Feast and Phrase

Gastronomy in the world of words.

Month: August 2015

Benjamin Franklin Beer

Ben Franklin: ‘The Drinkers Dictionary’

While previously writing about Benjamin Franklin’s interest in food, I remembered a piece which, far from simply being mentioned in passing, deserves its own article. In the 6 January 1737 edition of his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin published ‘The Drinkers Dictionary’: a list of 228 different phrases for ‘being drunk’, known to be circulating in taverns at the time. Have a read!

Nothing more like a Fool than a drunken Man.          Poor Richard

‘Tis an old Remark, that Vice always endeavours to assume the Appearance of Virtue: Thus Covetousness calls itself Prudence; Prodigality would be thought Generosity; and so of others. This perhaps arises hence, that, Mankind naturally and universally approve Virtue in their Hearts, and detest Vice; and therefore, whenever thro’ Temptation they fall into a Practice of the latter, they would if possible conceal it from themselves as well as others, under some other Name than that which properly belongs to it.

But DRUNKENNESS is a very unfortunate Vice in this respect. It bears no kind of Similitude with any sort of Virtue, from which it might possibly borrow a Name; and is therefore reduc’d to the wretched Necessity of being express’d by distant round-about Phrases, and of perpetually varying those Phrases, as often as they come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK.

Tho’ every one may possibly recollect a Dozen at least of the Expressions us’d on this Occasion, yet I think no one who has not much frequented Taverns would imagine the number of them so great as it really is. It may therefore surprize as well as divert the sober Reader, to have the Sight of a new Piece, lately communicated to me, entitled



He is Addled,
He’s casting up his Accounts,
He’s Afflicted,
He’s in his Airs.


He’s Biggy,
Block and Block,
Been at Barbadoes,
Piss’d in the Brook,
Drunk as a Wheel-Barrow,
Has Stole a Manchet out of the Brewer’s Basket,
His Head is full of Bees,
Has been in the Bibbing Plot,
Has drank more than he has bled,
He’s Bungey,
As Drunk as a Beggar,
He sees the Bears,
He’s kiss’d black Betty,
He’s had a Thump over the Head with Sampson’s Jawbone,
He’s Bridgey.


He’s Cat,
Cherry Merry,
Wamble Crop’d,
Half Way to Concord,
Has taken a Chirriping-Glass,
Got Corns in his Head,
A Cup too much,
He’s heat his Copper,
He’s Crocus,
He cuts his Capers,
He’s been in the Cellar,
He’s in his Cups,
Non Compos,
Loaded his Cart,
He’s been too free with the Creature,
Sir Richard has taken off his Considering Cap,
He’s Chap-fallen.


He’s Disguiz’d,
He’s got a Dish,
Kill’d his Dog,
Took his Drops,
It is a Dark Day with him,
He’s a Dead Man,
Has Dipp’d his Bill,
He’s Dagg’d,
He’s seen the Devil.


He’s Prince Eugene,
Wet both Eyes,
Cock Ey’d,
Got the Pole Evil,
Got a brass Eye,
Made an Example,
He’s Eat a Toad and half for Breakfast,
In his Element.


He’s Fishey,
Sore Footed,
Well in for’t,
Owes no Man a Farthing,
Fears no Man,
Crump Footed,
Been to France,
Froze his Mouth,
Been to a Funeral,
His Flag is out,
Spoke with his Friend,
Been at an Indian Feast.


He’s Glad,
Booz’d the Gage,
As Dizzy as a Goose,
Been before George,
Got the Gout,
Had a Kick in the Guts,
Been with Sir John Goa,
Been at Geneva,
Got the Glanders.


Half and Half,
Top Heavy,
Got by the Head,
Got on his little Hat,
Loose in the Hilts,
Knows not the way Home,
Got the Hornson,
Haunted with Evil Spirits,
Has Taken Hippocrates grand Elixir.


He’s Intoxicated,
Going to Jerusalem,
Been to Jerico,


He’s a King,
Clips the King’s English,
Seen the French King,
The King is his Cousin,
Got Kib’d Heels,
Het his Kettle.


He’s in Liquor,
He makes Indentures with his Leggs,
Well to Live,


He sees two Moons,
Seen a Flock of Moons,
Rais’d his Monuments,


He’s eat the Cocoa Nut,
Got the Night Mare.


