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Does the Drinking “Hangover” Come from Sleeping Over a Rope?

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Noah in Charleston, South Carolina, wonders about the origin of hangover, “the unpleasant physical results of drinking too much alcohol.” Does it come from the old penny hang, also called a hangover, a place where people without a place to sleep could literally spend a night hanging over a rope, sometimes sleeping off the effects of too much booze? George Orwell described these types of places in Down and Out in Paris and London (Bookshop|Amazon). But the term hangover was used long before that to denote various kinds of aftereffects, such as a political hangover. Over time, hangover came to specify the result of too many drinks. The German word Katzenjammer, literally “a squall of cats,” also means “hangover.” Danish terms for this affliction translate as “a blacksmith in the forehead” or “a carpenter in the forehead.” In French, someone who is hung over is said to have “a wooden mouth,” or they are suffering from mal aux cheveux, “a hair ache.” The term veisalgia, sometimes used by doctors, comes from Norwegian kveis, meaning “uneasiness following debauchery,” and the Greek algia, or “pain,” a relative of the word for something that removes pain, analgesic. This is part of a complete episode.

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