Have you ever had that frustrating feeling of being at a loss for words? You know what you want to say - the perfect idiom exists in your own language - but you're speaking English, and English sadly lacks the very turn of phrase you love so much! In this column, we present some of the "missing idioms" which we think ought to be introduced into European English. This time, Aleksandar Savić takes us to a truly international party...

Image: painting by Emil Doepler (copyright free)
Valhalla, the Norse mythological realm where heroes drink together. Here the heroes are being served by Valkyries; the god Odin is sitting on his throne (right).

In the age of multiculturalism, people take a real interest in the customs, habits and mentality of other countries. And what are the first things we're curious about? In my experience, the top two are swear words and national drinks. Usually, we don't get much further than asking "How do you say cheers in your language?" But that's not all there is to say about alcohol. So, here are a few expressive phrases for you to tell your intoxicated companions how drunk they are. The only catch is – you need to be conscious enough to articulate them.

One of the commandments of George Orwell's revolutionary Animal Farm was "No animal shall drink alcohol". But of course, it's always the pigs that break the rules - to be as stuffed as a pig (être bourré comme un cochon) is the French way of saying that you've had a few drops too many. And yet, not only Orwell's characters are associated with drinking in the European discourse. In Swedish aprak literally means as straight as a monkey and if you can't control yourself the Poles might think you've got a monkey brain (dostać małpiego rozumu). Anyway, if your primate instincts do tell you to climb a tree, you better not be as drunk as a possum (Portuguese: bêbado feito um gambá). Hanging upside down from a tree sure is fun – too bad you only get to do it once.

The habit of drinking is deeply rooted in many European traditions. One of the best examples is the Norse mythological realm of Valhalla, where fallen warriors are carried to prepare for the imminent war at the end of time – Ragnarok. Right, so how do they do it? First, you drink until you're as straight as mud (Swedish: dyngrak). Of course, the drinking among the champions of Thor and Odin is all about socialising – there's no drinking alone, or drinking to the mirror as the Poles would say (pić do lusterka).

Now, when everyone's good on the gas, meaning fairly drunk (Swedish: bra i gasen), the fighting begins. It starts with taunting – should you hear someone screaming Fyllekule!, that's probably a Norwegian trying to get the best of you by calling you a drunk-ball. As the battle heats up, the Danes might complain on having sticks in their ears (at have en kæp i øret). Don't worry, they're just dead drunk – it's not spears or arrows, but they'll surely want them there when they wake up the next morning.

All of a sudden, everyone starts complaining about having a pain in their hair (Danish: at have ondt i håret). This means two things: firstly, their heads are still on their shoulders, and secondly, they have a hangover. But once they're over with it, they start all over again. Here's the obvious proof: when the French have a hangover, they say they have a wooden mouth (avoir la gueule de bois). On the other hand, the Swedes would say they have a wooden cap (jag har träkeps). What could a wooden cap indicate? I say – rearmament!

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