, too. When a fish opens and closes its mouth, it is actually pumping oxygenated water back through the gills. The gills contain thousands of tiny blood vessels, so as water passes over the gills, oxygen is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites Congreve’s Way of the World [1700] as an example: “Thou art both as drunk and as mute as a fish.”

WordReference.com contains variation of this saying in other languages.

  • Hungarian: to drink like a pelican or like a brush maker.
  • Portuguese: to drink like an opossum.
  • Dutch: to drink like a Knight Templar or like a leech.
  • Italian: to drink like a sponge.
  • Esperanto: to drink like a funnel.
  • Spanish: to drink like a Cossack.
  • Finnish: to drink like a sponge.
  • Austrian German: to drink like a cow.
  • Russian: to drink like a shoemaker.
  • Catalan: to drink like a chair maker or like a musician.
  • Greek: to drink like a sponge or like a horse.
  • Serbian: to drink like a snake

We also have drunk as a skunk, drunk as a lord, drunk as a badger, drunk as a monkey, drunk as a pig, drunk as a shrew, drunk as a fiddler, drunk as a tick, drunk as a bicycle [Urban Dictionary], drunk as a plum [Czech], and drunk as a sailor.

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