Two sheets to the wind
Posted: 07 February 2011 02:55 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Three sheets to the wind
Dave Wilton, Monday, April 23, 2007
The phrase three sheets to (or in) the wind means to be drunk. The sheet in question is a reference to a rope tied to a corner of a sail that is used to control it. To have a sheet loose in the wind is bad seamanship, to have three loose means you are not capable of controlling the boat. The phrase dates to at least 1821; from Pierce Egan’s Real Life in London of that year:

The Australian author Peter Carey, in his period piece Parrot and Olivier in America, uses the phrase “two sheets to the wind”—obviously derived from “three sheets to the wind”. Does it have a separate standing or is it just another coined phrase?

[ Edited: 07 February 2011 03:46 AM by Aniruddha ]
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Posted: 07 February 2011 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I would say it meant “drunk, but not that drunk.”

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Posted: 07 February 2011 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’d agree with Faldage on this. (I haven’t read the book in question, but it looks like fresh coining modifying the meaning of an established phrase for humorous effect.)

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Posted: 07 February 2011 05:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Also, as one might expect, one sheet to the wind , glossed as ‘slightly tipsy’. Again not of wide currency but, as Dr Fortran noted, a humorous alteration of the original, which lends itself easily to such adaptation.

[ Edited: 07 February 2011 05:49 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 07 February 2011 07:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Dr Fortran - 07 February 2011 04:41 AM

I’d agree with Faldage on this. (I haven’t read the book in question, but it looks like fresh coining modifying the meaning of an established phrase for humorous effect.)

I was about to look it up when you spared me the need with your sensible conjecture.  “A stitch in time saves ...erm… six!”

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