Tip o’ the hat once again to Paul McFedries, Canada’s Word Spy for noting the rise in the use of ‘almost alcoholic.’
He defines the term as “a person who exhibits some of the symptoms or behaviors associated with alcoholism, but who is not a full-blown alcoholic.”
He cites the earliest use in a New York Daily News story in which then-U.S. President George W. Bush was described by an adviser “a recovering alcoholic or almost-alcoholic,” which led him to “really [believe] in the power of faith to get you through times of trouble.”
More recent uses expand on the definition. For example, in a New Zealand Herald article (10 December 2013) titled “Are you ‘almost alcoholic’?”, Shelley Bridgeman wrote:
“Traditionally alcoholism has been understood as a black-and-white condition. Just like it’s impossible to be a little bit pregnant, it’s long been considered that a person must be either an alcoholic or not an alcoholic. Yet the mood is shifting as various shades of grey emerge and some experts claim that there may be an entire spectrum of possibilities that lie between the non-alcoholic and the alcoholic state.
“Welcome to the world of the ‘almost alcoholic.’ “~TM