'Pokey' as in strong or alcoholic

I realised recently that sometimes I use the word 'pokey' to describe a beer (or other alcoholic drink) that is especially strong-tasting or alcoholic.

The thing is, I don't know when and where I picked up this word. My brother doesn't use it; my girlfriend, who grew up not too far from the town where I went to university, doesn't either. They both seemed surprised when I used 'pokey' in conversation to describe a particular beer, although they understood my intended meaning from the context of the sentence.

I would suspect that this usage of 'pokey' was unique to me, except that I've found on the internet a few instances of other people also using the word to mean strong or alcoholic. One poster on a British discussion board refers to Singha as having been "a very full flavoured pokey beer", for example.

So my question is: do you use 'pokey' to mean (or are you familiar with it being used to mean) strong and/or alcoholic? If so, can you shed some light on its usage?


NB 'Pokey' is also more commonly used to mean small or cramped, which means I could drink a pokey beer in a pokey pub... Oh, and it's worth mentioning that 'pokey' could easily be spelt 'poky'.

6 comments:

Martin (riverScrap.com) said...

Never used it. Never heard of it before. But I can see how it makes sense insofar as the sharpness of the drink could be said to 'poke' your innards.

Personally I'd go for 'punchy', as in 'packs a punch'. Although in the case of alcoholic drinks that could lead to confusion...

Brian White said...

I've heard two usages for pokey. One is "slow," as in, "My brother is always late because he is pokey in the morning." The other usage is "jail," as in, "Throw him in the pokey for a few hours and see if he talks," which makes sense given your small or cramped definition.

Apus said...

I've regularly encountered, and used, pokey to describe a powerful motorcycle – and JD might care to ask his group art and production editor to tell him the story of the 'pokey monster'...

Colin said...

I'd go with Apus; I use poke to describe a car or bike with more power than average. So a beer being pokey would be a beer with some strength, as in "Since having a kid I've not got out much, so any beer with a bit of poke would have me in a right mess".

Virtual Linguist said...

Pogey (or pogy) acqua! is in Jonathon Green's Dictionary of Slang. He says it's a 19th-century exclamation meaning 'make the drink strong!'. It comes from the Italian 'poco acqua', little water. Vodka, literally translated, means 'little water', too, and I wonder if 'little water' was in some areas a euphemism for a strong alcoholic drink.

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Yep, the OED gives one meaning of poke as "Power, esp. (in a car or other vehicle) horsepower; strength, vigour".

It also mentions that the green heron, the black-crowned night heron and the bittern are all known as 'shitepokes'. Fascinating, but not very helpful.