Q: Why do we say people who have gotten drunk have ‘tied one on'?
A: I've checked several sources, but all state there is not a certain answer as to how the phrase got started.
There are some possible solutions, however. The Phrase Finder mentions some sites claim the saying has a connection to America's old western days. The connection to tying comes from the notion of tying a horse to a hitching post outside the saloon. The Phrase Finder, itself, though, doubts that's the connection.
It also mentions the Oxford English Dictionary explanation: "Tie a bun on" was an old British slang term for getting drunk, and "tie one on" could derive from there. It states the word "bun" had long been used as an expression for drunkenness in Britain, but even that has seemed to go away in recent generations.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "OK, Bernie, then where the heck did ‘tie a bun on' originate?"
I was afraid you'd ask that. The truth is, nobody seems to know. There is one theory the The Phrase Finder mentions: Long, long ago, there was an idea that being able to walk with a bun balanced on your head was a way of proving you were sober. If you were drunk, you would tie the bun to your head so it wouldn't fall off. Again, the site stresses, that's a theory.
Either way, maybe the bun helped ease the fall if the person passed out. Then it would become an instant pillow.
One other thing, the site credits "The Wordsworth Book of Euphemism" by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver, with this one. It states the term could have come from "hang one on." If that is correct, it states, then that could be a possible connection to the term for what tends to hang around the morning after you "hang one on" — a hangover.
By the way, in searching for a ‘tie one on' explanation, I came across the term "tie the knot." Curious, I found it's origin.
The term for getting married comes from ancient times when the person performing the ceremony would tie the bride's and groom's garments as a symbol of union, according to the QPB Encyclopedia of Word And Phrase Origins.
Staff Writer Bernie Delinski writes Just Ask, which runs Wednesdays in the Times Daily. If you've got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com or call him at 256-740-5739.