Where does the expression “drunk as a fiddler” come from and What does it mean?

The expression “drunk as a fiddler” means: Highly intoxicated; three sheets in the wind; squiffy; spifflicated; tanked.

It would be quite an achievement to be able to prove that the “fiddler” in the case was Nero, who, somewhat shellacked himself at the time presumably, fiddled while Rome burned, during his reign back in the first century, but alas, this is just one of a variety of men of trades or position who, proverbially, or in fact, have been guzzlers.

Others through the centuries have been, drunk as a beggar, as a lord, a piper, tinker, emperor, and fool, and there have also been “rattes,” back in the sixteenth century, and a wheelbarrow in the eighteenth, as well as a fish, a “mous,” “swyn,” ape, and owl.

The “fiddler” has prevailed, and with the best of reasons.

The fiddler, always presumed to be well pleased with a chance to play, has had to be content with meager pay.

In times past it was proverbial that “fiddler’s pay” was nothing more than thanks and all the wine he could drink, and even when the thanks did include a few pence, the wine was supposed to make up for its scantness.

What could he do but get drunk?

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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