5

I am struggling with how to express the idea that somebody sold out some article of his possession (computer, car, house, etc.) and used the money to buy himself alcohol to drink.

For example,

-- Where is his computer?

-- Well, he squandered it on drink.

Dictionaries show that "to squander on drink" is okay; but when I type in Google Search "squandered his car on drink", I get zero results, which makes me think that there might be some better and more common ways of expressing the same thought.

  • 3
    If you said "He squandered his car on drink", my immediate interpretation would be that it's a poetic way of saying he crashed it while drunk driving. (That is, he was "on drink" when the car was squandered, where "squandered" is being interpreted as "wasted in a reckless or foolish manner", without any monetary connotation.) – R.M. Mar 22 at 15:09
19

While you can squander money on drink, you cannot generally squander anything else on drink. The top dictionary definition of "squander" is "to spend or use (money, time, etc.) extravagantly or wastefully." You cannot "spend" a car or a computer, so it doesn't make sense to squander them either.

Strangely, using "drink" idiomatically to mean "alcohol" is almost always done in the context of wasting money, time, or opportunity:

He blew his money on drink. She had so much potential, but she wasted it all on gambling and drink.

Otherwise, native speakers tend to use a different slang term, such as "booze", or a more literal or specific term like "liquor," "beer," or even just "alchohol."

Edit: To clarify, I am talking about using the word "drink" as a mass noun with no article, equivalent to "beer" or "water." Using it as a verb ("I drink to forget my troubles") or as a singular verb ("Let's go out and get a drink") are often used to imply alcohol in many contexts.

Here are some alternatives that I think communicates what you're trying to say. I'm ordering them roughly from most straightforward to most judgmental:

He sold his car to buy alcohol.

He traded his car for beer money.

He sold his car and blew the money on booze.


"Squander" is a funny-sounding word, and normally used only in specific contexts. The most common phrases using "squander," as far as I'm aware, are:

  • To squander money / resources
  • To squander goodwill
  • To squander your time
  • To squander an opportunity
  • 1
    "Squander a car" doesn't make sense here, but it might if someone were prone to drag racing. – chrylis Mar 21 at 22:51
  • 4
    A better phrasing would be "He sold his car, and squandered the money on drink". – jamesqf Mar 22 at 5:32
  • 1
    As an aside, I can think of plenty of examples where 'drink' is used in a non-negative way to mean alcohol. "I was out drinking last night". "We had a few drinks then went home". "Eat, drink and be merry". "I have a drink every now and again". You may argue that this doesn't necessarily mean alchohol but in my experience those phrases are almost always used that way. – Eric Nolan Mar 22 at 9:41
  • 1
    I think "drink" as a mass noun is almost always used with a negative connotation. See Jesse's first two example sentences. "A drink" and "drinks" do not have that connotation at all. – Mixolydian Mar 22 at 15:39
  • 1
    @EricNolan, as a couple of other people have pointed out, I was writing specifically about the use of "drink" as a mass noun without an article. I agree that using it as a verb to imply the consumption of alcohol is common, and so is using it as a singular noun with an article ("a drink"). – Jesse Mar 22 at 19:12
7

I think one normally squanders money on something. The money could come from selling an item, but you have to make that explicit. Try something like:

-- Well, he sold his computer and squandered his profits the proceeds on drink.

  • 4
    I would use "proceeds" instead of "profits" there. Proceeds are all of the money you get from selling something; profits are the money you get from selling it, minus the money you spent in order to obtain it. When you sell a car, you usually have proceeds, but not profits. – Tanner Swett Mar 22 at 6:06
  • Yes, good point. – Mixolydian Mar 22 at 11:51
  • And usually "the proceeds", unless they sold their stuff and you're talking specifically about his share of the money. – David Richerby Mar 22 at 15:34
  • Yes, I agree with this as well. I wrote this answer too quickly! – Mixolydian Mar 22 at 15:40
3

You "squander" something consumable, like time, money, effort and so on. It sounds unusual to "squander" a computer because you don't use it by consuming or exchanging it.

However, precisely because it is unusual, as a native speaker I would interpret "Well, he squandered his computer on drink" as a witticism. I would both understand what you meant and think you were being very clever.

  • As a native speaker, I too would make the same interpretation - if I knew the utterance came from a native speaker. But if I knew it was a non-native, I'd be more likely to correct him than to praise his "wit". – FumbleFingers Mar 22 at 15:47
  • Well, of course. If it was writing, though, I would think it was being clever rather than assume the writer made a mistake due to being a non-native speaker. – Len Mar 24 at 3:45
  • 1
    I wouldn't normally go out of my way to decide whether any given written text came from a native speaker or not (in principle, no more important than being aware of whether the font used a or ɑ). And I certainly wouldn't consider the cited usage here to be any kind of "shibboleth" in that respect (arguably, just the fact of using the word squander suggests "native speaker"). But there would normally be more than just the single sentence, and it's hard to avoid noticing "nns" indicators unless the writer is very well versed in English, even if you're not looking for "tells". – FumbleFingers Mar 24 at 13:01
1

I agree with others who said to squander a specific thing seems odd, although as Len said, it is the sort of thing someone might say purposely to make a point.

To say "squandered everything" is another common phrase. For instance you could say "he squadered everything he had on drink: his car, his house and finally his family". Even though ordinarily you don't spend your family, the implication is clear.

In your specific example I wouldn't use squandered at all. The first, most natural, sentence I came up with is "he sold it for drink" or (better grammar) "he sold it to buy drink".

Note that when I went to Google to see if "squadered everything on drink" was really a common phrase the first few hits were from the bible. No idea what that might mean to you but I thought it was worth mentioning.

1

Something like "He drank his whole life away" would definitely imply that it was "wasted on alcohol". I don't know that "He drank his car away" has quite the same connotation. Maybe something like "He drank away his prized/beloved car" might be better. Saying he "drank away" or "drank his ___ away" I think is much clearer to what you mean.

  • One can also say something like "he drank away his car, his house and his life savings". – emery.noel Mar 22 at 16:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.