He’s Oil’d,
Eat Opium,
Smelt of an Onion,


He drank till he gave up his Half-Penny,
Pidgeon Ey’d,
As good conditioned as a Puppy,
Has scalt his Head Pan,
Been among the Philistines,
In his Prosperity,
He’s been among the Philippians,
He’s contending with Pharaoh,
Wasted his Paunch,
He’s Polite,
Eat a Pudding Bagg.


He’s Quarrelsome.


He’s Rocky,
Lost his Rudder,
Been too free with Sir Richard,
Like a Rat in Trouble.


He’s Stitch’d,
In the Sudds,
Been in the Sun,
As Drunk as David’s Sow,
His Skin is full,
He’s Steady,
He’s Stiff,
He’s burnt his Shoulder,
He’s got his Top Gallant Sails out,
Seen the yellow Star,
As Stiff as a Ring-bolt,
Half Seas over,
His Shoe pinches him,
It is Star-light with him,
He carries too much Sail,
Been too free with Sir John Strawberry,
He’s right before the Wind with all his Studding Sails out,
Has Sold his Senses.


He’s Top’d,
Tipium Grove,
Double Tongu’d,
Topsy Turvey,
Has Swallow’d a Tavern Token,
He’s Thaw’d,
He’s in a Trance,
He’s Trammel’d.


He makes Virginia Fence,
Got the Indian Vapours.


The Malt is above the Water,
He’s Wise,
He’s Wet,
He’s been to the Salt Water,
He’s Water-soaken,
He’s very Weary,
Out of the Way.

The Phrases in this Dictionary are not (like most of our Terms of Art) borrow’d from Foreign Languages, neither are they collected from the Writings of the Learned in our own, but gather’d wholly from the modern Tavern-Conversation of Tiplers. I do not doubt but that there are many more in use; and I was even tempted to add a new one my self under the Letter B, to wit, Brutify’d: But upon Consideration, I fear’d being guilty of Injustice to the Brute Creation, if I represented Drunkenness as a beastly Vice, since, ’tis well-known, that the Brutes are in general a very sober sort of People.

[Note: I have seen ‘The Drinkers Dictionary’ in various sources and have taken this from the archives at The History Carper, making minor corrections using the version found in Shaun Usher’s 2014 book, Lists of Note.]

We can easily recognise certain signs of drunkenness: ‘he sees two Moons’ and ‘seen a Flock of Moons’ link nicely to the whole phenomenon of seeing double. There are words which almost appear to be forerunners – ‘hammerish’ for instance, of the modern ‘hammered’ – and those still in use, like ‘tipsey’ and ‘intoxicated’. In the 15th century, if something was ‘intoxicate’, it contained poison or was made poisonous; the verb ‘intoxicate’ meant ‘to poison’. The sense of ‘making someone drunk’ has its first written evidence around the end of the 16th century.

The_Pennsylvania_Gazette_-_1729-9-25_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_20203The Pennsylvania Gazette: Page One of the first copy printed after Franklin took over publication in 1729. Located via Wikimedia Commons. The featured image for this article is taken from Flickr user Rhys A. The quotation ‘Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy’  is popularly attributed to Franklin, but there is no evidence to indicate that it originated with him.

Some terms are very culturally specific. ‘Been to Barbadoes’ reflects the island’s reputation as a colonial producer of rum from the 1640s onwards – several tourist websites celebrate it as the very ‘Birthplace of Rum’. ‘Been to France’ and ‘seen the French King’ paint images of the country’s lavish 18th century court lifestyle, something Franklin himself came to experience in later years. On the other hand, ‘Been at Geneva’ likely refers to ‘genever’ or ‘jenever’, the juniper-flavoured spirit from the Netherlands also known as ‘Dutch Gin’. ‘Genever’ comes from genièvre; ultimately iuniperus, Latin for ‘juniper’. ‘Geneva’ is a folk corruption of the word, and ‘gin’ is a shortened form. It seems that to have ‘been at Geneva’ is to have ‘been at the gin’.

gin-488184_1280‘Gin’ is the shortened form of ‘genever’, a juniper-flavoured spirit from the Netherlands. Image from Pixabay.

Looking at Biblical connections, someone who has ‘had a Thump over the Head with Sampson’s Jawbone’ will definitely have a splitting hangover: one equal in severity to superhuman Samson’s destruction of 1,000 Philistines using only a donkey’s jawbone in Chapter 15 of Judges. I assume that anyone ‘contending with Pharaoh’ is ready to take on the big man (and the universe in general) with full drunken overconfidence – here compared to Moses’ struggle against the Egyptian oppressor of his people in Exodus.

