Thomas Nashe’s Pierce Penilesse, a satirical pamphlet written in 1592, contains within it a lovely little list detailing the eight different kinds of drunkard. We know what you’re thinking: ‘But I haven’t even gotten halfway through memorizing the 200-odd words for drunk that Benjamin Franklin published in the early 18th century ... I do not need another historical list of inebriated vocabulary.’
We feel your pain. The English language contains an absurd number of words for “drunk,” and sometimes it can feel like you’ll never be able to keep track of them all. That’s ok - this list is short, Nashe has a writing style that’s light enough that you’ll forget you might be doing something educational, and this will not be on the test.
A number of later writers were so fond of Nashe’s treatment of drunkards that they decided to flatter the satirist by stealing his idea. In 1652 the acronymic D. N. published The Figure of Six, an ostensibly humorous collection of things arranged in groups of six, in which he included “Six sorts of Drunkards,” most of which were simply lifted from Nashe (“a sowish Drunkard, a sheepish Drunkard, a loving Drunkard, a goat Drunkard an a pish Drunkard, and a Fox Drunkard”).
A writer named Martin Parker liked this so much that he wrote a book around the same time, titled The Figure of Seaven, in which similar things were (you guessed it!) placed in groups of seven. Parker’s drunks were also taken almost verbatim from Nashe’s list. Thomas Young, writing in 1617, was perhaps the first one to plagiarize this concept, although he added a 9th kind of drunk (bat drunk, which is the kind of drunk who “delights in secret places and flies by night: so they will drinke priuately, and chiefely in the night”).
However much all these writers may have copied Nashe’s list, they failed to copy his inimitable style and phrasing. And so, as a public courtesy, we have decided to offer our readers a slideshow of the great satirist’s eight kinds of drunkards, with additional commentary.