when the sun is over the yardarm

when the sun is over the yardarm

Used to describe when people begin drinking alcohol, or the time at which it is appropriate to do so. A "yardarm" is a horizontal bar on the mast of a ship, and it is supposed that when the sun passed it at a certain time of day (around noon), sailors were allowed to drink. These days, the way I measure when the sun is over the yardarm is whether or not I've eaten lunch yet. Oh, don't pay any attention to them. They always get a bit rowdy when the sun's over the yardarm.
See also: over, sun, yardarm
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

sun is over the yardarm, when the

A time permissible for cocktails or some other alcoholic drink. Yardarm means either end of the outer portions of a square sail, and presumably this term alludes to the cocktail hour on a pleasure yacht, after the sun has begun to sink. It is used more in Britain than in America, where in fact it is dying out. Rudyard Kipling had it in From Sea to Sea (1899): “The American does not drink at meals as a sensible man should. Also, he has no decent notions about the sun being over the yardarm or below the horizon.”
See also: over, sun
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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