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Deciphering the Language of Intoxication
Date:12/15/2008

Tipsy and drunk mean different things to men and women and could alter treatment, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 15 (HealthDay News) -- A man being "hammered" may or may not be the same thing as a woman being "tipsy" or what a researcher considers "drunk," a new report shows.

The findings, expected to be published in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, reveal that the language used by drinkers to describe intoxication differs much from what researchers use, causing limits in interpretation and understanding.

"As social and cultural animals, humans have developed a rich and diverse vocabulary of intoxication-related slang to describe the subjective states they are experiencing while drinking," corresponding study author Ash Levitt, a graduate student in the department of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, said in a news release issued by the journal. "However, alcohol researchers have largely ignored the language of intoxication."

Researchers try to use objective measures and terms, but these ignore subjective differences of the individual drinking experience. Two Web-based surveys Levitt's team conducted to find out people's understanding and familiarity with certain synonyms for intoxication show the language difference is especially noticeable between men and women.

"We found that intoxication-related terms reflected either moderate or heavy levels of intoxication, and that 'drunk' reflected a level of intoxication somewhere between moderate and heavy," Levitt said. "Men tended to use heavy-intoxication words more than women, which were also relatively more forceful in their tone, such as 'hammered.' Women tended to use moderate intoxication words more than men, which were also relatively more euphemistic, such as 'tipsy.' This is similar to other gender differences in slang usage, for example, men 'sweat' and women 'glow.'"

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