How did “booze” originate?

May 7, 2017 | Author: | Posted in Language

Booze is not a word of recent coinage, as commonly supposed. It is an example of a good word that degenerated into slang. In varying forms the term has been part of the English language at least since the fourteenth century. It occurs variously as booze, bouze, bouse and bowse. Apparently it was derived from Middle Dutch buyzen or busen, meaning “to guzzle liquor” or “to drink heavily,” and is related to German bausen.

The English form was in common use in the time of Edmund Spenser. In the Faerie Queen; written in 1590, the poet refers to Gluttony’s imbibing too freely from a bouzing can, and boozy in the sense of being under the influence of liquor is recorded as early as 1529. A similar form of the word occurs frequently in the Scotch of Robert Burns.

The late Dr. Frank Vizetelly supposed that booze was the modification of a Turkish word for a kind of liquor and was introduced into western Europe and England by the gypsies. In Turkish boza is applied to several different kinds of drinks.

Booze may have been introduced into the United States twice, once by the early English and again by the Dutch. It is not probable, as often stated, that the slang term is derived from the surname of a Philadelphia distiller named E. C. Booz, who during the second quarter of the nineteenth century sold whisky in bottles stamped E. C. BOOZ’S LOG CABIN WHISKEY. Such liquor was first produced during the Log Cabin and Hard Cider presidential campaign of 1840. The bottles, bearing the imprint of E. C. Booz, were blown in the shape of log cabins at the Whitney Glass Works in Philadelphia. But four years before that famous campaign Washington Irving had written in Astoria (1836) that a Mr. Hunt “spent forty-five days at New Archangel, boosing and bargaining with its roystering commander. . . .” This proves that the verb, if not the noun, was in common American use at that time.


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