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drunk as a pink elephant

English translation: I've never heard it.

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18:14 Dec 4, 2004
English to English translations [PRO]
Social Sciences - Linguistics / UK - Nottinghamshire
English term or phrase: drunk as a pink elephant
Hi all,

Two questions actually:

1) when I was small and started learning English one of the phrase books I used then listed 'drunk as a pink elephant' as someone who is so drunk that he/she looses consciousness and 'often lies unconsciousnessly on the floor/ground'

Is this what it means to YOU as the native speaker? (I wonder if someone was making it up actually ;-)))

2) Would it be used all over the UK, and especially in the Nottinghamshire????

Thanks a lot!
Miroslawa Jodlowiec
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:56
English translation:I've never heard it.
Explanation:
Drunk people are often said to "see pink elephants"--although alcohol rarely induces hallucinations. Also, it should be noted that desert elephants nAfrica sometimes give themselves a dust-bath, which makes them *look* pink. But I have never heard of anyone being as drund as a pink elephant.

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Note added at 4 mins (2004-12-04 18:19:42 GMT)
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Sorry \"in Africa\". And \"drunk\". Sorry...and in answer to the obvious question, no, I\'m not!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 23 mins (2004-12-04 18:38:44 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Another interesting point: elephants (Asiatic elephants at least) are known to turn nasty on people who smell of alcohol (there have been a couple of cases of drunks being killed by circus elephants). So if you are drunk, and you see an elephant of any colour, it might be safest to keep well away, just in case it\'s not a hallucination.
Selected response from:

Richard Benham
France
Local time: 13:56
Grading comment
A lot of thanks to everyone for their creativity. It was not an easy question. At least now once for ever I know that that the author of the said phrase book(let) had ACTUALLY made it up! How imaginative! ;-)))
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
3 +8I've never heard it.
Richard Benham
4 +3"drunk as a skunk " shows up on uk pages
airmailrpl
3 +3My explanation
Kim Metzger
4 +1my 2 cents (from a medical perspective)
Lisa Lloyd
5Pure imaginationAnna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
5(I wonder if someone was making it up actually ;-)))zaphod
3 +1Webster says of "pink elephants"
Jonathan MacKerron
4hallucinatingJM Simon


Discussion entries: 6





  

Answers


2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
hallucinating


Explanation:
It means you're so drunk that you hallucinate. See the following description:

The phrase pink elephant is not normally used as you describe it. The standard meaning is 'hallucinations caused by excessive alcohol intake', usually used in the phrase "to see pink elephants" meaning 'to be very drunk'. Once defined in terms of hallucinations, the origin is clear: if you're so drunk that you're seeing pink elephants before your eyes, you are quite drunk indeed.

The earliest example for a related usage is found in the late 1890s, where the hallucinated creature is pink giraffe. In this case, it is used in the way you describe it: "pink giraffes following me all around." The elephant becomes the beast of choice by the 1910s, when Jack London wrote about "the man...who...sees...blue mice and pink elephants."

(The animated sequence of elephants blowing pink bubbles, set to Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" in Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940), may allude to the expression pink elephant, but it is certainly not the inspiration for it.)



    Reference: http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19980826
    Reference: http://cocktails.about.com/library/weekly/aa090399.htm
JM Simon
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
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3 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +3
My explanation


Explanation:
In the US, when a person is drunk he is said to "see pink elephants". I think it means he's imagining things that aren't real. I've never heard the phrase "drunk as a pink elephant" though.