615px-061.Samson_Destroys_the_Philistines_with_an_Ass'_Jawbone‘Samson Destroys the Philistines with an Ass’ Jawbone’, as illustrated by Gustave Doré in Doré’s English Bible (1866). Located via Wikimedia Commons.

There are various nautical phrases collected under ‘S’: ‘seafaring’, ‘he’s got his Top Gallant Sails out’, ‘he carries too much Sail’, and ‘he’s right before the Wind with all his Studding Sails out’. These could be compared to the modern concept of having ‘three sheets to the wind’. As made clear on The Phrase Finder, ‘sheets’ are not sails, but ropes used to hold the sails in place. The image of a boat with sails out of control, tipping around as a drunken sailor might do, was in use during the 1800s.

drunk-sailors-32977_1280These drunken sailors are definitely ‘seafaring’. Image from Pixabay.

Some phrases are just plain strange. Where on earth did ‘nimptopsical’ come from? You tell me! ‘Oxycrocium’ was ‘a salve made with saffron’. Given that the original meaning of ‘plaster’ is a synonym for ‘salve’, The Drunktionary has suggested that ‘oxycrocium’ might be an elaboration on ‘plastered’. However, the use of ‘plastered’ in this sense is only recorded from 1912 onwards. While ‘plastered’ may have come about from the medical definitions of ‘plaster’ –  to ‘apply a remedy to’ or ‘to soothe’ – ‘oxycrocium’ could be an unrelated earlier word which conveys the same idea and was included in the dictionary for its curious spelling. My favourite is ‘he sees the Bears’, which sounds like the furry equivalent of Dumbo’s ‘Pink Elephants’ scene. Much like that mildly terrifying animated sequence, it is probably more suited to standing for a drug-induced trip than drinking too much – much like ‘eat Opium’.

BearStarting to see the bears. Or at least one of them. Image from Flickr user beadyface.

While Franklin published the work, there is some debate as to whether he was the author. Even so, ‘The Drinkers Dictionary’ doesn’t fail to entertain, with terms from the familiar to the downright bizarre.

Franklin Duplessis

Benjamin Franklin on Food

A few months ago I finished reading Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson’s biography of ‘the most fascinating of America’s founders’. Given that I knew next to nothing about the man, other than of his legendary kite experiment and his invention of bifocals – ‘Double Spectacles’, as he called them – the account of his life, achievements, and character completely won me over.

Franklin_lightning_engravingAn engraved depiction of Franklin’s kite experiment from an 1881 textbook. Located via Wikimedia Commons. The featured image for this article is a portrait of Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, painted around 1785; image uploaded by Flickr user Cliff.

As Isaacson shows, he also took a keen interest in food. Despite his autobiographical claim that a ‘perfect inattention’ to ‘victuals on the table’ was fostered in him from childhood, food certainly does not go unnoticed in his personal writings, which contain a variety of recipes. Several are translated into French, likely from his time as a representative for American freedom in France during his seventies. Enough were found to prompt the 1958 publication of Gilbert Chinard’s Benjamin Franklin on the Art of Eating, which goes into more detail on the subject. It finds that Franklin adapted recipes from Hannah Glasse’s bestselling cookbook, The Art of Cookery, made Plain and EasyConsider the following:

Oyster Sauce for Boiled Turkey

Take one Pint of oysters draw out the Liquor which you will set apart, put them in cold water, wash and clean them well, put them in an earthen dish with their Liquor, in which you will put a shred of Nutmeg with a little butter strewed with flour and a quarter of a Lemon; boil them, then, put in a half Pint of Cream and boil slowly, all together; this done take out the Lemon, the Nutmeg, squeeze the Juice of a Lemon in the Sauce, then serve it in a Sauceboat.

From Benjamin Franklin on the Art of Eating, edited by Gilbert Chinard (1958). As featured in Gary Scharnhorst’s Literary Eats (2014).

Take a look at Glasse’s original recipe, which also calls for a celery sauce accompaniment.

1002px-Art_of_Cookery_frontispieceThe title page and frontispiece in a copy of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, made Plain and Easy, published around 1777. Located via Wikimedia Commons.

