Binge Drinking

So, not a new problem then, not something caused by the alienation of a neo-liberal economy or whatever the current trope is:

The English, who are now among the worst binge-drinkers in Europe, were also renowned as drunks in the Middle Ages.

"A surviving 12th-century Latin manuscript refers disapprovingly to \’Potatrix Anglia\’ – \’England the drunken\’," said Prof Bartlett, who is presenting the series Inside the Medieval Mind on BBC4, starting next Thursday.

This might be the first recorded case: but actually I\’m really rather doubtful about that:

He will reveal the opening of the North-South divide, with the first recorded case – in 1120 – of a southerner complaining that he is unable to understand the speech of a northerner.

I think it would be quite common for someone to make such a complaint in 9th century England, what with the northerners speaking Norse and the southerners Anglo Saxon.

9 thoughts on “Binge Drinking”

  1. Ah well, I think you might be slightly wrong there, because (a) the Norse-speakers were actually Danes, slowly becoming part of the great English melting-pot, while the actual Anglo-Saxons, whether living North or South of the Danelaw, all spoke Anglo-Saxon/English (though perhaps different dialects); but more interestingly (b) Old Norse and Old Anglo-Saxon were probably mutually intelligible.

    If you have ever studied Anglo-Saxon you might well be able to read Norse texts too, and possibly even modern Icelandic (which is very close to ON).

  2. “If you have ever studied Anglo-Saxon you might well be able to read Norse texts too”

    If you can speak Swedish or Norwegian, it doesn’t take long before you can get a grip on Anglo-Saxon. Not that it helps much today, since there is no Anglo-Saxon for “endogenous growth theory.”

  3. Swedes and Norwegians are also good at binge drinking. Maybe binge drinking is language related? So the government should stop teaching English is schools to cut binge drinking.

  4. “Maybe binge drinking is language related?”

    There’s more than a grain of truth to that, I’m sure. Language is closely related to culture, and boy did the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons drink (and swive).

    Not a lot has changed. Look at this Anglo-Saxon filthy riddle and tell me that the Sun (and indeed Viz) isn’t the same:

    “Swings by his thigh / a thing most magical!
    Below the belt / beneath the folds
    Of his clothes it hangs / a hole in its front end,
    stiff-set and stout / it swivels about.

    Levelling the head / of this hanging tool,
    its wielder hoists his hem / above his knee;
    it is his will to fill / a well-known hole
    that it fits fully / when at full length

    He’s oft filled it before. / Now he fills it again.”

    It’s a key. Fnarr fnarr.

  5. “Maybe binge drinking is language related”

    How about climate related or, more precisely, related to long northern nights? The Russians are renowned topers as well.

    My brother lived in Alaska for a few years, and he was surprised at the amount of heavy drinking – not typical for the U.S. – that went on there, especially during the winters. Lots of binge-fuelled violence too, so bar patrons were asked to check their weapons at the door.

  6. “So the government should stop teaching English is schools to cut binge drinking.”
    Seems they already have:-))

  7. Come on, in the twelfth century the Cumbrians were still speaking Welsh. So they could presumably have understood the Cornish.

  8. Head up the Dales and you will still meet people who speak an incomprehensible (to me) dialect, cowherds who call their animals by Norse names etc. A Londoner a few hundred years ago would not have understood a Kentish man, let alone a Northener.

    As for binge drinking, why isn’t Boredom a nissue?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *