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A WORD IN TH HAND: RUM

Lords know, there’s newt so silly as a rat-arsed owl in a hot bath

A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd

Deputy features editor: Sunday Times

The English language is a rum old thing. Take the word “rum”. In the context of my opening sentence it means “strange”, but it is more commonly recognised as an alcoholic beverage.

Speaking of alcohol, English is the proud owner of innumerable expressions that describe the state in which one becomes unable to express oneself. I would give you a list of similes for drunkenness but first of all it would take up the entire web and secondly the protean Benjamin Franklin did it first. 

On January 6 1737, the Pennsylvania Gazette published Franklin’s Drinker’s Dictionary, which contained 239 terms for inebriation. A few of these expressions are still in active use (addled, had a skinful, in his cups, intoxicated, oiled, stewed, tipsy). Most are not...

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