Friday, 13 March 2009

Beer O'Clock: Beer Bits

Here's a few beer stories from around the traps.
    At the Dictionary Centre we are interested in the historical aspect of New Zealand words and usages in every domain, and alcohol is no exception . . .
    Shepherds, station hands and shearers would rush to town to "lamb down" their pay cheques, ie spend them at the nearest public house. As prohibition took hold, a unique use of the term "dry area" developed in New Zealand English. Soon words were generated for the products of illicit stilling and brewing, ranging from "bush beer", "bush whisky", "cabbage tree rum", "chain lightning", "colonial brew", "hokonui", "matai beer", "paikaka" ("it had a kick like a mule") and "tutu beer", to "sheep wash" and "Waitohi dew". Sly groggers were known in New Zealand by a variety of names, including "dropper" and "blind tiger."    Waipiro (rotten water) was an early name borrowed from te reo as a general term for alcohol, while titoki was a common borrowing for beer or shandy. Even dogs contributed to the lexis of alcohol. A "dog collar" is froth on beer, while to have "a dog tied up" was to owe money for drink. The word fence was compounded with others when alcohol was mixed with ginger beer, hence rum fence, sherry fence and "stone fence" (brandy and ginger beer).
    Beer brewing and drinking has its own vocabulary. To "chew hops" was to drink beer, or in other words, to have a "brown bomber." Too much of a good thing could produce a "beer goitre" or pot belly. Among the shearing fraternity and sorority, "beer o'clock" was the time to "knock off" work for the day. In fact, beer was often known as "shearers' joy" or "Tommy Dodd."
    Cockney rhyming slang was adopted to codify beer as "pig's ear", while too much gave one the "Joe Blakes" (the shakes). One then recovered with a "nurse" (an alcoholic pick-up drink) and the empties, or "dead marines", were collected in "bottle drives."
    Alcohol produced by amateurs usually resulted in unpalatable or potent drinks known as "green liquor", "purple death" (cheap red wine), "purge" or "panther purge." No doubt even more unpalatable was methylated spirits, known as "steam" by those in the know. Steam drinkers were likely to be "Jimmy Woodsers", to drink Jimmy Woodsers, or to "drink with the flies", all the equivalent of drinking alone.  
    An "Anzac Day dinner" was the term for a liquid lunch, perhaps with "Anzac shandy", a beer and champagne mix.
    The more New Zealanders drank, the more "mullocked", "munted", "shickered", "wasted" or "steamed" they would become.
    We left the "six o'clock swill" in the 1960s, in the attempt to make our drinking culture more "civilised". Perhaps you can sense the "Tui moments", hear the apposite response, and visualise the headshakes.|    Nevertheless, we cannot claim that alcohol has been a dry area in terms of word generation in New Zealand English.
Delightfully described, Ms Bardsley.  And now I'm off to chew some hops myself -- and in honour of Neil Miller's  Porter Story at his other blog, I'll do it with a Grafton Porter from Galbraith's, as I have so often before.

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