Origins #11: Expressions you can drink to!

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For those who drink a lot, these expressions are ones they hear quite often. Let us explore these expressions and try to bring some light to their origins.

Minding your Ps and Qs: There are multiple theories as to the origin of this expression, but some of them originate in the pub. Behold:

1) Ale was served at local taverns out of a “tankard” … you were charged by the angle of your elbow … half-way up… you drank a pint, all the way up… you drank a quart. Since the Quart cost so much more than the Pint, you were warned to “Mind your Ps & Qs”.

2) It stands for “Mind your Pints and Quarts. The expression was intended for people to mind how many Pints and Quarts they drank, or in other words, to behave!

3) The derivation of ‘minding your P(int)s and Q(uart)s’ was deemed to have come from the necessity of the ‘barkeep’ to keep accurate disbursement records of alcohol for the purpose of paying the tax on alcohol.

4) The best explanation of “minding your P’s & Q’s” I’ve heard came from the fact that the barkeep would keep track of how much you drank on a chalk board. This admonished you to keep track of how much you had to drink so that the barkeep couldn’t add a few pints to your tab and charge you for something you hadn’t consumed.

Getting Tanked: When you drank too much out of the above “tankard” you were said to be “tanked” … if you got so “tanked” that you passed out, there was a chance that somebody might think you had actually died. Since back then they didn’t have experience with taking pulses, they often buried people alive who were actually in a drunken stupor or otherwise comatose.

Getting Bombed: A bombard is a leather jug which holds 8 pints or 4 quarts. A full bombard of ale would make you drunk.

Wet Your Whistle: Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used to blow the whistle to get some service.

Tumbler and Tipsy: Glasses were hand blown, thus flat bottomed glasses were difficult to produce. Those with curved bottoms would tend to tumble over when placed on the table, and too many tumblers of whiskey would make you a little bit tipsy.

All the information is courtesy of

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