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Scott Fitzgerald

always drank like a professional, collapsing the arc from charming to churlish early on.

This sentence is from a review by P. Green of ’Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald’ in The NY Times.

Does it mean he drank a lot and alcohol turned him "from charming to churlish"? I am not sure.

And how to understand “early on” here?

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    Like a professional is a whimsical/facetious usage here. The sense is that he took drinking seriously. He wholeheartedly threw himself into getting drunk quickly (early on means after not much time) and efficiently. Which unfortunately meant he soon became rude/tiresome/boorish/churlish, rather than energised/witty/charming. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 6 '13 at 19:58
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I think you have answered it yourself. It sounds correct to me. I think it means he drinks a lot and shortly after beginning to drink reaches from a good mood (after drinking a little!) to a bad mood (after continuing to drink), from feeling charming to become rough and violent.

Early on means "hortly after the beginning."

  • +1 "Early on" likely referred to whenever he showed up somewhere, such as at a party, he would indulge in drinking right away and be drunk very "early on" in the evening. – BrianH May 6 '13 at 21:34
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"Drink like a professional" means "to consume a beverage (most likely alcohol) in the productive, efficient manner of someone who is paid to do so as a job".

This is not a special English usage; it translates directly into other languages.

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    Drinking like a professional implies greater dedication than being someone who has the odd tipple, but the real boozers are those who can drink for England. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 6 '13 at 22:01
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    I am only wondering how one can know the etiquette of drinking but drinks too much that turns his/her mood from good to bad quickly?! I am not a professional drinker but as a newbie in drinking a little during months I think the etiquette of drinking means how to taste a drink and when drink it and how much to not make your mood bad and terrible. If not so what is a difference between an expert drinker with a newbie drinker like me?! Am I not better than him/her? &^) – Persian Cat May 7 '13 at 0:59
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    @PersianCat when I googled "Drink Like a Professional", I found webpages like nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/… and bitchbuzz.com/life/how-to-keep-your-holiday-sparkle-avoid.html That was why I was not so sure. – Kaili May 7 '13 at 1:00
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    @kiamlaluno Your point seems to be that a literal translation of "drink like a professional" isn't a common phrase in other languages which is true, but note that it's also not common in English, and we also have "drink like a sponge" (I've never head "drink like a professional", but I can readily understand it). "Translates into other languages" is not the same thing as "is a common phrase in other languages". – Kaz May 19 '13 at 2:38
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    @kiamlaluno It can be said for other English expressions, but not all other English expressions. What is relevant is that the expression is not a special idiom, but ordinary. It invokes a metaphor which has clear semantics independent of language. If OP doesn't know what "drink like a professional" means, it's not really an English problem. – Kaz May 19 '13 at 4:42

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