Boozing - a Universal Language

10/12/2013 13:30 GMT | Updated 08/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Esperanto was invented in 1887 so humans could communicate regardless of regional or national tongues. But a lingua franca has existed since the beginning of life on earth and it is called 'having a bevvy'. At best alcohol builds bonds, forms friendships, and reinforces relationships. Alcohol is a social lubricant used to celebrate significant events. It knows no cultural or class boundaries and apart from societies where alcohol is forbidden, drinking is a universal activity. And without it millions of terrible karaoke renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody might never have happened!

Sugar fermentation (by-products are alcohol and carbon dioxide) is believed to be the earliest form of energy production used by life on earth so 3.6 billion years ago alcohol was a major factor even in primitive bacteria society. Was the primordial soup really a primordial cocktail?

Early humans would have experienced a gentle buzz of intoxication by eating fermented fruit. Mead (fermented honey and water) became the first purposely made alcoholic drink, followed by wine from all manner of fruits and saps. Fermentation is highly beneficial because the nutritional value of the food and drink is enhanced with increased amino acid and vitamin levels. It also makes food and drink easier to digest, supplying nutrition and energy that caused the brains of our ancient forebears to grow larger. Fermented food and drink contains lactobacillus acidophilus microflora that help to maintain healthy intestines and boost immune system functions. The drinkers would have lived longer, and reproduced more than the abstemious. Alcohol's psychotropic effects made the imbibers cheerful and less inhibited, encouraged singing, dancing, flirting. Even when the party ended with fighting or face down on the savannah alcohol's effects were too seductive to resist. And nothing has changed - look at most modern day social gatherings - alcohol is central to the festivities.

Could it be true that humans are hard-wired to seek mind altering substances such as caffeine, tobacco, psychedelic drugs, and alcohol? Alcohol is and was the most easily available intoxicant and historically different cultures throughout the world started drinking independently with no knowledge of the others. Beer for instance was brewed in Neolithic China and the Amazon rainforest despite there being no communication links between those cultures. Later trade and exploration spread the habit and reputation of alcohol to all corners of the globe. Today in some modern countries booze is a source of national pride, identity and hugely important to gross national product - French champagne; Mexican Tequila, and Scotch whisky which is so significant that if Scots vote for independence, their national drink will help to underpin the economy.

On a recent trip to Zambia, where there are 72 tribal languages, I learned enough of the four main dialects to make myself understood in the bar each night as I watched footy and drank beer with the locals. Now I have new mates in Mongu, Lusaka, and Mufulira. It may have been the beautiful game that introduced us but it was the international language of drinking that sealed our friendship.