There are two answers to this question. First, let’s dispense with the non-drinking-related one. If you’re paying someone “under the table” that means that you are paying them without the government taking their cut and it’s not on the books. This is how weed farmers get paid in places where farming weed is illegal.
The second, perhaps less-well-known meaning, comes from the phrase “drinking someone under the table”. A person who is “under the table” has lost any capacity to function properly and will likely need a hangover cure in Key West the next morning They’re done. They’re passed out. They’re beyond wasted. They have called it a night.
In this case, however, they are still at the tavern, inn, pub, bar, or club. They will need to be carried to the vehicle in which they depart and deposited in their apartment, hotel room, or other place where they will sleep.
Where Does “Under the Table” Come From?
Under the table is an old English phrase for those who have drunk themselves to the point of passing out. When you “drink someone under the table”, you have successfully consumed enough alcohol and remained standing while they lie in a pile of their own feculence to be mocked and drawn upon.
Under the table, as a turn of phrase denoting drunkenness, dates as far back as the early 1600s and probably much earlier. It began appearing in texts as early as 1624. Many of these are Christian religious texts that declaim those who “make their brother drunken, and lay him vnder the table.” (A spirituall trumpet exciting and preparing to the Christian warfare, William Jennet).
It also refers to those who “Carrouze, and Health, and Drinke so long, till they haue laid one another dead drunke vnder the Table, or caused one another to vomit vp their shame, and surfet” (Healthes: sicknesse, William Prinne)
There is at least one reference to “under the table” arising from competitive drinking games. In other words, each “player” would trade shots until the other had fallen to the ground nigh-unto lifeless in a puddle of their own vomit. An author referred to only as Rogers said: “They get Beer of extraordinary strength, and…make matches who shall drink each other drunk under the Table.”
Drinking Games and “Under the Table”
Suffice it to say, “under the table” is not a great place to be. If you’re under the table, there are least a half-dozen other places you’d probably rather be. For instance, a bed. And yet, the point of drinking games is to consume more alcohol than anyone else in the room. The last one standing is a winner who can gloat to a room-full of unconscious losers.
Instead of literally drinking one another under the table, you should allow (for health reasons) one another to “tap out”. In other words, if a player feels the need to pass out, let them do so in a bedroom instead of under the table where they will just be, at best, in the way.
Hangover Hospital is Here to Help
If you wake up under a table, chances are, you’ll need some help fending off the wretched hangover you are likely to have the next day. Hangover Hospital’s trained hangover paramedics can help. We will provide a therapy that should help you feel good as new within 45 minutes. Give us a call!