Cream, butter, and nutmeg: rather indulgent. For all his insistence on frugality, Franklin relished a good meal – or several, as was the case when in France. Living on the estate of the wealthy merchant Jacques-Donatien Leray de Chaumont, he enjoyed seven-course dinners and amassed a collection of wine containing over a thousand bottles. Such a lifestyle, accompanied by a lack of exercise, was not without its consequences: Franklin ended up suffering from gout. This prompted him to write a dialogue in which his personified malady scolded him for his ways, of which an excerpt:

FRANKLIN: Eh! oh! eh! What have I done to merit these cruel sufferings?

THE GOUT: Many things; you have ate and drank too freely, and too much indulged those legs of yours in their indolence.

FRANKLIN: Who is it that accuses me?

THE GOUT: It is I, even I, the Gout.

FRANKLIN: What! my enemy in person?

THE GOUT: […] While the mornings are long, and you have leisure to go abroad, what do you do? Why, instead of gaining an appetite for breakfast, by salutary exercise, you amuse yourself with books, pamphlets, or newspapers, which commonly are not worth the reading. Yet you eat an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of tea, with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices of hung beef, which I fancy are not things the most easily digested. Immediately afterwards you sit down to write at your desk, or converse with persons who apply to you on business. Thus the time passes till one, without any kind of bodily exercise.

Benjamin Franklin, ‘Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout’ (1780).

All this seems quite ironic when compared to the moderation Franklin called for in his youth. Take, for example, his advice in the 1734 edition of his renowned publication, Poor Richard’s Almanack: ‘Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, & sloth; / Or the Gout will seize you and plague you both.’

L0000080 Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout‘Dialogue Between Franklin and the Gout’, as published in an 1819 collection by Franklin’s grandson, William Temple Franklin. From the Wellcome Library, London.

Around the age of 16, Franklin came across Thomas Tryon’s The Way to Health, first published in 1683, which sang the virtues of ‘a vegetable diet’. He was inspired to take up this form of vegetarianism, living off the likes of raisins and biscuits, boiled potatoes, and rice. No longer spending money on meat, he had ‘an additional fund for buying books’ and furthered his studies, feeling that his regime gave him ‘greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension’. He eventually changed his mind on a boat trip from Boston to New York; tempted by the smell of freshly-caught cod being rustled up the crew, Franklin caved in! His retelling of the incident paints it as a triumph of rational thinking:

‘Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, “If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” So I din’d upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.’

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin AutobiographyA draft page from Franklin’s Autobiography. Located via Wikimedia Commons.

Later in his life, Franklin became an advocate for American foods. During the growing tension with Great Britain in the 1760s, he wrote in support of local produce:

‘[…] we have oatmeal in plenty, for water gruel or burgoo; as good wheat, rye, and barley as the world affords, to make frumenty; or toast and ale; that there is every where plenty of milk, butter, and cheese; that rice is one of our staple commodities; that for tea, we have sage and bawm in our gardens, the young leaves of the sweet white hickery or walnut, and, above all, the buds of our pine, infinitely preferable to any tea from the Indies; while the islands yield us plenty of coffee and chocolate […]’

Benjamin Franklin, ‘“Homespun”: Second Reply to “Vindex Patriae”’ (2 January, 1766).

Franklin BustA marble bust of Benjamin Franklin, made in 1778 by Jean-Antoine Houdon, now held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Located via Wikimedia Commons.

He also kept an eye out for new gastronomical delights, sending seeds of rhubarb and scotch kale to correspondents back home. Most interestingly, one of his letters refers to tofu, which he learnt of in the work of 18th century missionary to China, Domingo Fernandez Navarrete. Franklin sent a sample of soybeans to American botanist John Bartram with ‘Father Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity’. Prior to doing so, he got in touch with British merchant James Flint, who specialized in Chinese trade, to find out how it was made. Flint’s description of ‘the method the Chinese convert Callivances into Towfu’ may well be the earliest record of the word in English, though this has not been formally recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary as of yet. Franklin’s letter to Bartram spells it as Tau-fu.

Tofu and Peas‘I send, also, some green dry Pease, highly esteemed here as the best for making pease soup; and also some Chinese Garavances, with Father Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them…’ – from Franklin’s letter to John Bartram. Photo of tofu and peas by Flickr user Luca Nebuloni.

Whether experimenting with vegetarianism, arguing for American produce, or partying in France, Benjamin Franklin maintained a lifelong fascination with what he ate. While often sticking to his frugal practices, he was not one to miss out on the pleasures associated with eating – truly a ‘Founding Foodie’, as many have rightly termed him.


