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He's in his cups

Posted by Lewis on April 05, 2007

In Reply to: He's in his cups posted by RRC on March 30, 2007

: : : : : The phrase is "he's in his cups/" I think it means he's drunk and may have an Irish connection. I would like to know it's origin.

: : : :
: : : : It's Biblical, I think. It does indeed mean drunk, but I am unaware of its being particularly Irish.

: : : : DFG

: : : It's not in KJV, but one reference says it goes back to the 1400's. Perhaps someone has an OED handy?

: :
: : A quick Google search brought up this (from this very site):

: : IN HIS CUPS - "Drunk. Long ago the phrase meant both drunk and participating in a drunken bout. It appears in one of the Apocyrphal books of the Bible (I Esdras 3:22): 'And when they are in their cups, they forget their loue(love) both to friends and brethren.' The Romans had similar expressions, such as Cicero's 'in thy cups, in the midst of thy revels' (in ipsis tuis immanibus poculis), suggesting the great age of the association of 'cup' (poculum) and 'carousal.'" The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

: : So it won't appear in the KJV.

: : DFG

: So often things are attributed to "The Bible" without mentioning WHICH translation/when. Wycliffe's 1384 translation says "and whanne thei han drunken". The Vulgate has "et non meminerunt cum biberint". Nothing about cups there.

: Anyone read enough Greek to check the Septuagint?

I have had a bit of a look about - fascinating stuff. anyhow, 1 Esdras 3:22 seems to be translated as 'when drinking' but follows the translators' idiomatic tradition, by using 'in his cups'. The Septuagint is available online, but what is needed is an overview of the Hebrew/Aramaic variations - the Greek was not literal, as idiom was used to convey meaning.

hebrew scholars please step forward


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