on the wagon

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Early 20th century American temperance movement. Originally “on the water wagon” or “on the water cart”,[1][2][3] referring to carts used to hose down dusty roads.

Alice Hegan Rice, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, 1901, p. 124[4]

I wanted to git him some whisky, but he shuck his head. ‘I'm on the water-cart,’ sez he.

Compare New York Anti-Saloon League:

Be a good sport about it. No more falling off the water wagon. Uncle Sam will help you keep your pledge.

Adjective[edit]

on the wagon

  1. (idiomatic) Abstaining from drinking any alcoholic drink, usually in the sense of having given it up (as opposed to never having partaken); teetotal.
    1917: “Thank you, but; – er – I’m on the wagon, you know,” declined the youth.Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Oakdale Affair [1]
  2. By extension, maintaining a program of self-improvement or abstinence from some other undesirable habit.
    He’s been on the smoking cessation wagon for two weeks now.

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ On the Wagon, World Wide Words, Michael Quinion
  2. ^ on the wagon” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary (2001).
  3. ^ "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, New York, 1997.
  4. ^ Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch at Project Gutenberg