How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

Categories: Food and Drinks | History

The stable phraseological unit “to be under the fly” is often used in relation to drunk people. This almost always means a slight degree of intoxication. Everyone knows this phrase and it can even be found in classical literature. But very few can explain how it appeared.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

The appearance of the expression “to be under the fly” is closely related to the development of drinking establishments in Rus'. Once upon a time, a place where people gathered to sit over a bottle of something strong was called a tavern. This word comes from the ancient Slavic “korm”, meaning “feast”, “treat”, “feast”.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

The first mentions of taverns appeared in the 11th century in Kievan Rus. These were not just drinking establishments, but a kind of clubs. They gathered there not only to drink, but also to discuss news and conclude trade deals. Sometimes in taverns messengers announced decrees and new laws. The classic ancient Russian tavern retained its general features later, when Ukraine appeared.

It was not only men who visited the taverns. They were freely visited by women and even young people, who were placed in the outskirts so that they would not disturb the respected guests with noise. Folk festivities were held in such establishments. Visitors were never divided by wealth or social status. There was even a saying: “In the tavern and in the bathhouse all are equal nobles.”

The selection of drinks and snacks was quite limited. They drank mostly beer, mash and mead, snacked on pickled berries and apples, pickled mushrooms, pickled vegetables, and pies. It was possible to spend the night in the tavern - it also served as an inn for travelers.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

In Muscovy everything was completely different. In the north-east of Rus', social life was poorly developed and the Russian version of the Ukrainian tavern - the tavern, differed in its contingent and rules of behavior. Women, teenagers and priests were not allowed to come to the tavern, and overnight accommodation, as a rule, was not provided. There they ate and drank, and sometimes danced to simple folk instruments.

In the 16th century, distillation technology was brought from the East and alcohol became stronger. From this moment begins the story of the legendary Russian drunkenness, which turned into a national problem. Gradually, taverns and taverns ceased to be perceived as places where one could eat and spend time profitably. They started going there to drink. They went to taverns to eat and talk about serious topics.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

By the end of the 17th century, alcohol production was on a large scale. Therefore, it came under state control. Alcohol brought huge revenues to the treasury, so taverns were opened even in the most unpromising places. But there were only a few people willing to become tselovalniki (tax collectors). These sovereign people answered with their heads for the lack of taxes. The common people, in years of bad harvest, when there was no money for booze, often solved the problem by robberies.

Tsar Peter I, having returned to Russia from Europe, decided to bring the drinking business into a civilized form. The reforming monarch was inspired by the history of European taverns, which had existed since the time of the Roman emperor Diocletian, who described them in the 3rd century. Peter himself visited German inns-herbergs, where everything was very decent. Both secular and clergymen visited there, disputes and even court hearings took place. The Russian Tsar himself knew a lot about drinking, although his feasts did not always look decorous.

Peter ordered the opening of taverns where they served not only alcohol and snacks, but also full meals. The Russian people did not accept all innovations well, so it was necessary to somehow attract customers. Therefore, by order of Peter, visitors began to pour the first glass for free. This was done on the basis that the guest, having gained a taste for it, would then order the drink himself.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

The tavern owners, who are well acquainted with their specific contingent, began to think about how to avoid losses. In order not to spoil visitors, they began to order tiny glasses with a volume of 10-15 ml. A joke immediately appeared that even a fly would have difficulty drowning in such a container. Patient drinkers did not despair. They wandered from tavern to tavern all day long to drink the first free glass. Soon they began to call it a “fly” due to its tiny size.

An adult man could not get drunk from a tiny amount of alcohol. At best, after the free drink my head was a little noisy. This condition began to be called “under the fly.” Having walked around 5-6 taverns, one could feel intoxicated. This is how another phraseological unit appeared - “counting flies.”

But the idea of Peter I did not take root and the taverns did not become popular. Ordinary people “walked under the radar”, avoiding ordering alcohol for money. And those who were richer, including nobles, preferred “herbergs”. Everything was there in the German style - they served wine, coffee, chocolate and tobacco.

How did the expression “being under the fly” come about?

Despite this, such a concept as a tavern disappeared only after 1917, with the Bolsheviks coming to power. In memory of Peter the Great's drinking reform, which was a fiasco, only the expression “to be under the fly” remains in the Russian language. However, no one knew its true meaning even 100 years ago.

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