November 01, 2003

A Tale of Three Sandpipers

A Tale of Three Sandpipers

In any language, there are plenty of ways to talk about drinking and getting drunk. Not surprisingly, this is a particularly “rich” vein in the Russian linguistic mine.

Some of the most common words that, in an appropriate context, can mean drinking without excess are выпить (drink), принять (take in) and поддать (add, increase). A typical rhymed invitation to have a drink is: Что-то стало холодать – е пора ли нам поддать? (It’s getting kind of cold; isn’t it time we added a bit?)

Dozens of drinking words start with the prefix на-. All usually signify not light, social drinking, but really getting hammered. One can нажраться (get gobbled up), накачаться (get pumped full), набраться (gather it up), нализаться (“over-lick” it), налакаться (lap it up), накваситься (get fermented), or наклюкаться, which probably derives from the -archaic word куликать. Кулик is a sandpiper, but also, according to Vladimir Dal, used to -signify a drunkard. So куликать meant both crying like a sandpiper and getting drunk. In Dostoyevsky’s Dvoynik (The Double), Golyadkin cajoles his servant Petrusha with: “ну, клюкнул, мерзавец, маленько... на гривенник, что ли, клюкнул?” (“come on, you had a nip, you scoundrel ... you drank up a grivennik [ten kopek piece], did you?”)

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