Cooter Brown, sometimes given as Cootie Brown, is a name used in metaphors and similes for drunkenness, mostly in the Southern United States.

Supposed origin

According to an employee of a New Orleans oyster bar who was contacted by the Old Farmer's Almanac, Cooter Brown supposedly lived on the line which divided the North and South during the American Civil War, making him ineligible for military draft by either side. He had family on both sides of the line, so he did not want to fight in the war. He decided to get drunk and stay drunk for the duration of the war so that he would be seen as useless for military purposes and would not be drafted. Ever since, colloquial and proverbial ratings of drunkenness have been benchmarked against the legendary drinker: "as drunk as Cooter Brown" or "drunker than Cooter Brown."[1]

Another origin story

Another version of the Cooter Brown story: Cooter Brown was a biracial man (half Cherokee, half Black) who lived in southern Louisiana on a small plot of land given to him by an old Cajun fur trapper. Cooter lived alone in the old Cajun's shack. When the Civil War broke out, Cooter didn't want to choose sides, because he didn't know who might win. He didn't like people much and was fearful of both sides. Because of this, Cooter, who was a heavy drinker anyway, began drinking all the time. Cooter always dressed like a Native American so as to confirm the fact that he was a Native American and not a Black man. And as such, he was a free man. Whenever soldiers (Yanks or Rebels) showed-up in the area they would always find him drunk. Often he would offer the soldiers a drink. Word began to spread about the crazy, drunken Indian named Cooter Brown. By the time the war ended, Cooter couldn't have stopped drinking even if he had wanted to. One night his shack caught fire and burned completely to the ground. When locals investigated the burned site the next day there was nothing that remained of Cooter's body. They surmised that old Cooter had so much alcohol in him that he had just burned up. Since then Cooter Brown has been synonymous with inebriation."[2]

Appearance of the word in print in 1948

Despite stories which depict the origin of Cooter Brown in the Civil War, the first instance of the term being used in a published book in the Google database of books is in 1948. No books in the database include the term from 1955 to 1959. The term became much more common in the data base in the 1980s and continued to appear more through the 2000s and 2010s.[3]


  1. ^ "Who was Cooter Brown, as in 'drunk as Cooter Brown'?". Retrieved 2013-11-04.
  2. ^ "The Origin of the Phrase "Drunk as Cooter Brown" Dates Back from the American Civil War and Refers to a Heavy Drinker Who Escaped Being Drafted Due to His Continuous Intoxication". War History Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  3. ^ "Google Books Ngram Viewer". Google Books Ngram Viewer. Retrieved 2020-08-29.