Teetotalers Unite!

Well, what do you think the Merriam-Webster Dictionary word-of-the-day was for Jan. 18? (Hint: that is the first day that Prohibition was fully in effect.) Where does the word come from?

I was interested to learn that the word Teetotaler did NOT originate with prohibition, as I had thought.

Teetotaler–one who practices or advocates teetotalism : one who abstains completely from alcoholic drinks

A person who abstains from alcohol might choose tea as his or her alternative beverage, but the word teetotaler has nothing to do with tea. More likely, the “tee” that begins the word teetotal is a reduplication of the letter “t” that begins total, emphasizing that one has pledged total abstinence. In the early 1800s, tee-total and tee-totally were used to intensify total and totally, much the way we now might say, “I’m tired with a capital T.” “I am now … wholly, solely, and teetotally absorbed in Wayne’s business,” wrote the folklorist Parson Weems in an 1807 letter. Teetotal and teetotaler first appeared with their current meanings in 1834, eight years after the formation of the American Temperance Society.

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Published in: on January 24, 2019 at 10:40 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In my blog series about Prohibition, I addressed a few Prohibition-related words, including Teetotal, and it was surprising home many of them are of uncertain origin. Funny.

    • Merriam-Webster does a good job of word origins. I subscribe to their free daily email the Word of the Day. A fascinating, very short, daily word origin. I recommend it.
      word@m-w.com


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