- Booze, meaning an alcoholic drink, is a barroom term not found in the vocabulary of the genteel. Yet for centuries it enjoyed credentials that made it, in one form or another, a commonplace word in the English language. With time, however, it degenerated into slang, so much so that in the sixteenth century it was regarded as thieves' cant. Its level of acceptance has risen since then, but not enough to enter literary circles. Those who believe that booze is an eponym for E. G. Booz, a Philadelphia distiller who purveyed whiskey in a bottle bearing his name and shaped like a log cabin, are behind the times. During the 1840 presidential campaign, the bottle was widely distributed to impress people that William Henry Harrison, the successful Whig candidate (Tippecanoe and Tyler, too) had been born in a log cabin. The full imprint on this bottle was "Booz's Log Cabin Whiskey."Booze traces back to Middle English bousen, to carouse, to guzzle liquor, or to drink to excess. The term has been given various forms (Edmund Spencer in 1590 in The Faerie Queen spoke of a "boozing can"). Some etymologists attribute its origin to the Hindustani Booza, drink; others to the Turkish boza, a kind of liquor favored by gypsies. The confusion concerning this word even extends to the correct provenance of the log-shaped bottle of Harrison's campaign. Some say it did not come from the Philadelphia distiller but from E. S. Booz of Kentucky. The ploy with the log cabin bottle did so well that Daniel Webster was wont to say, "I wish I had been born in a log cabin." It certainly didn't harm the candidacy of Abraham Lincoln. In any event, booze, with a lower-case b, has a fixed place in the English language.
Dictionary of eponyms. Morton S. Freeman. 2013.