Green’s Dictionary of Slang

up the pole adj.1

[note late 19C US milit. up the pole, sober, ‘military’ and within regulation; the pole was the flagpole bearing the nation’s emblem]

1. (US) teetotal.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 71: I’ve been riding the ice wagon for four months to a day. I have been up the pole for one hundred and twenty and odd days.
[US]C. M’Govern Sarjint Larry an’ Frinds 10: Oh, youse are up de pole, are yes? Well, to tell de truth, lootinant, Oi’m up de pole mesilf.
[US]H.B. Hersey G.I. Laughs 171: Up the pole, on the wagon.

2. (also up the poll) drunk; thus half up the pole adj., tipsy.

[UK]Illus. Police News 18 Dec. 8/2: Plaintiff: Your little girl was frequently saying that you were ‘up the poll.’ The Judge: Up the what? – Up the poll, sir. What is that? – You know, sir. Up the poll. The Judge : I don’t know. The High Bailiff explained that the term was a slang one for being intoxicated.
[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 70: Up the pole – where the flag flies – for all I know or care.
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Jan. 10/3: ‘Found a Scotsman half-way up the Pole.’ There were several near him in that condition, the result of drowning the dry speeches in amber fluid.
[UK]W. Muir Observations of Orderly 230: The words for drunkenness are innumerable — ‘jingled,’ ‘oiled,’ ‘tanked to the wide,’ ‘well sprung,’ ‘up the pole,’ ‘blotto’, etc.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Black Gang 292: As I tell you, I was partially up the pole.

3. wrong, in error, in trouble, facing difficulties.

[UK]Marshall ‘The Word of a Policeman’ ‘Pomes’ from the Pink ’Un 73: But, one cruel day, [...] he heard himself alluded to as being up the pole [F&H].
[UK]Daily Mail 29 Mar. 5/1: When there are nineteen Frenchmen to four Englishmen they were slightly up the pole [F&H].
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Spring Song’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 13: Crool Forchin’s dirty left ’as smote me soul; An’ all them joys o’ life I ’eld so sweet / Is up the pole.
[Aus]E.G. Murphy ‘The Confession’ Dryblower’s Verses 49: I class any person as clean up the pole / Who yaps to his wife about others.
[Aus]West. Australian (Perth) 6 June n.p.: You ain’t ’alf up the pole.
[US]Honolulu Star-Bulletin (HI) 25 Mar. 33/1: To be ‘up the pole’ is just another way of ‘going on the wagon’.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Caught (2001) 91: Well, I’m up the pole now, as they say.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 176: Maybe, he thought, the old cow doesn’t mean anything. Maybe I am all up the pole.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 101: He’s all up the pole.
Woroni (Canberra) 25 Feb. 14/4: The recent invader, Mr Garnett, records some interesting impressions but, in some respects, is up, to a considerable degree, the pole.
[Ire](con. 1970) G. Moxley Danti-Dan in McGuinness Dazzling Dark (1996) II iii: Jesus, look at me, up the pole without a paddle.

4. insane, eccentric.

[UK]Marvel III:58 30: You’re up the pole!
[UK]N. Douglas London Street Games 37: Yer finks I’m up the pole to ’ear yer tork.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 191: What I like about ol’ Bourne is, that when ’e does get up the pole, ’e goes abso-bloody-lutely fanti.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 20: She must be up the blinking pole.
[UK]J. Franklyn Cockney 288: A variant of up the pole is up the loop, which gives rise to loopy.
[UK]D. Abse House of Cowards (1967) 14: Mad, all of them. Up the ruddy greased pole.
[UK]C. Dexter Last Bus to Woodstock 185: You think I’m up the bloody pole, don’t you? You think I’m going bonkers.
[UK]P. Reading ‘The Euphemisms’ in Tom O’Bedlam’s Beauties 42: Crackers, Potty, Loony, Bonkers, [...] Touched, A Bit M., Up the Pole.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 344: up the pole (and halfway around the flag).

5. bankrupt.

[UK]‘New Church’ Times 17 Apr. (2006) 53/2: I’ll ‘Franc out.’ / And yet perchance his kindly soul / Knows not he’s put me ‘up the pole.’.

In phrases