I was reading a short story "WHAT'S IN ALASKA" by Raymond Carver and came across two instances of "turn" of which meanings I'm not sure about.

(1) “When we lived in the city,” Mary said, “people said you could see who'd turned on the night before by looking at their kitchen in the morning. We had a tiny kitchen when we lived in the city,” she said.

I checked the all the definitions of turn in dictionaries but none seems to fit. Or should I regard "turn on" as a phrase meaning to get intoxicated by a drug ? (Though, if so, it still eludes me how you can tell who used drugs by looking at the kitchen, or why you have to look at the kitchen at all.)

(2) Just as he started to turn off the lamp, he thought he saw something in the hall. He kept staring and thought he saw it again, a pair of small eyes. His heart turned. He blinked and kept staring.

I've heard of someone's stomach turning, but never their heart. Does it convey the similar sense of to be upset/disturbed ?

  • 1
    The second one is the same as "perform a somersault". The first one needs more context. Perhaps it's the same as "turned in". Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


Ok the first quote comes from an article linked, near the end of page 6 of the document.

"turned-on" in this case mean getting high from using drugs.

I think the implication about New York city is that neighbors can look out their window and see into the kitchen of others. If the folks got stoned, then the kitchen would be a mess. I think the implication in all of this is also that the drug is marijuana which presumably gives users an appetite.

The reference to a "small kitchen" I think means in part that everything was visible. It wasn't a big kitchen which would have a lot of nooks and crannies that wouldn't be visible by a casual view through a kitchen window. The sentence on a whole also implies that the speaker's kitchen was often messy, because of drug use, and visible to the neighbors.

  • Never having been anywhere near marijuana, these kinds of things leave me wondering. Thank you for your insight.
    – goldbrick
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 10:51

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