tie one on

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tie one on

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Oct 20, 2004 5:46 pm

Today is Friday and I was talking to someone who said they had a tough week and felt like going out tonight and TYING ONE ONE. I, of course, got to wondering what the origin of that expression was – what is it that one ties on when one goes out and gets crocked? I checked the ‘Wordwizard search,’ link, which we recommend you check first before posting an inquiry, and found that the question was asked, but only a definition was given – ‘to get drunk’ – but no origin. I checked several sources and typical of what was said was that the expression dates from 1951, but ‘the precise allusion here — what it is that one ties on — is unclear (American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms). That’s awfully aggravating to hear, especially for an expression that first appeared as recently as this one.
<1951 “The Act of Drinking: .. . to swill one down; to ‘TIE ONE ON.’”—‘Western Folklore,’ X, page 82:>
Word Detective was one of the few to take a stab at it and said:
“The one clue we have about the origin of ‘tie one on’ only deepens the mystery. The OED compares ‘tie one on to the British slang phrase ‘tie a bun on,’ also meaning ‘to get drunk.’ . . . . no one seems to have the vaguest idea where ‘tie a bun on,’ which appeared around 1901, came from, or what a bun could possibly have to do with getting drunk.”

Here is what I was able to piece together, which looks to me to be the ‘likely’ source of the expression. A search of various “tie on’s” revealed the expression TIE A BAG ON: “phrase [1940s and still in use] (U.S.) to get drunk ‘tie one on’ + ‘bag.’” But it would seem that Cassell’s has his ‘tie a bag on’ etymology backwards here since they have under TIE ONE ON: “verb [1950s and still in use] (U.K./U.S. to be drunk),” which says that ‘tie a bag on’ came first followed about 10 years later by ‘tie one on.’

But still, what was it that was being ‘tied on.’ Checking the various slang meanings of ‘bag’ (and there are many), I found the following in Partridge’s A Dictionary of Slang: “BAG: a pot of beer . . .—1887 (‘Saturday Review,’ 14 May. Cf. ‘get/put (one’s) head in a bag,’ to drink: id. and nautical (ibid) probably from horses nose bag [[or feed bag]].”

So there we have it, and it doesn’t appear all that mysterious to me (in spite of what the OED and Wordwizard say). The 'bag' in question probably originated as the ‘feed bag’ which one ties on a horse and which later probably became associated with a drunk, drinking out of a pot of beer as if it were a feed bag tied around his neck – good visual. I also found confirmation of the ‘bag/drinking’ connection in the expression IN THE BAG (not the familiar ‘certain, sure,’ one which derives from ‘in the game/hunting bag’): “[1940s and still in use] (originally U.S.) drunk; thus HALF IN THE BAG (1920s) and HAVE A BAG ON (1940s and still in use). But less than 10 years later folks probably decided that that the slightly shorter, and definitely smoother sounding ‘tie one on’ tripped off the tongue a bit more easily than the older version and so today ‘tie one on’ it is, mostly!

Ken G – January 23, 2004
Submitted by Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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tie one on

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Oct 20, 2004 6:01 pm

Drinking sack - wasn't that Falstaff's favourite occupation?
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Re: tie one on

Post by wdrev » Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:35 pm

I'll throw in this tidbit just to confuse things a bit. In the second edition of the book, "Alcoholics Anonymous," published by the organization with the same name, one of the writers of the personal stories in the back of the book uses a similar term. He says, "My wife loved to drink and we tied on many a hooter in the name of marital bliss." Although the names of the actual authors of most of the stories in the "Big Book" are known, this one is not.

The second edition of the book was published in 1955. Based on the history of how this book was written, the story would have been submitted to the publishers between, about 1939 and 1954. I was intrigued by the inclusion of the word, "hooter," in that idiom. In this case, it does not appear to be a synonym for the female breasts. In the early 20th century a "hoot" could refer to a laugh, though.

A single instance of a phrase doesn't mean that much but, for what it's worth, these guys are the de facto experts on drinking, and the story was included in two editions of the book selling over 20 million copies.

I Googled around a bit but got nothing. I'm sure somebody here with a true obsession can do better. :-)


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