A line from The Barefoot Contessa (1954)

Kirk was wrong when he said I didn't know where movie scripts left off and life began. The script has to make sense and life doesn't. Any self-respecting script would have had me swallow Oscar's whiskey and go off on a bat.

"On a bat" only makes sense to me in a baseball context. Or is the bat here a literal club and the phrase means to walk on a club? The phrase seems to just mean "go off" "walk off". What does "on a bat" mean here? Is it a baseball reference? Because the phrase doesn't appear to be idiomatic.

1 Answer 1


It is dated slang, meaning "go missing". With the implication of going on a bender and getting very drunk. Dictionaries give a rare and dated sense of "bat (noun)" as "spree" or "binge"

Apart from the example you give, I've found in The Parade's gone by:

Every so often he'd go off on a bat and not show up at all.

And a line from a song about a drunken sailor in Gravity's Rainbow

Loaded up for a lark to [h]is Plimsoll mark [ie as drunk as possible]
He's been game to go off on a bat!

The origin of the phrase is mysterious to me. In particular it is not clear if it is baseball slang (but baseball batters are not particular known as drinkers) So I think it means bat in the sense of the animal, in particular reference how bats don't fly in straight lines (as drunks don't walk in straight lines). Or possibly from the verb "bat" meaning "flutter" (now mostly limited to "bat one's eyelids", but it used to be used more widely)

Further examples:

You know what happened last night, don't you? Thomas had a fight with his girlfriend and went off on a bat" Like a tree

But before he left the post at which he took the examination he went off on a bat with some of the noncom's of the garrison, and that queered him His name was stricken from the roll of successful candidates... Indianpolis journal 1901

  • 1
    AHD and M-W show the noun with sense "binge" and "spree", either of which could be plopped into "off on a". Sep 27, 2020 at 10:27
  • 1
    Nice, but the sense development from "cudgel" to "spree" is not clear at all.
    – James K
    Sep 27, 2020 at 10:40

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