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Alcohol and civilization

Jeff Cheek —

Alcohol has been part of our daily lives for thousands — of years. Sumerian cuneiforms six thousand years ago set the pay of a — temple worker at 2 1/2 pints of beer per day. The overseer got 15 pints. — In the 18th Century B.C., the great Babylonian king Hammurabi decreed — laws that are now known as the Codes of Hammurabi, of which 282 survive. — One of these codes fixed the punishment for any tavern keeper who cheated — his customers by adding water to their beer.

Beer was the reason the pilgrims settled on the rocky — coast at Plymouth Rock instead of searching for a more favorable site. — "We could not take more time for further search or consideration, our — victuals being much spent, especially our beer."

Alcohol has heavily impacted our language. In England, — gentlemen went to their members-only clubs to drink. The commoners went — to neighborhood bars or public houses. This was shortened to pub. The — pub also gave us the slang invitation to have a drink: "Want to wet your — whistle?" It was hard to get the publican's (bartender) attention in a — crowded pub. The solution was to hang a whistle on the beer stein. Just — whistle when you wanted a refill.

The word bar comes from the Danish word "bur" (butter). — The Danes stored their butter in a cool dry room or cellar. Beer was stored — in the same type room to keep it cool, so bur is the root for bar.

We Americans can take credit for the word saloon. A salon — (sa-laan) is a posh establishment catering to fashionable clients. A New — Orleans bar owner decided to add a little class to his place by adding — a second O, making it a saloon (sa-loon).

The words "lush" and "donnybrook" are other bar-bred terms. — Dr. Thomas Lushington (1590-1661) was an English chaplain who loved to — drink. The term lush has come to mean anyone who is overly fond of alcohol. — A donnybrook is a brawl, often started in a pub or bar. The village of — Donnybrook, Ireland, was famous (or infamous) for the fist fights that — started in the pub then spilled out onto the street.

Alcohol has long been a primary source of revenue for — the government. Mary Stuart, or Mary, Queen of Scots, was a beer drinker. — While she was imprisoned by her cousin, Elizabeth I, secret messages were — smuggled in to Mary in waterproof pouches in kegs of beer. Her son was — James VI of Scotland then became James I of the United Kingdom upon the — death of the childless Elizabeth in 1603. He needed money. He was the — first ruler to start selling licenses to bars and pubs allowing them to — do business.

From 1920 until Dec. 5, 1933, our 18th Amendment prohibited — the manufacture, transportation, or sale of any alcoholic beverage in — the United States. When the prohibitionist movement first started in the — 1860s it was less restrictive. Members were allowed to sign their names — then add an M, for moderation. An A meant abstinence from whiskey, only. — They could still drink wine or beer. A T stood for teetotal. A Teetotaler — would not drink any alcoholic beverage. After repeal of the 18th Amendment, — the Internal Revenue Service calculated that we had consumed 4,200,000,000 — gallons of alcohol during Prohibition without one cent in federal taxes — being collected.

Writer's Comment

This column should not be seen as either pro or anti alcohol. — My father gave his five sons the best advise I have ever heard on the — subject. "Remember, whiskey is a good servant but a bad master." None — of us became teetotalers.

On the other hand, none of us turned into lushes, either.