Drunk as a Skunk


“Drunk as a skunk”


My father, M, grew up in Vancouver, BC, Canada, where he was first introduced to this phrase at a young age. The phrase refers to someone showing visible signs of heavy alcohol consumption and would be used when gossiping with others or seeing someone heavily inebriated. He laughed a little when telling me the saying, questioning what skunks have to do with being drunk, but stated that everyone in his community knew and would use it. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where I grew up; I don’t remember hearing him use the phrase in conversation during my childhood.


The actual comparison within this phrase seems to be more a matter of humorous rhyme than truth – like M, I am not aware of skunks having anything to do with drunkenness. Nonetheless, this saying seems to be a lighthearted way of discussing someone’s socially questionable behavior and reveals the cultural attitudes towards drinking in my father’s childhood community. The saying’s use in gossip and in pointing out the drunk person to others gives the phrase a somewhat negative, albeit teasing, connotation. That usage, combined with M’s explanation that it refers to someone “really drunk,” indicates that someone who is “drunk as a skunk” has surpassed a socially acceptable level of drunkenness. However, the humor in the saying’s rhyme indicated by my father’s explanation leads me to believe that the offense is not necessarily considered serious or deserving of punishment – or perhaps the subsequent gossip is seen as consequence enough.