Kim Metzger
Mexico
Local time: 06:56
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 187

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  JM Simon: You mean you haven't seen all the children's cartoons with pink elephants floating around after the character takes a drink from a bottle labeled 'XXX'? :)
12 mins
  -> I have some experience in these matters and have never seen a pink elephant. But you're exactly right! It's a symbol for children.

agree  KathyT
15 hrs

agree  Orla Ryan: Remember that Simpsons episode where Barney drinks some strong booze, sees a pixie or sthg, then drinks Duff, only to see a pink elephant :-)
2 days16 hrs
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1 min   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +1
Webster says of "pink elephants"


Explanation:
"any of various hallucinations arising from heavy drinking, use of narcotics, or other cause usually used in the phrase see pink elephants (what a drunk would see who is too pleasant to see pink elephants or snakes John Mason Brown)"

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 mins (2004-12-04 18:18:57 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

So based on this entry one \"sees\" pink elephants, instead of being as drunk as one!

Jonathan MacKerron
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 4

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Kurt Porter: Looks like you were first with pretty much the same thing. Cheers!
35 mins

neutral  Lisa Lloyd: pink elephants aren't seen by drunks. please see my answer...
19 hrs
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2 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +8
I've never heard it.


Explanation:
Drunk people are often said to "see pink elephants"--although alcohol rarely induces hallucinations. Also, it should be noted that desert elephants nAfrica sometimes give themselves a dust-bath, which makes them *look* pink. But I have never heard of anyone being as drund as a pink elephant.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 4 mins (2004-12-04 18:19:42 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Sorry \"in Africa\". And \"drunk\". Sorry...and in answer to the obvious question, no, I\'m not!

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 23 mins (2004-12-04 18:38:44 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Another interesting point: elephants (Asiatic elephants at least) are known to turn nasty on people who smell of alcohol (there have been a couple of cases of drunks being killed by circus elephants). So if you are drunk, and you see an elephant of any colour, it might be safest to keep well away, just in case it\'s not a hallucination.

Richard Benham
France
Local time: 13:56
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 64
Grading comment
A lot of thanks to everyone for their creativity. It was not an easy question. At least now once for ever I know that that the author of the said phrase book(let) had ACTUALLY made it up! How imaginative! ;-)))

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Gareth McMillan: This would be a very unusual phrase for UK, but I quite like it. Your mine of useless but extremely fascinating informations is obviously far from worked out. Keep it up!
27 mins
  -> Useless? Keeping away from elephants when drunk could save your life! And in SE Asia, they get around this problem by giving the elephants beer at parties too. Problem is, once a drunken elephant knocked over a power pole, electrocuting all its passengers

agree  Madeleine MacRae Klintebo
1 hr
  -> Thanks.

agree  George Rabel: Your're as funny as a drunk pink elephant wearing a ballerina skirt, Richard. And this is a genuine "agree", cause I had never seen or heard the phrase either, although I have seen pink elephants somewhere, maybe in cartoons
1 hr
  -> THanks.

agree  mportal: I've never heard it, either, but it is quite an evocative expression. It suggests to me that this person's behaviour is, like a pink elephant would be, both silly and unbelievable
2 hrs
  -> Thanks.

agree  Neil Phillipson: yes, drunk as a skunk, but not drunk as a pink elephant!
7 hrs
  -> Of course, in rhyming slang, you can be a bit elephant's.

agree  KathyT: ...and agree with Neil's comments above. Wasn't there a pink (or purple?) elephant with large polkadots wandering around in one of those Pink Panther movies with Inspector Clouseau?
15 hrs
  -> Thanks.

neutral  Lisa Lloyd: seeing pink elephants is a fabled classic withdrawal symptom, and occurs during abstinence - 'reality' is a hallucination that we're spoonfed by the media
19 hrs
  -> Actually, reality is just a hallucination brought about by alcohol deficiency.//BTW, you will notice that I point out that alcohol is unlikely to produce hallucinations.

agree  Judith Kerman: The expression looks like it's made up - but made out of the folklore about people with DT's seeing pink elephants. Certainly not an American expression as worded.
20 hrs
  -> Thx.

agree  Anne Lee: Indeed, animals get far too much blame for human behaviour.
1 day5 hrs
  -> Thanks.
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1 hr   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +3
"drunk as a skunk " shows up on uk pages


Explanation:
Results 1 - 10 of about 11,900 English pages for "drunk as a skunk".
Results 1 - 30 of about 934 English pages for "drunk as a skunk" site:uk.

