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The meaning and origin of the expression: Beer goggles

Beer goggles

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Beer goggles'?

Having your 'beer goggles' on means you are sexually attracted to someone, who you wouldn't normally find attractive, because you are drunk.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Beer goggles'?

Beer gogglesThe term 'beer goggles', which sounds to my mind like a British expression, is in fact American. It emerged in the 1980s and was popular amongst (male) university students. I stress the maleness of the phrase as, although either sex could be more inclined to find potential sexual partners attractive, it was universally the male of the species who used the term in conversation. That is apparent in the accompanying image which refers indirectly to pre-goggles women as 'dogs'.

It isn't surprising that the first known use of the phrase 'beer goggles' in print comes from the unashamedly sexist Playboy magazine, in January 1987:

The Let's Get Practical Fashion Award: To Georgetown for its beer goggles.

What the writer was referring to there isn't clear, at least to me. However, it didn't take long for students, presumably readers of Playboy, to pick up on the expression. Another early use of the phrase in print is found in another bastion of sexism , the student newspaper. The Daily Tar Heel, which is the student newspaper of the University of North Carolina, ran this report from a male student in March 1987:

Behind the shade of the palms and through the blur of beer goggles, there are some who have been waiting for Spring Break, just like us. We had visions of bikinis and palm trees dancing in our heads.

By the 1990s the expression had spread to the UK, as in this example from the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, August 1994:

Seven pints later and in walks these three Blaydon lasses. They had faces like bulldogs peeing on a nettle but by that time I had me beer goggles on. After the ale I'd supped, they were looking like super-models.

In 2014 the University of Bristol’s Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group conducted trials to find out if drinking beer did in fact make people rate others as more sexually attractive. They concluded that it did, turning the expression 'beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder' from a joke to a proverb.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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