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Re: The City of Lushington

Posted by ESC on March 27, 2002

In Reply to: Re: "Lush Life" posted by R. Berg on March 26, 2002

: : : : Here in the US someone who abuses alcohol is called a "lush".
: : : : Anybody know the origin/derivation?
: : : : I thank you in advance,
: : : : bk

: : : The American Heritage Dict. says "Origin unknown." The Dict. of Amer. Slang gives "liquor" as one meaning of "lush": archaic since c. 1920. "Lush" as a heavy drinker is labeled "very widespread since c. 1920." So possibly the word for the person developed from the word for the beverage.

: : When did Duke Ellington write "Lush Life"? Connection?

: After a brief Google search, I can report that "Lush Life" was written by Ellington's collaborator Billy Strayhorn sometime in the 1930s.

Well, this sounds like one of those stories. But I have it from two sources that "lush" has its origins in a drinking club or an actors club, depending on who you believe. Maybe it was both.

LUSH - "Near Drury Lane Theatre in London was the Harp Tavern, where a club of hard drinkers called The City of Lushington had been founded in 1750. Lushington's had a chairman, the 'Lord Mayor,' and four 'aldermen,' who presided over the wards of Poverty, Lunacy, Suicide, and Jupiter (the supreme Roman god who presided over all human affairs). The club members, we are told, 'were wont to turn night into day,' and by example their convivial fraternity may have given us another word for a sot, or habitual drunk. 'Lush,' at least as a generic term for beer or drink, first appeared in about 1790, long after The City of Lushington's formation, and it could very well be a contraction of the club's name. For in years to come a number of phrases employed the name Lushington. 'Alderman Lushington is concerned,' 1810, meant 'somebody drunk,'." And so forth. "By the end of the 19th century we finally find 'lush' alone being applied to any habitual drunk, as it is to this day." "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

LUSH - "as a generic term for beer and other intoxicating drinks has been British slang for more than a century. It is supposed to have originated as a contraction of a London actors' club, the City of Lushington. The use of lush to describe a drunken person and 'lushed' or 'lushed up' to describe the state of intoxication has been common in America for at least forty years." From "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).