Columns posted March 26, 2002
...Dear Word Detective: Where does the phrase "drunk as a skunk" come from? Do they stagger.....The term "drunk as a skunk" is, as you guessed, simply a good example of our love of comparisons and rhyming, made especially popular by the fact that "skunk" happens to be one of the few words that rhymes with "drunk." Similar, albeit non-rhyming, terms for "extremely drunk" have included, over the years, drunk as a fly, a log, a dog, a loon, a poet, a billy goat, a broom, a bat, a badger, a boiled owl, and several dozen more too risqué to list here. Although comparative terms for drunkenness have been popular throughout the history of English, "drunk as a skunk" seems to be a fairly recent (20th century) addition to the canon.
http://www.word-detective.com/032602.html

airmailrpl
Brazil
Local time: 08:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in PortuguesePortuguese
PRO pts in category: 32

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Dr Sue Levy: drunk as a skunk - definitely from my generation (late-ish baby boomer - OMG so old) or pissed as a parrot as we said in Oz :-)// in French it's "bourré comme un coing" - full as a quince, so the plant world gets it too!
12 mins
  -> wonder why the animals get the blame

agree  Richard Benham: Pissed as a parrot or a newt, drunk as a lord... Prosecutor: In what condition did you find the defendant? PC: He was drunk as a judge. Judge (indignantly): I think you mean drunk as a lord?! PC: Yes, m'lord.
22 mins
  -> good

agree  Lisa Lloyd
18 hrs
  -> thank you
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5 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
(I wonder if someone was making it up actually ;-)))


Explanation:
Yes. An illiterate

zaphod
Local time: 13:56
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 8
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7 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Pure imagination


Explanation:
Clearly to make children wonder about things and stir their imagination which is just what children need. A lot of adults could do with some too!

Anna Maria Augustine at proZ.com
France
Local time: 13:56
Works in field
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in FrenchFrench
PRO pts in category: 28
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19 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +1
my 2 cents (from a medical perspective)


Explanation:
seeing pink elephants is not something that happens when someone has had too much to drink - it is fabled to occur to alcoholics when they go through abstinence/withdrawal (delirium tremens). i've never heard of anyone being drunk as a pink elephant.

Cult Test, AA Answers 0
... and that the cure is abstinence and prayer ... detoxing and going through DT's (Delirium
Tremens, which is notorious for making alcoholics see pink elephants). ...
www.orange-papers.org/orange-cult_a0.html - 101k

Drugs, Consciousness and Culture : Definitions
... In pharmacology the term "abstinence syndrome" is equivalent to withdrawal syndrome. ...
of something that is not there, such as seeing pink elephants or hearing ...
www.chamisamesa.net/glossa.html - 20k

[PPT] Alcohol Withdrawal and Delirium Tremens
File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint 97 - View as HTML
... Abstinence: Voluntary. ... IV. Delirium Tremens. Onset after last drink. ... Usually visual
(pink elephants). Occasionally auditory, tactile (formication), olfactory. ...
www.usuhs.mil/med/milmedlectmgtalcwithdw.ppt

Lisa Lloyd
Local time: 12:56
Native speaker of: Native in SwedishSwedish

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
neutral  Richard Benham: Very good. But we're not talking medicine here, we're talking language; and the *popular* myth is that drunks see pink elephants.//No meaning is all-important. The meaning is determined by usage, which may very well be at odds with the scientific facts.
2 hrs
  -> so now the actual meaning of something is not important because 'we're talking language'? see Judith's reply to your answer + i've only ever heard the term used in connection with DT (delirium tremens)

agree  xxxsarahl: yes, definitely DT.
3 hrs
  -> Thanks Sarah!
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