why is a hangover called a hangover

Whatever makes you bad, makes you better (Picture: Getty)
As far as hangover cures go, having some hair of the dog appears to be one of the more reliable, at least in the short-term. For those that have never experienced the practice, it is combating a hangover by getting right back on the booze and having a healthy swig of alcohol the morning after the night before. It is not always an option (hangovers after drinking on a school night cant really be fixed like this) but many will partake in some hair of the dog when it is available to them, and will invariably feel better as a result. But where does the phrase come from? The full phrase is actually hair of the dog that bit you and goes back to an ancient belief that if you were bitten by a dog with rabies you should put one of the dogs hairs in the wound to help cure it. There has never been any scientific evidence to suggest this theory has any basis in fact, but it was a something people were willing to try hundreds of years ago. It has been transferred into the context of drinking as alcohol is represented as the dog that bites and you should take a little bit of it in a way to cure what it has done to you. Mature man drinking traditional pint of real ale beer. It is not known where the original belief came from, but the idea of the cause of the problem producing the cure goes back to the time of Hippocrates (460-370 BC) when the Latin phrase similia similibus curantur was coined, meaning like cures like.


References to the hair of the dog in terms of drinking date back to John Heywoods A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. And bitten were we both to the brain aright. We saw each other drunk in the good ale glass. Get back on it! (Picture: Getty) Randle Cotgraves A dictionarie of the French and English tongues in 1611 also mentioned the drinking version: Our Ale-knights [habitual drinkers] often use this phrase, and say, Give us a haire of the dog that last bit us. So the phrase and the general advice has been around a long time but does it actually work? Well, yes and no. Undoubtedly having an alcoholic drink on a hangover makes you feel better, but only temporarily, it will help the symptoms of a hangover, but it will just delay the problem till later. Alcohol numbs pain and senses, which will help deal with the unwelcome issues of a hangover, it also causes a blood sugar spike which will make you feel better. However, a hangover is partly down to the crash in blood sugar levels after the spike, so you will still have to deal with that in the future. Hungover? (Picture: Getty) Lauren Owen, a member of the said: Alcohol acts on a number of chemicals in the brain to increase feelings of pleasure. Reduction of hangover symptoms by hair of the dog may also be due to the activity of alcohol on neurotransmitter systems.


The NHS website says of the cure: Hair of the dog drinking more alcohol does not help. Drinking in the morning is a risky habit, and you may simply be delaying the appearance of symptoms until the alcohol wears off again. If youve had a heavy drinking episode, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait at least 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol to give your body time to recover. So if you want that quick fix, then grab a beer, but be ready for it to get a whole lot worse in the near future. From Dennis J Hudson, London : A Sunday newspaper article recently claimed that hangover has nothing to do with alcohol but refers to Victorian workhouses, in which inmates slept by draping their arms over a stretched-out rope which they hung over as it supported them. Is there any truth in this? None whatsoever, but it s yet another good example of people jumping to completely the wrong conclusion on the basis of knowing a bit of esoteric information. There really was once a sleeping system like that. The principal reference I have for it is George Orwell s Down and Out in Paris and London of 1933: At the Twopenny Hangover, the lodgers sit in a row on a bench; there is a rope in front of them, and they lean on this as though leaning over a fence. A man, humorously called the valet, cuts the rope at five in the morning.


I have never been there myself, but Bozo had been there often. I asked him whether anyone could possibly sleep in such an attitude, and he said that it was more comfortable than it sounded at any rate, better than bare floor. It s mentioned in a work of a century earlier, The Magic Skin by Honor de Balzac, which was translated into English by Ellen Marriage in 1895: We. made it a point of honour to find out whether you were roosting in a tree in the Champs-Elyses, or in one of those philanthropic abodes where the beggars sleep on a twopenny rope. The connection sounds pretty convincing, with Orwell actually using hangover to describe the method. But the historical evidence for the word in the alcoholic sense shows that it s from the idea of something that remains or is left over a remainder or survival or after-effect not of a person literally being hung over anything. Several subscribers have since told me that the same story has also been advanced as the supposed origin of to be able to sleep on a clothesline, meaning to be so utterly tired one could sleep anywhere. There might be an association here, though it s impossible to be sure. But the image behind sleeping on a clothesline is that one lies along it, as in a very thin hammock, being too dead tired to move about and so fall off. It seems not to fit the situation. More folk etymologies vanquished!

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