The story of how ‘Halfaholic’ came into the world…

How new words are made

Somewhere, high in one of the ancient, ivory towers of Oxford University, hidden far from prying eyes, sits a group of wizened academics, whose job it is to create new words for the English language. As they slavishly pore over their little wicker baskets of consonants and vowels, carefully weighing up the precise value of each letter that they may or may not use, there is another group of individuals, usually found lounging around in pubs or bars, that also comes up with new words. And while those of the academics are arguably far more precise and beautifully crafted, the latter group beats them hands down when it comes to sheer output. ‘Halfaholic’ was one such word and this is its story…


The story of halfaholic

It was a few months ago now and several of my bookish friends, not to mention a couple of others who have long since learned to tune out when the conversation turns literary, were enjoying an evening in the bar. The conversation was good and an undisclosed number of alcoholic beverages had been consumed. As a result, the group was rapidly approaching the point in the evening where time takes on an altogether elastic quality and before you know it, the sun is coming up and the table in front of you looks like a glass recycling factory.

Anyway, one of our group, a noted writer and editor, having had ‘one for the road’ several times in a row, decided to make a run for the doors before the witching hour befell us and complete chaos descended. As he wobbled towards the exit, he commented that he should probably stop drinking for the night because the way that he was going he was at risk of becoming an alcoholic.

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than I said something like, “Well, I’m going to carry on because I’m only a halfaholic after all.” I have no idea where it came from, the word just leapt into my beer-addled brain from a place beyond normal time and space. But, like all words, once it was spoken, it couldn’t be taken back and now existed here in our world. The look on my friend’s face said it all, as he tried the new word out for size, smiling as he did so, enjoying its texture and the image that it created in his mind. Then without so much as a ‘by your leave’, he took the word with him and left the bar.

Since then, the word has been happily propagating itself all over the city and you know what, I don’t really mind at all, because it isn’t a bad word, it’s just new and wants to get some recognition. And every now and then, it even comes back to the bar to be spoken by someone completely new, or by my friend, who still loves it dearly.

So, whether you’re an Oxford academic who has had a couple of heavy nights in a row, or just a regular Joe who’s worried about having yet another ‘one for the road’, never fear, there’s a word for you and it’s a good word. You can tell the world with pride that you’re not an alcoholic, you’re a halfaholic instead!




  • I’ve since found out that Halfaholic is also the name of a clothing company, as well as a Hip-Hop band, which just goes to show that some words will find any which way they can to get out of the ether and into the real world!
  • Glass photo – Edan Cohen,
  • As always, if you’ve enjoyed this post, then do check out my other articles, as well as my books at: