Posted by Bruce Kahl on May 10, 2000
In Reply to: "On the wagon" posted by Lotus on May 10, 2000
: Most importantly, where did this phrase come from? And what does it mean?
It means that to whomever the phrase refers is no longer using/abusing mind or mood altering substances--usually meaning alcohol.
Various language sites state that The "wagon" in "on the wagon" refers to a fixture of America's past, the water wagon. Before roads were routinely paved, municipalities would dispatch horse-drawn water wagons to spray the streets in order to prevent the clouds of dust that traffic would otherwise cause. Anyone who had sworn abstinence from alcohol (and would presumably be drinking largely water from then on) was said to have "climbed aboard the water wagon," later shortened to "on the wagon."