Broccoli Phobia and Inside Out

Pixar does what it does best with its new masterpiece, Inside Out, which shows us the world of eleven-year-old Riley through her personified emotions: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger. Its exploration of how someone emotionally responds to the changes around them – and how that process can at times be a struggle – is hilarious, clever, and utterly heart-warming.

Audiences see the development of everything from Riley’s most cherished memories, like family time and playing hockey, to her most intense dislikes, chief among which is broccoli. Pixar animators were so keen to emphasize this aversion that they based the design of the character Disgust, voiced by Mindy Kaling, on the verdant vegetable. Initially, it seems that Riley’s encounters with the offending greens lead only to revulsion – when being fed as a baby, or when offered broccoli pizza. Later, when Joy and Sadness descend into her subconscious and face a forest of the florets, broccoli is revealed to be one of her deepest fears.

Mindy Kaling Disgust Inside OutMindy Kaling and her Inside Out character, Disgust. From Mindy Kaling’s Instagram page.

There doesn’t appear to be any official term for ‘a fear of broccoli’, though one might informally describe Riley as having ‘broccoli phobia’. Of course, it is worth remembering that the word ‘phobia’ has varying definitions. Medically speaking, a phobia is more than just a simple fear; it is an overpowering fear which can incapacitate the sufferer, forcing them to avoid the cause. There can be noticeable physical symptoms, from nausea to trembling. ‘Simple phobias’, often forming in early years, focus on certain objects or activities – the fear of spiders, or of climbing to a height, for instance. ‘Complex phobias’ usually come about in adulthood, with more profound concerns. ‘Agoraphobia’ is a prime example: more than just ‘a fear of open spaces’, it greatly depends on the situation in which the sufferer finds themselves.

Broccoli 2Broccoli, photographed by Flickr user Mike Licht.

Understandably, Riley’s fear of broccoli does not fit this definition. It is more in line with the wider use of ‘phobia’ to suggest ‘strong dislike, or aversion’. In the absence of a ‘proper’ term, the closest substitute would be ‘lachanophobia’‘a fear of vegetables’ – of which there are various real-life examples. Consider student Vicki Larrieux, who claims to have panic attacks at the sight of most vegetables and largely subsists on meat, grains, and potatoes, as well as the odd apple. A similar case is that of London resident Dee Vyas, whose fear confines her to dietary staples and snacks. Lachanophobia has also made it into animation. The Australian children’s series Figaro Pho features a segment where its titular character, who is affected by every possible phobia, engages in trench warfare with peas and pumpkins.

peanut-butter-‘Arachibutyrophobia’ – ‘The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth’ – was invented by Charles M. Schulz for his comic strip Peanuts. Photo by deborahmiller56 at Pixabay.

It is easy to find lists of ‘weird food phobias’ online. Some of these were originally jokes, but have since been confused as real. ‘Arachibutyrophobia’, or ‘the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth’, falls into this category – it was actually thought up by Charles M. Schulz for his comic strip Peanuts. Fabricated phobias can be found listed next to medical conditions, blurring the lines between fake and real, dislike and disorder. This can also make it difficult to take particular phobias seriously.

For example, ‘cibophobia’ or ‘sitophobia’ is ‘a fear of eating’, which might be regarded as ridiculous or even impossible. ‘How can someone live if they’re afraid of eating?’ is a dismissive question that might come to mind. That ignores the genuine issues faced by those who may fear eating because of the resulting symptoms, such digestive pain caused by a pre-existing illness. This was the case with Faye Campbell, a British carer who had gastroesophageal reflux, which causes painful indigestion. She developed a phobia of food which remained even after the condition was cured. Unable to stomach fruits and vegetables, she grew accustomed to a diet largely composed of processed foods.

Green PeppersGreen peppers – not so popular with children in Japan. Photo by Flickr user liz west.

Food phobias may have a wide variety of origins – anything from childhood trauma to religious custom might be responsible. They may also differ by community. This is something the Pixar team acknowledged when adapting Inside Out for viewers in Japan. Rather than show Riley refuse broccoli, held to be very popular in the country, they used green peppers, which is especially disliked by Japanese children. This change, small enough to miss, seems to jump audiences from the mind of a girl into the mind of a nation, demonstrating that phobias – here in the ‘dislike’ rather than ‘disorder’ sense – are not just specific to individual people, but also to cultures on a whole.

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