There are specific actions and words used when drinking that actually have a meaning, even if we never realized it. When you are taking a shot, I am sure you don’t wonder why you hit the glass on the bar before taking the shot; but there is a reason why you do. There is a reason behind many of the drinking habits and the coined drinking terms.
Booze- We first slurred this word way back in the 1300s. The word first appeared in Middle Dutch…as bûsen, which meant ‘to drink to excess.’ There was also the Old German word bausen, which meant ‘to bulge or billow.’It took 200 years for English speakers to start using it as both a verb (to booze) and a noun (give me some booze). And 200 more years until we started spelling it phonetically.
Clinking glasses together- One would say that clinking was a gesture to prove the safety of the drink. Since clinking can lead to inter-drink splashing, doing so was a way to prove drinks weren’t poisoned (or at least that you trusted your companions). Another theory is based on a mediaeval custom of clinking goblets together in order to frighten the demons out of the spirits (because it sounded like church bells). Going back even further, Ancient Greeks clanked their cups in order to purposefully spill some alcohol, which was an offering to the gods.
Drinking games- In as early as the 5th century BC, Ancient Greeks played a game called Kottabos where players flung the dregs of their wine glass at a target somewhere in the room. Though messy, it was considered to be a demonstration of one’s javelin throwing skills. Winners got prizes, while drunken losers got kicked out. Ancient Chinese drinking games more sophisticated. In one popular literary drinking game, the first person would offer a line of poetry, establishing a pattern or rhyme for the others to follow. The next person had to continue the composition on the spot. Anyone who missed a line had to drink.
Banging shot glasses on the bar before drinking- It’s said that ancient Germanic tribes would bang their cups on the table before drinking in order to knock out the ghosts. However, it’s widely agreed that in modern times, we tap drinks as a salute to the bartender who poured it, and the establishment that provided it.
Shot Glasses- This bar accessory serves two functions: to measure liquor for a cocktail or to consume straight liquor in a quick manner. The first printed use of the term “shot glass” occurred in the 1940s in a news story discussing ways to regulate the size of a shot of liquor in the restaurants and bars of New York City. Before it was called a shot glass, this vessel was referred to as a “jigger” or “pony”. Interestingly, a jigger is a measuring glass of varying volume, while “pony” means a liquid U.S. ounce.
Blacking out- The first of these terms is British slang from the early 1900s and the second is a natural derivative. To “blot” can mean both to soak up a liquid. It can also mean to erase something, which is what happens to your memory when you blackout.
Hangover- Doctors claim that what you feel after a night of serious drinking is not a medical condition. Anyone who has experienced it probably begs to differ. Regardless, the term we use to refer to this godforsaken feeling, “hangover,” has an interesting, and not-alcohol-related origin. According to the Dictionary, the first documented use of hangover (or hang-over) was in 1894, and it meant “a survival, a thing left over from before.” For a long time, the term was associated with stock market crashes; the 1929 crash was often written about as if it were a “hangover” from the wild 1920s.
The next time you are drinking, think about the history behind what you are doing.