World Gin Day, 2013

Gin Blossom

Merry World Gin Day

Winston Churchill claimed that it “… has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

It can be a verb phrase meaning “to liven up”.

Once upon a time you could even make it in the comfort of your own bathtub.

Now it has its own day.

Not to be confused with “to be trapped” as in, ‘So, so, the wood~cock’s ginn’d; Keep this doore fast, brother.’ (“The Nice Valour”, 1625)

Mesdames et Messieurs, I refer to my poison of choice, gin.

Today, World Gin Day, is the day to celebrate gin’s greatness. No, really; I couldn’t make this up even if I tried. Behold! A website to prove it. Anywho, I shall be donning my party robes momentarily, becoming reacquainted with the lamentably outdated “three-martini lunch”, and leaving you with some etymology and linguistic tidbits to encourage you to celebrate with me.

So whom am I to thank for blessing the world with this wonderful liquid nepenthe? Surely, it would be the Brits…

Gin is the bastard child of our generally piss poor attempts over the centuries of pronouncing genever which is the Dutch word for “juniper”, the main ingredient in gin. Italians had a damn good shot at making gin as a cure for the Black Death, but gin as we know it was first sold as a cure for kidney disorders (HA!), gallstones, and stomach ailments in the Netherlands close to 300 years ago. Interestingly, the British first discovered (British spelling of what is spelt “stole” in other English speaking regions) gin in the Eighty Years’ War when they noticed these Dutch chaps seemed to be rather calm about this whole war business. Later, they realised that it was because the Dutch were getting rather wobbly on the gin before fighting. Not the best idea the Dutch have ever had, but this lead to the beverage being known as “Dutch courage”, and this all began the British fascination with the herbaly elixir.

Thenceforth, gin became the favoured drink of England and, later on, the United States. So ubiquitous was gin with drinking that the noun “gin” was slowly transformed into a verb phrase, “to gin up”. This has two major meanings: one to mean “drinking gin”; the other meaning “to liven up” or “to give zazz to…”.

Richard_Newton_Progress_of_a_Woman_of_Pleasure_1794 (1)

A lady of pleasure doing a victory dance with her gin. If you are interested in becoming a Gin Whore re-enactor, please visit this following page:

Here’s a lovely excerpt from the Helena Independent, 1881 to illustrate the “getting drunk” meaning:

‘In New England when a man is drunk he is “on a tool,” in Chicago he is “on a hoorah,” in St Louis he “has a dash too much up his nose,” in Kansas City he is “ginned up for all that’s out;” in St. Joe, “the benzine has the upper hold;” in Omaha “he’s on it bigger’n an Injun;” in Denver “he slung in a bowl too much;” in Cheyenne “the duffer’s got it in the neck;” in Leadville “the galoot’s on a roarer agin!;” in Bismark “he fills up with bug juice and gets fuller’n a goose”…’

Or perhaps you’d prefer it in a conversation, this conversation, from the Athens Messenger, 1886:

‘”Cannot you imagine, Mr Tower, that you hear the tremendous lion-like roar of the cataract even now?”

He shock his head. “No, Miss, no; I couldn’t bring myself to imagine such a thing, unless I had ginned up better than I’m likely to do today.”’

To illustrate the second meaning, he’s a lovely except from Saddle & Moccasin, 1887:

“The Apaches were out to beat hell – And they were ginning her up, and making things a bit lively, that’s a fact!”

As a parting note, the Oxford English Dictionary also imparts one final meaning of “to gin up”:

‘The subtle difference between “gin up” and “rev up” is that “gin up” implies creating something from nothing with an intent to create action. For example, an empty hall becomes a party, a dormant science room becomes a laboratory, a conversation becomes a heated debate.’

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that a place is not a very important one if it is without gin, a person is without courage if he/she is without gin, and your World Gin Day will be tragic without using “gin” as many times as you possibly can today.

I would love to hear any further examples of “to gin up” or any other gin related turns of phrase.



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