“High as a kite” – American

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American - Caucasian
Age: 20
Occupation: Student - Theatre
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 20 April 2011
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Conversational Spanish

“High as a kite”

The informant is a 20-year-old Theatre student at the University of Southern California. She is originally from North Carolina.

She said that it has two meanings, either someone is high on drugs or “really, really euphoric.” The informant wouldn’t use it to describe real people but rather to describe the state of someone she saw on T.V. or a theoretical person. She feels that it would be insulting to use it to describe a real person. She thinks she learned this metaphor from her mother, though she doesn’t really remember. Her mother didn’t apply to drugs though, only to really happy people. She felt she expanded it to apply to drugs as being “high” is slang for the altered state one is in while doing drugs. She said that she thought it was kind of a unique saying as people always look at her funny when she says it.

I personally had heard this metaphor before and I thought that it was a pretty standard idiomatic expression. It interests me that her mother didn’t seem to know the drug reference inherent in the phrase and that she would use it only to refer to extremely elated people. This may reflect a certain lack of exposure to druglore in this particular family or perhaps it is a phrase more commonly used in the Western United States rather than the Eastern. As far as what the metaphor means, I think it’s a pun on “high” in that a kite goes pretty far above ground and “high” can also mean currently under the influence of illicit drugs. The use of “high as a kite” to refer to very happy people, however, is new to me. Kites certainly seem fairly happy when they’re flying around and natural “highs” certainly exist, so I can see how this phrase might be construed as such.

A National Post (Canada) article used the metaphor “High as a Kite” in an article describing a killer who was high on cocaine (Zickefoose A11), showing the use of this metaphor as the informant came to understand its meaning. Rosemary Feitelberg used the metaphor, on the other hand as the title for her article on kiteboarding – a combination of wakeboarding and windsurking, citing use of the term as described by the informant’s mother (Feitelberg 6S).

Feitelberg, Rosemary. “High as a Kite.” WWD 05 Jul 2001. 6S. Academic OneFile – Infotrac. Web. 28 Apr 2011.

Zickefoose, Sherri. ” Accused killer ‘High as a kite’ on Cocaine; Laughed in Prison Van .” National Post (Canada) 19 Nov 2008. A11. Lexis Nexis Academic. Database. 28 Apr 2011.