I’m a Manic Street Preachers enthusiast. The band’s 2007 album, Send Away the Tigers, recently was reissued. In my opinion, the albums released by the Manics since SATT have been among their finest.
Reviewing the album in 2007, NME wrote: “Manic Street Preachers really have no business sounding as good as this. If it doesn’t quite scale the dizzy heights of ‘The Holy Bible’ or ‘Everything Must Go’, it certainly comes close and is, in many ways, the quintessential Manics album – the cathartic regeneration that the band really needed in order to become relevant again.
“It’s the triumphant comeback of the year. And it’s a pleasure to be able to review it without having to fear for our lives.”
Ten years ago, I was fascinated by bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire’s explanation of the album title’s origins.
Send Away The Tigers is a phrase the comedian Tony Hancock used whenever he started drinking. I saw a parallel between that line and the animals being released from the zoo in Baghdad when the Allies invaded. A misguided idea of liberation. Also that idea of being haunted by a wrong decision. With Hancock it was sacking his writers. And, if it weren’t for the Iraq war, for all his faults, in historical terms, Tony Blair would be seen as a great Prime Minister. Now his life is utterly ruined. On a smaller scale, certain things I’ve said which have been stupid and inane – they’re what I’m gonna be remembered for.
Moving laterally, peoples in northern climes have dozens of words for snow and ice, corresponding to seemingly tiny gradients and shadings of meaning.
The Sami also have as many as 1,000 words for reindeer. These refer to such things as the reindeer’s fitness (“leami” means a short, fat female reindeer), personality (“njirru” is an unmanageable female) and the shape of its antlers (“snarri” is a reindeer whose antlers are short and branched). There is even a Sami word to describe a bull with a single, very large testicle: “busat.”
It is my belief that frequent drinkers of alcoholic beverages, of whom I am unrepentantly one, have about as many ways of describing our condition as the Inuit have for snow.
Actually, we have hundreds more, including one of my perennial favorites, “in my cups.”
As a euphemism for being sloshed, “in one’s cups” is actually one of the more diplomatic phrases we’ve come up with over the centuries. In his recent book “Drunk: The Definitive Drinker’s Dictionary (Melville House, 2009), lexicographer Paul Dickson has collected more than 3,000 terms for being “whiskey frisky,” breaking the Guinness World Record for such a list (which he himself had set several years earlier).
The Word Detective nails it, and it’s worth your time to read the short essay.
It was the 17th century, but close enough for government work, as they say. “In his cups” first appeared (as far as we know) in printed form in the sense you mention in 1611, in, of all places, the then-newly-issued King James Version of the Bible (“And when they are in their cups, they forget their love both to friends and brethren”). There are actually two meanings to the phrase “in his cups” (which can be rendered, of course, just as well with “her,” “their,” or, in case one encounters a drunken robot, “its”). “In one’s cups” can mean, as you say, inebriated (i.e., drunk as a skunk), but it can also mean merely to be engaged in drinking alcoholic beverages, an endeavor which will not necessarily culminate in drooling on parking meters. This sense appears a bit earlier than the “stinking drunk” sense.
It’s a bit early in the a.m. on a Wednesday morning to commence crawling into my cups to the tuneful accompaniment of the Manic Street Preachers … or is it?
Take it away, guys. I’m thinking mezcal for brunch.