The Language of Intoxication, Straight Up
To Describe Their Degree of Intoxication, Men Might Use Words Like ‘Hammered’ or ‘Wasted’, While Women Opt for ‘Tipsy’
WebMD News Archive
When males in the study used words like "trashed" or "wasted," it reflected
about eight drinks over two hours, Levitt tells WebMD.
"Therefore, women could be binge drinking while psychologically perceiving
their level of intoxication as being 'tipsy' or relatively benign, as opposed
to heavier levels of intoxication that would be described with less euphemistic
terms." he says.
That could spell trouble, misleading women into feeling they are capable of
driving after drinking because they think of themselves as merely "tipsy," he
Such findings can help researchers and clinicians assess tolerance and
sensitivity, Levitt says, and also aid in the "development of gender-sensitive
Heavy drinking interventions work best, researchers have found, when
individual feedback is personalized and gender specific, he says.
"Our findings can help clinicians improve these interventions by helping
them understand which terms men and women use differently," he says.
"We're not saying objective measures aren't important," Levitt tells WebMD.
"We're saying the terms can be used as a supplement to objective measures."
Women might describe themselves as "tipsy" or "loopy" when they're really at
least as "hammered" as men, Levitt says. And if they think of themselves as
merely tipsy, he adds, they might be more likely to get in a car and drive.
Words to describe states of inebriation have been evolving for centuries,
Levitt notes in the study, The Language of Intoxication: Preliminary
Investigations, to be published soon in Alcoholism: Clinical
and Experimental Research.
He cites one 1981 analysis that corroborated the notion that there are more
synonyms for "drunk" than for any other word in the English language. Many
terms go out of fashion, such as "bagged," which 25 years ago meant the same as
Among the conclusions: "There is a distinct need for supplementary measures
of the subjective effects of alcohol, regardless of why the individual
differences exist. Additionally supplemental measures could have important
implications for future research, particularly in examining problematic