My dearly departed maternal grandfather was oft heard to utter the above on the rare hot summer days we have in this country. I never did get around to asking him the origin of the phrase; my grandmother surmised that it was something he picked up when he was in the RAF during the war (or, subsequently, in the Arnheim PoW camp after he was shot down in '42 or '43), but I'm not sure I buy into that.
I don't know much about his origins, I'm not even sure where he was born (though I reckon it was Kingston-upon-Thames).
The thing is, the only meaning I know of for the phrase (without the old) is as a euphemism for '*** as a newt'.
Has anyone else come across it being used in this context (i.e. to mean 'extremely hot')?
Having said that, I'm not sure why it should be a euphemism for 'drunk' either...
Thanks for any enlightenment.
Sarah

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My dearly departed maternal grandfather was oft heard to utter the above on the rare hot summer days we have ... hot')? Having said that, I'm not sure why it should be a euphemism for 'drunk' either... Thanks for any enlightenment.

I haven't noticed the expression. Partridge gives "Drunk as a boiled owl" (early 1880s). The origin's uncertain but he quotes a suggestion that it may be from "As drunk as Abel Boyle" (Who he?)

I wonder if two images have become confused - owl and fowl. An old fowl would need a lot of boiling to edible - hence the "hot" meaning. OTOH a boiled owl might just be a nice image of being daft - they're scrawny little things under all those fluffy feathers.

There are so many bizarre expressions for drunkenness (including comparisons to animals) that I wonder if they're deliberately made up to be impenetrable.

Phil C.
I wonder if two images have become confused - owl and fowl. An old fowl would need a lot of boiling to edible

Any connection to the Scottish 'fou' meaning drunk, or could it be a spoonerism for 'oiled bowel'?
Paul Burke
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I wonder if two images have become confused - owl and fowl. An old fowl would need a lot of boiling to edible

Any connection to the Scottish 'fou' meaning drunk, or could it be a spoonerism for 'oiled bowel'?

I believe the Scots word is "fu'" (sc. "full"), although the apostrophe is sometimes omitted.

Odysseus
My dearly departed maternal grandfather was oft heard to utter ... be a euphemism for 'drunk' either... Thanks for any enlightenment.

I haven't noticed the expression. Partridge gives "Drunk as a boiled owl" (early 1880s). The origin's uncertain but he quotes ... many bizarre expressions for drunkenness (including comparisons to animals) that I wonder if they're deliberately made up to be impenetrable.

Related to the ''boiled" expression is "stewed" or "stewed to the gills", which gets out of stewed chicken and into another kind of animal.
My dearly departed maternal grandfather was oft heard to utter ... be a euphemism for 'drunk' either... Thanks for any enlightenment.

I haven't noticed the expression. Partridge gives "Drunk as a boiled owl" (early 1880s). The origin's uncertain but he quotes ... many bizarre expressions for drunkenness (including comparisons to animals) that I wonder if they're deliberately made up to be impenetrable.

Perhaps they're made up by people too drunk to know what they're saying? OED contributes:
"boiled:
c. Intoxicated. slang. Also phr. as drunk as a boiled owl. (1885 Referee 31 May 3/3 Twiss+had just the boiled-owlish appearance that is gained by working all night in a printing-office.) 1886 J. A. Porter Sks. Yale Life 156 There is a balm for a headache caused by last night's debauch to have it said you were 'slightly cheered' or 'slewed' or 'boiled'. 1892 Daily Tel. 12 Dec. 5/4 The expression, 'Intoxicated as a boiled owl', is a gross libel upon a highly respectable teetotal bird. 1922 Joyce Ulysses 300 He brought him home as drunk as a boiled owl. 1928 Amer. Speech IV. 102 Expressions synonymous with or circumlocutory for 'drunk', boiled. 1940 'H. Pentecost' 24th Horse (1951) v. 45 He's boiled to the ears."

John Dean
Oxford
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I haven't noticed the expression. Partridge gives "Drunk as aboiled ... that I wonder if they're deliberately madeup to be impenetrable.

Perhaps they're made up by people too drunk to know what they're saying? OED contributes: "boiled: c. Intoxicated. slang. Also ... synonymous with or circumlocutory for 'drunk', boiled. 1940 'H. Pentecost' 24th Horse (1951) v. 45 He's boiled to the ears."

And somewhere in Stalky Kipling gives us "as screwed as an owl". I wonder why owls, in a competitive strand of somethingography so wise, are also incapable? As it were: "Dash it, Pongo, you owl! That was my bally foot!"

Mike.
And somewhere in Stalky Kipling gives us "as screwed as an owl". I wonder why owls, in a competitive strand of somethingography so wise, are also incapable? As it were: "Dash it, Pongo, you owl! That was my bally foot!"

I expect the Fat Owl of the Remove had something to do with it.

Owls were considered wise because the Little Owl nested in the temple of Athene, goddess of wisdom. (I'm never sure whether to write Little Owl or little owl for the species. Neither seems satisfactory.) Owls aren't actually very bright as birds go.

Phil C.
And somewhere in Stalky Kipling gives us "as ... "Dash it, Pongo, you owl! That was my bally foot!"

I expect the Fat Owl of the Remove had something to do with it. Owls were considered wise because the ... write Little Owl or little owl for the species. Neither seems satisfactory.) Owls aren't actually very bright as birds go.

Well, dur. Owl couldn't even master the simple notice, such as:

PLES RING IF AN RNSER IS REQIRD
PLEZ CNOKE IF AN RNSR IS NOT REQID
which had to be written out by Christopher Robin. Owl could only manage "Wol".

David
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