With the news that ‘binge-watch’ is to be added to Oxford Dictionaries Online, here in the OUP Archives we decided to investigate the origins of the word ‘binge’.
The word in the sense of a heavy drinking bout was first included in the Supplement to the OED in 1933 but has much earlier origins. It was originally a Northern dialect word meaning ‘soak’—to binge meant to soak a wooden vessel. But as this letter of 1929 shows, by the 1880s it had been adopted by Oxford undergraduates (particularly those in Queens College apparently) to mean a drinking spree. By the time this letter was written, ‘binge’ was being used in a more general way to mean any kind of ‘jovial spree’ - whether that’s drinking, eating, or watching all four seasons of Game of Thrones in a weekend!
Image: 1929 letter from OUP Archives. Do not re-use without permission.