Flick your neck when you’re drunk

Background on informant: Informant is a senior at USC, studying international relations. He is from the Bay Area and lived and studied in Russia for a year.

Informant: You flick your neck when you’re drunk because some carpenter solved some big problem for Peter the Great. The carpenter was an alcoholic. He asked to be able to drink at a bar in the Russian Empire and Peter give him a certificate to do so.  However, since he was an alcoholic, he lost the certificate several times and then Peter tattooed the certificate onto his neck so that when he went into a bar you just flick his neck to say that he could drink.

Analysis: This, in some ways, is a creation legend answering the perhaps rather trivial question: What is the origin of flicking your neck when you drink? It’s truth value is unlikely but it’s plausible. It’s fitting too that my friend said he heard this story when he was in fact not sober. This myth appears in other places, including on the website: “Hayward, Mose. ‘The Outstanding Russian Gestures That Should Be Adopted by Everyone.’ Tipsy Pilgrim.  31 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.” The additional source adds that the carpenter might have been a shipbuilder, throwing further question on the truth value, and says flicking the neck can apply in many situations: “And so to this day Russians —and those who drink with Russians — tap our necks to indicate that we’re drunk, or someone else is drunk, or that drinking is about to happen.”