Can We Actually Bring These Toasting Puns Back?

g1327246262239310722While researching toasting etiquette I came upon a book called The Perfect Gentleman, Or, Etiquette and Eloquence: A Book of Information and Instruction … Containing Model Speeches for All Occasions … 500 Toasts and Sentiments for Everybody … to which are Added, the Duties of Chairmen of Public Meetings. Apparently they didn’t have editors in 1880, but in it is contained what might possibly be my favorite list to ever be listed: toast puns.

In a chapter titled “Toast-Master’s Companion,” the author argues “there is nothing in which men more conspicuously show their wit or their want of it than in giving toasts at public dinners.” But of course, showcasing one’s wit can be daunting, so the book offers toasts for various occasions. Patriotic toasts (“America: The birthplace of liberty and the asylum for the oppressed of every land”), Military Toasts (“An Army to stand, but not a Standing Army”) and toasts to drinking in general (“Old wine and young women”). But none of these are more glorious than the list of “Toasts for All Professions,” which is just a slew of puns about various jobs.

  • The Surgeon—A man who bleeds for his countrymen.
  • The Glazier— Who constantly takes pains (panes) that other people may see clearly.
  • The Baker— May he never be done so much as to make him crusty.
  • The Printer— May his form be well locked up in the arms of a charming wife. May he never know what it is to want a quoin.
  • The Tinker— A devout man whose life is spent in a pilgrimage, to mend the mistakes and repair the wastes which other people have made.
  • The Fireman— The sentinel of our homes may he burn only with ardor to protect the property and life of the city. May the flames of dissention never find fuel in his heart.
  • The Fire Department— the army that draws water in stead of blood and thanks instead of tears.
  • The Carpenter— May he have a warm house and good boarding.
  • The Actor— A bumper every night.
  • The Plumber— Though his business is to furnish mankind with the dumb blessings of light and water, may he be a good spouter and easily turn his lead into gold.
  • The Blacksmith— In every speculation may he always hit the nail on the head.
  • The Banker— May he always draw upon content for the deficiency of fortune
  • The Road maker— A highwayman who deserves well of his country.
  • A Card maker— May he often turn up trumps.
  • A Goal Merchant — May his customers ever be grate full.
  • An Auctioneer— By knocking down may he ever rise in the world.
  • The Distiller— May he never be out of spirits.
  • The Coach maker—May all his wheels be those of fortune.
  • The Painter— May he have a good pallet and plenty to gratify his taste.
  • Every Man’s Wife— May the lightning of her eye never cause him to be afraid of thunder.
  • The Saddler— May he sit upon a soft cushion and never have the misdeeds of others saddled upon him.
  • The Book keeper— May he faithfully keep his books and may his books keep him.

All italics original and perfect. Remember these for the next time you dine with the Card Maker in your life.

How To Propose A Toast

Me as a bridesmaid drinking to my friend's health. [Jennifer May Photography]

Me as a bridesmaid drinking to my friend’s health. [Jennifer May Photography]

I LOVE proposing toasts. I do it at pretty much every meal I don’t eat alone, whether it’s a simple “cheers” with whatever glasses we have, or saying thanks to the hosts for having us together. According to my research, that latter move is in no way correct, but whatever, I’m grateful and I like clinking glasses and making eye contact.

So how do you toast a nice occasion? First, a bit of history. According to Service Etiquette by Oretha D. Swartz, the tradition of toasting goes back to “ancient times, when a piece of toast was placed in a goblet with the mead, or any alcoholic brew. When it became saturated, the toast sank to the bottom goblet, and after someone challenged ‘Toast!’ it was necessary to drain the goblet in order to get the toast.” Is this real? This sounds apocryphal, but The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette has a similar story. I’ll take it.

Swartz continues with some modern (it was written in 1988 but not much has changed) toasting etiquette tips. Nowadays it is not necessary to drain your glass; take a sip or two so that more of your beverage is available for future toasts. At formal occasions toasts may be made with champagne, but just use whatever drink you have on hand. If you happen to be served wine but don’t drink, Swartz recommends just touching the glass to your lips, since not participating in a toast is incredibly rude. However, I think it’s fine to just use whatever else you may be drinking, and give the wine to someone else.

Amy Vanderbilt notes that the best toasts are short and sweet, so if you are asked to toast a newly-wedded couple, a holiday dinner, or other celebration, simply honoring those who the party is for and saying how thankful you are to have everyone together is nice. A toast does not need to turn into a speech, unless you’ve been requested to prepare one, which is a whole other can of worms we can talk about later (or never because oh boy, public speaking).

Nearly all the etiquette books I’ve found mention that you are not supposed to drink a toast to yourself, lest you come off as self-congratulatory. I personally could not care less, but just be aware that some people might. In the event that someone is toasting to you but you still want to drink, you can respond “Thank you, and here’s to you all,” in which case you’ve flipped to toast onto them and technically are the only person in the room allowed to drink, you sneaky minx.

Now, some toast notes:

  • At a wedding, the first toast is traditionally given by the best man. However, I can’t think of the last wedding I went to that specifically followed this rule. Toasts were given in all sorts of orders by the couple’s parents, bridesmaids, siblings, etc. We may be able to retire this one.
  • Swartz says it’s traditional to toast the bride at a bachelor party, gentlemen.
  • If you feel an imminent toast, be sure to top your glass and the glasses of those around you, as it’s rude to toast with nothing.
  • According to Debrett’s, “port is never drunk before the Loyal Toast,” which is a toast to the head of the state. In this ceremony port is apparently passed to the left, and if you miss the decanter, you have to pass your glass to the left in hopes it catches up because the decanter can never be passed to the right.
  • If you’re going to be traveling abroad, learn the common toasts in those countries.
  • When I studied abroad in Italy I was taught you’re supposed to make eye contact with everyone at the table while toasting otherwise it’s seven years bad sex. It seems that many cultures have a similar superstition, so may as well play it safe.