Archive for April 13th, 2005

Idiom Testing, Number One

Because everyone needs a break from politics now and again…

Idioms, admittedly, are not meant to make sense when considered literally, and it is this obtuseness which makes their mastery such a trying challenge for all other than native speakers of a language. Even native speakers of a language can be driven to bafflement and bewilderment when examining an idiom too closely; if one is of a literary bent, and in the presence of those who have consumed more than the recommended dosage of alcoholic beverage, asking your companions to explain such sayings as “right as rain? can lead to all manner of lowbrow hilarity.

Speaking, so to speak, of alcohol, there is a saying – too drunk to stand up straight and piss – which seems, at first glance, to be of such exceeding clarity and obviousness of meaning that it, strictly speaking, seems to not be an idiom at all. As the sort of bookish and introverted individual who tends to socialize both infrequently and irregularly, my exposure to people so sufficiently inebriated has been, to no great loss, limited to very nearly the point of nonexistence.

Yet proof that this is indeed an idiom was demonstrated to me some time ago, when I had occasion to be at a social gathering of acquaintances – not even, properly, a party as such – where there was in attendance a fellow of no particular note, whom we shall call Nicholas. Nicholas, as near as I am able to determine, is a hippy, or at least styles himself as such, and in a presumably conscious effort to perpetrate the continuance of certain stereotypes best left, in my opinion, dead and buried in the Summer of Love, he travels nearly everywhere with a large wooden drum of vaguely African styling. The details of this cheap and poorly made instrument are not important to this story, except to say that it is about the size of a milk barrel, for those who remember such things, and painted black, save for it’s drumhead, which is white.

Nicholas apparently found the conversation at this gathering to be insufficiently stimulating for his young and chemically-numbed mind, or perhaps his freshly broken probiscus, of which injury he was never, in my presence, able to give a sufficient explanation for, was so painful, that he sought either stimulation or oblivion in overindulgence in alcohol. He got, in short, ratted, well and truly plastered on most of a bottle of cheap bourbon, and soon passed out on a couch, rather much to the relief of everyone in attendance.

If this last statement seems callous, please understand that Nicholas is a loud, boisterous, and generally just irritating waste of space when conscious, but when passed out didn’t even so much as snore, and was, if not unobjectionable, at least no worse than a waste of a couch. In any event, he passed out and was for some time happily forgotten by those in attendance.

That was, until he committed such a shocking act of social impropriety that, in certain rather small social circles, will most likely ensure his being remembered forever, or close enough as makes no difference.

In his impaired state, he was demonstrably oblivious to external stimulus. Alas, he was not so oblivious to internal stimulus, of which the needs of an overfull bladder must certainly be one of the strongest and most persistent. He never awoke, never – even in the mayhem that ensued – responded coherently to any sort of outside stimuli, nor gave any indication of even the slightest awareness of his surroundings. Yet he stood, steadily and unwaveringly on his own two feet, dropped trou, and passed a prodigal quantity of fluid upon the top of his nearby drum.

College students please take note: this is one of only a handful of social faux pas more heinous than passing out in the only bathroom of a stranger’s house with the door locked from the inside. Quite frankly, there are few things you can do with greater likelihood of antagonizing your host than to take a whiz all over their living room floor, and most of those are not fit to be described in mixed company. In short, it was a very bad thing Nicholas had done.

Though it was not long before Nicholas was informed that his presence in this location was no longer welcome, in the interim he – thankfully, for few things cause social awkwardness like a chap with his willie hanging out for all the world to see – did up his trou and collapsed back onto the couch in an alcoholic stupor. He then slept thru the cleanup campaign that ensued, which was an entertaining spectacle, as nothing shatters class barriers like everyone pitching in to clean up an altogether too organic manmade mess, and resisted various attempts to make him conscious of his actions. In the end, he was last seen, by myself, anyway, staggering unsteadily down the icy sidewalk with the assistance of a (I suspect now ex-) friend of his, mumbling incoherently to, one supposes, himself.

Is there a point to this overly long tale of overindulgence and bodily fluids? If so, it’s this: I have seen, with mine own two eyes, a boy so drunk he could barely speak, let along walk, a man so intoxicated he was oblivious to his surroundings, a nineteen-year-old with more than half a bottle of bourbon coursing thru his system, a juevenile delinquent wreck who by all rights should have been barely breathing, stand up straight and piss.

Funny thing, this English language of ours.

Published in: General | on April 13th, 2005 | Comments Off on Idiom Testing, Number One