Ladies don't get drunk, they get tipsy

Researchers find a gender divide when it comes to talking about intoxication.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
December 17, 2008 3:30PM (UTC)
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You know that woman who stumbles out of the bar at 2 a.m. and latches on to the nearest body or stationary object for balance and declares that she's "sooo tipsy"? Well, researchers have discovered that, in her case, "tipsy" is being used as a ladylike euphemism for totally shit-faced drunk. Thank you, science!

Jokes aside, the preliminary Web-based survey of people aged 17 to 24 did find interesting differences in the synonyms men and women use for intoxication. The study found that women tended toward words like "tipsy" and "loopy" to describe their own level of drunkenness, even when technically binge drinking (which, you might recall, can be blamed on feminism). Men, however, were significantly more likely to use "heavy-intoxication" words, like "hammered," "wasted" and "ripped," to describe their own level of intoxication.


"Tipsy" was used on average by both sexes to reflect having had four drinks over two hours, but far more women than men use the word to describe themselves. Also, that level of consumption doesn't constitute binge drinking for men like it does for women. Lead researcher Ash Levitt explains the potentially dangerous consequences: "[W]omen could be binge drinking while psychologically perceiving their level of intoxication as being 'tipsy' or relatively benign. Such a perception could potentially mislead women, for example, to feel as though they are capable of driving after drinking because they are 'only tipsy.'"

What, though, accounts for the drunk-talk gender divide? The researchers suggest that "men might use heavy intoxication-related terms more than women because men drink more and drink more heavily on average," while women might tend toward terms like "tipsy," because "women, regardless of their typical drinking and tolerance levels, prefer more euphemistic slang than men." Levitt explains, "This is similar to other gender differences in slang usage, for example, men 'sweat' and women 'glow.'" Remember, though: The study, which will be published in the journal "Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research," is preliminary and had a sample size of just 436. More research will have to be done to tease out all of the various factors.

So, for now, I leave you with the researchers' amusingly scientific list of intoxication synonyms most commonly used among the college set: Drunk, blind, juiced, shot, loopy, ripped, sloppy, plowed, lit, bombed, obliterated, light-headed, loaded, inebriated, sloshed, tanked, gone, plastered, tipsy, smashed, hammered, trashed, wasted, shit-faced, buzzed, fucked up. Now who's aching to go back to college -- no one? Yeah, me neither -- that list gave me a sympathy hangover.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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