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Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Thanks to PrawfsBlawg for the invitation to guest-blog this month.  I'll be doing so from Germany, where I'm spending the semester at the hospitality of WWU's law faculty in Muenster.  Inspired by the location and the season--Octoberfest, last week and this--I pass along my new favorite German word: Bierleichen.  It translates as "beer corpses," and it's the term used for those who drink themselves into unconsciousness.  The media keeps a close count on the annual number of Octoberfest Bierleichen.  In Munich, the center of Octoberfest bacchanalia, Der Spiegel reports 445 Bierleichen thus far--a 20% jump over last year.  You have to admire the precision of the data.

Posted by Darryl Brown on October 2, 2012 at 04:06 AM | Permalink


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Der Spiegel was reporting the number from the Red Cross, which serves as the ambulance and first-aid service at Octoberfest (and more generally). So its source is a basically neutral accounting of a public health issue. I couldn't tell whether Der Spiegel was implying something more, either concern with the problem, quirky measure of the festivities' intensity, etc. I was mostly just struck by the word.

Posted by: Darryl Brown | Oct 3, 2012 7:42:09 AM

Do you have any sense whether this statistic is generated to produce a normative statement against overdrinking? Universities in the U.S. publish the percentage of undergraduates who binge drink in order to counter the perception that "everyone does it." In fact, relatively few undergrads binge drink, and so by publishing the low number, all students realize that the norm is actually NOT binge drinking. I wonder what, if any, sociological trends the Bierleichen statistic is meant to address (non-Germans who come to Octoberfest, much like Americans go to Amsterdam? Germans who think that everyone gets blitzed in October?) Relatedly, is this stat a normative statement, public safety/health promoter, or a bit of both?
Thanks for the post,

Posted by: Steven R. Morrison | Oct 2, 2012 10:54:51 AM

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