Here is the context

I've been a software developer for twenty-one years -- among other things, that means I've been doing this long enough to drink! ;-) But seriously, though, I can't imagine doing anything else as well or as joyously as programming. I'm apparently one of those rare birds that really love this job.

Is this an idiom ?

  • 1
    From your statement, Is there an implication that 21 is the legal age for drinking in your country and hence you say "long enough to drink"? It's different limits around the world.
    – JoseK
    Jul 1, 2011 at 11:09

2 Answers 2


This law varies by country, but in the US you gain the right to buy alcohol at age 21.

The idiom comes from that law. If you've been doing something long enough (in this case 21 years) you earn some extra rights. A newbie to a field might not be cut the same slack as the old hands are. You don't earn the right to criticize something your first day on the job, but when you've been in the field for a long time you earn that right.

  • Nope. Can't buy or drink until you are 21 in the US. It's 18 or 19 in Canada depending on the province.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 1, 2011 at 12:39
  • @Kit: My knowledge of those rules is pretty vague, I wasn't exactly counting the days until my 21st :) It's 18 here in Turkey. I wouldn't object to it being 30 :)
    – Caleb
    Jul 1, 2011 at 12:43

To me, that comes across more as "I've been doing this long enough to turn to the drink". That is to say that the repetitive nature has driven a person to alcoholism, though said in jest. I don't know how much of a British thing that is though - joking about depression and alcholism.

  • 2
    Without the context, I'd also interpret it that way. In context, however, this is clearly not the right explanation.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jul 1, 2011 at 15:38
  • I agree with the answer and comment; this particular usage definitely pegs the "long enough to drink" with the U.S. legal drinking age, but if it hadn't I'd have interpreted it as "long enough to turn to drinking at the end of the day"
    – KeithS
    Jul 1, 2011 at 15:52

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