Steaming

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Steaming

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:07 am

I have been trying to source the root of the word STEAMING (steamin) meaning to be drunk.

One theory I have heard (which is the reason my search started) is that when the pubs were closed on Sundays in Wales people used to take a paddle steamer to England. The bars were allowed to be open on the ships. This sounds like codswallop to me, and as apparently a museum is carrying the story, one that needs to be disproved.

I found a reference (which I lost I am ashamed to say) which suggested that it came from Scotland and referred to someone who was fighting drunk.

I also found a reference to another boat theory, this time in Scotland.

Just to show that it appears all over the UK, I have discovered that Cockney Rhyming Slang has spawned "Jan Leeming".

Any help would be gratefully received.
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Re: Steaming

Post by Phil White » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:56 pm

I have to say, I have a tendency to immediately reject all things nautical as potential origins for idioms. Most such explanations turn out to be nonsense.

That said, I got no further than you in tracking down anything plausible.

It's perfectly possible that it's just the word "steaming" being used as an emphasis word "steaming drunk" (which is the form I know it in) and then losing the word "drunk". Such emphasizers are commonplace: "smoking", "howling", "raging" and so on can all be used in this way, although there is usually some tenuous link to the word being emphasized - but not always. It could well be that the emphasizer "steaming" is carrying the meaning "angry", and I found "steaming with anger" in the 1872 book "History of England from the fall of Wolsey".

The earliest citation for "steaming drunk" I could find was in "Our Great West" (1893):
He was a stranger or he'd 'a' known better than to ask me, and he was steaming drunk, too. I thanked him, and told him I didn't care to drink.
Beyond that, I can't find anything before the 1970s.
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Re: Steaming

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:05 pm

Thank you Phil, I think the 1893 citation pre-dates booze cruises from Wales to England. I feel the job is done. I will be speaking with the idiot in the museum that allowed the obvious nonsense through.
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Re: Steaming

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:21 pm

My guess: 'steaming' is a euphemism for 'stinking'.
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Re: Steaming

Post by Phil White » Tue Aug 12, 2014 9:34 pm

Er... Why euphemize "stinking"?
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Re: Steaming

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:19 am

.. in the Dictionary of the Scots Language the word tove is given, amongst other meanings referring to flaming and smoking, the meaning of steaming ..

.. this then leads to the following extension of meaning >>

5. Fig., also with up: to puff up with flattery, to praise in a fulsome way, to raise one’s expectations or self-esteem (Rnf. c.1850 Crawfurd MSS. (N.L.S.) T.145, tovi up); to brag, boast (Cld. 1880 Jam.). Hence tovie, boastful, esp. in drink, flown with liquor (Sc. 1808 Jam.; Gall. 1824 MacTaggart Gallov. Encycl. 451), babbling, talking incoherently (Cld. 1880 Jam.).
“He’s tovie wi’ drink the nicht, sayin’ he cud thrash ony man i’ the clachan.”

.. to me this draws the connection between steaming and being drunk with a particular reference to being talkative and boastful .. it is then but a small step to the word steaming being used independently to have the full meaning ..

.. do I hear agreement ?? ..

WoZ who has tovied
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Re: Steaming

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Aug 25, 2014 11:08 am

My feeling is that it came from Scotland David, and your train of thought is quite reasonable.
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Re: Steaming

Post by tony h » Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:46 pm

I can't help with an origin but an observation on the usage. My impression is that:
- steaming drunk is a state which can easily become violent
- stinking drunk is a state in which the person is becoming incapacitated.

There are a lot of uses of "steam" to mean full of anger or emotion.
- let off steam
- got all steamed up
There is also a meaning of Steam being to exhale.

My assumption is that "steaming drunk" is a contraction of "the drink has got him all steamed up".
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

End of topic.
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