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Tired and emotional is a chiefly British euphemism for "drunk". It was popularised by the Britishmarker satirical magazine Private Eyemarker in 1967 after being used in a spoof diplomatic memo to describe the state of Labour Cabinet minister George Brown, but is now used as a stock phrase. British slander and libel law makes it unwise ever to directly refer to someone as being drunk until it is proven (e.g. by the result of a breathalyser test) — even then one takes a chance since the result of the test can be appealed. Also, because of the restraints of parliamentary language, it is unacceptable in the House of Commonsmarker to accuse an MP of being drunk, but one may use this or other euphemisms. ("Not quite himself", etc). The Guardian describes it as having joined the "phrases that are part of every journalist's vocabulary". Because of this widespread interpretation, one source cautions professional British journalists against its use as "even if the journalist ... meant it literally", it could be considered defamatory.


According to an urban legend, Brown appeared on the BBC following the assassination of John F. Kennedymarker in 1963, and a BBC presenter subsequently described him as "tired and emotional". In reality, Brown appeared only on ITV, and although he was criticised for his apparent intoxication, no evidence of the phrase being broadcast has been found.

It is also said to have its origin in a statement to the Press by Brown's agent, Edward Eldred, who made excuses for him after he had behaved badly in public by saying that he was "tired and emotional".

The phrase became associated with Brown, who already had a reputation for alcohol abuse; The Sunday Times wrote that "George Brown drunk is a better man than Harold Wilson sober", but according to The Independent,

The 1993 Peter Paterson biography, which among other things described "his fondness for the bottle", was titled Tired and Emotional: The Life of Lord George Brown.

Other notable incidents

In 2002, controversial Irish soccer analyst Eamon Dunphy appeared on RTÉmarker, Ireland's state broadcaster, during its coverage of the 2002 World Cup, was taken off-air during the programme and suspended. Dunphy subsequently apologised to viewers, saying, "I arrived for work tired and emotional, I think is the euphemism and I was tired. I'd had a few drinks, I hadn't slept and I think wasn't fit to fulfil my contract".

Private Eye noted in 2004 when The Sun newspaper, after an incident involving Prince Harry, then 20, quoted a "senior Clarence Housemarker source" as saying that Harry was "fired up. He'd been drinking and was tired and emotional."

BBC foreign affairs correspondent John Simpson described the "erratic" Serbian politician Vuk Drašković as "tired and emotional" in a live news report from Belgrade, broadcast on the UK evening news, knowing that the British audience would understand the meaning. The only remaining description of Drašković in this way is in the article "Change in the air in Belgrade".

See also


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