“Drinks”

Alcoholic drinks; cocktails. In the U.S., both the singular and plural forms have traditionally been used by themselves (I need a drink; She had three drinks before dinner), whereas in Britain, drinks is commonly paired with another word: drinks party, drinks menu, drinks tray, interval drinks (which you imbibe at the theatre between the first and second acts).

At the height of summer, nothing makes a splash like a drinks party at your weekend house.(New York Times, July 16, 2004)/The other day, at loose ends in Midtown at the tenebrous end of happy hour, I larked into an averagely bad, decently fun Tex-Mex restaurant in the Theater District. The barman presented the drinks menu. The drinks menu presented an assault, its plastic cover a window onto a plane of existence where 29 distinct margarita flavors live, or at least refuse to die. (Troy Patterson, Slate, May 4, 2011. Note the use of the moderately British  barman [instead of bartender] and larked, for which the OED cites H. O’Reilly’s 1889 5o Years on Trail:  “I was always larking about and playing pranks on my schoolfellows.”)

6 responses to ““Drinks”

  1. Clearly Mr. Patterson is a phony prat. It should also be noted that the Brits refer to those nabbed for a DWI, or DUI, are nicked for drink driving, or drinks driving, rather than drunk or drunken driving as they are here. No matter where such selfish idiots are, they pose a menace…

    • Drink-driving, never ‘drinks’ (yes, often hyphenated); or, when used in safety adverts and that, ‘Don’t drink and drive’. More of a progression- go out, drink, drive, crash etc.- than an adjective describing the quality of the driving.
      Perhaps it is worded that way to eliminate any confusion from being technically over the driving limit but not socially ‘drunk’.

  2. I have always assumed that “larking around” is solidly BrE, but I have never before come across the phrase “larked into” before, so tend to agree with BAC’s assessment of Mr Patterson.
    Drink driving might be slightly commoner here, but drunk driving would not sound at all odd. Drinks driving would, though.
    And I tend to think of a drinks menu (as opposed to a wine list) as quite a recent appearance in Britain, at least for mainly alcoholic beverages.

  3. Mark Wellington

    Do Americans use ‘nabbed’ or ‘nicked’ for arrested?

    • Nabbed, yes. For decades – watch any film noir or cop movie or show from the forties or fifties. Nicked or pinched are used by only those who wish to affect Britishness, or expats from any former Empire countries, where it is used commonly. They would not use the word “busted” – American for nicked or pinched as in arrested and “swiped” as in stolen. Americans would not use busted for stolen or swiped for arrested, either. Clearly, the Brits are more verbally economical as demonstrated by their use of dual-purpose slang…

  4. Pingback: “Covers band” | Not One-Off Britishisms

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