As you desperately attempt to fill your brain with the Art Hum knowledge you’ve been neglecting all term, know that there is a light at the end of this exam-ridden tunnel – the print issue, which drops Monday. Herein, Addison Anderson performs a textual analysis of your drunken bullshit.

Great Minds Drink Alike


My target of analysis is the ex post facto retelling of a drunken adventure.  What first comes to mind is just how many different narratives are possible for the population of an urban, pedestrian campus.  No drunk driving means less dying, and Manhattan’s bounty offers thousands of ways to have an awesome night.  Now, a look at semantics.

Common Phrases:

1. “Soooo,” “waaaasted,” “druuunk,” etc., as in “I was soooo druuunk last night.  I stole some cop’s gun and waaaasted him.” 

Such words are very common in drunk stories. The speaker expresses the extent of something in the story, usually his/her/his own blood alcohol content or how ho(ooo)t someone looked, using vowel lengthening to express this quantity in sound.  I call this “quansonance,” and I find it not only in stories about drunkenness, but also in the real-time speech of actual drunks.  Thus:

Inquirer:  I see you’re drinking rum.  How much have you had?

Drunk:  Ruuuum.

Inquirer:  Ah, four.

2. “So then…” as in, “So then I pawned the cop’s gun for more schnapps, and since ‘cop’s’ rhymes with ‘schnapps,’ we all started LAUGHING.”

Drunk stories are often picaresque, and “so then” is crucial to maintaining the illusion of a logical sequence of events while also allowing for the intrusion of wild escapades.  Many stories are simply a chain of “so thens” ad nauseam (i.e. to the point at which the speaker vomited in the cab).  The listener wonders whether the speaker is using the terms of a result clause (“so”) and the apodosis of a logical conditional (“then”) to create an illusion of inevitable necessity, perhaps in order to remove responsibility for his/her/his own actions.  For instance: “The cop told me to stop drinking, so then I stole his gun, so then he started yelling, so then I shot his foot.”  This obfuscates moral choice.

3. “This homeless guy…”

In another consequence of our urbanity, drunk stories tend to include the presence of the indigent by means of the phrase “this homeless guy,” as in, “So then this homeless guy overheard us talking about the cop, so then we gave him some pizza and told him to keep quiet.  So then we pushed him over a guardrail, so then we ran ‘cause we were LAUGHING.”  The “this” in “this homeless guy” is demonstrative yet indefinite, making the homeless guy momentarily specific and yet a walking blank, as if “this” homeless guy exists only for the purpose of “this” story.  If the phrase were “that homeless guy,” it would be as if there were only one homeless guy who shows up in everyone’s drunk stories—some sort of eternal, omnipresent Bob Homeless.  “This homeless guy” is fleeting, while “that homeless guy” is more substantial, existing outside the narrative.  Usage of such a phrase would run counter to the larger effort of assuring one another that homeless people aren’t real.

4. “I was like…”

Usage of this phrase alerts the listener to indeterminacy in the speaker’s memory of what he or she said.  We may attribute this amnesia to intoxication, but this glosses over a mimetic tension; the speaker is creating a representation, or simulacrum, or “like”-ness, of a vanished reality, and is ultimately saying, “Who I was no longer exists.  I merely am, and my recreation of a past ‘I’ comes from my present state of mind and pressures me to present myself in certain ways, specifically as someone who is really cool and adventurous when drunk.  Therefore, I was like, ‘We need more schnapps, and don’t tell anybody about this cop or this homeless guy we just killed.’”

5. “[B-list celebrity] showed up and we were like ‘Whaaat?”

New York is full of celebrities, and students want to make it clear that they go where celebrities go but it’s no big deal.  Here the speaker tries to appear jaded and above being starstruck.  The “whaaat” expresses this detachment through its quansonance [see above] and its songlike intonation.  What should be noted is that the speaker’s intoxication caused him/her to react to trees and/or shiny objects with the exact same “whaaat?”  It should also be noted that the celebrity is in fact William H. Macy, every time, no matter what the speaker says to the contrary.

6. “I went home and cried myself to sleep.”

Despite nights rife with sexual tension, drinkers often go home alone. The juxtaposition of “aloneness” and “rife-ness with sexual tension-ness” creates an ironic energy that must be harnessed through the self-deprecating image of crying oneself to sleep.  For example, a young fellow might say: “So then her friends were all like ‘We gotta go, Bethany!  You’ve got hella blood on your hands!’ So then she left and I went home and cried myself to sleep HAHAHA.”  The usage of this phrase has become cliché [see VH1, blogs], but possibilities for original expressions of the topos of drunken somnolence still exist.  For instance, after a wild night out, I often cry myself awake.

Argument Summated

The aforementioned analyses are all I could come up with, but that’s because I have my own individual perspective.  Your experience, inherently unique, is sure to yield even more incisive critiques.

–Addison Anderson