Sunday, December 10, 2006

Did you know... (III)

... why the toast is a toast?

Yesterday, I went to the groceries store and was greeted by an ad saying: It's the toast season! Okay, I wondered, what kind of a tradition is this? Do Canadians toast maple leaves on their bread or what? Upon second inspection however, (I think I need new glasses) the sign turned out to stand in front of the wine department.

So here is why the toast is called toast:

"The word derives from the Latin word 'tostare' (to scorch or roast - i.e. toast ). From Classical times it was common to flavour wine by floating small pieces of toasted bread in it. Sometimes these sippets would be flavoured with spices; at other times the carbon alone would mellow the wine."

Wikipedia clarifies appropriate toasting behaviour in the US and Canada, apparently written by someone who was tired of endless toasty speeches while he had to hold a glass of wine in mid air:

"The following guidelines apply specifically to toasting in Canada and the United States:

  • Most people will lightly touch glasses when giving a toast, often saying "toast", "cheers" or a short phrase such as "to us". Toasting without touching glasses is increasingly popular and is regarded by some as a slightly more sophisticated mode of behavior.
  • Except during formal occasions [...] it is not very common to "propose a toast" in the more formal sense. However, when someone does make such an gesture, it is almost invariably met with approval regardless of the setting or the occasion.
  • If someone wants to "propose a toast as well", this second toast should have a different focus than the first [...] Ideally, this toast is briefer than the first so as not upstage it. Subsequent toasts, if any, should even more succinct.
  • Americans and Canadians typically toast only once per gathering, if at all. Even lifting one's glass and saying "cheers" each time a new drink is poured isn't in line with local etiquette and, while not impolite, may be seen as a bit tedious."

Also: since it's the toast season, have a close look at your breakfast before you eat it. It might turn out to have heavenly messages on it. One of the most absurd stories I've heard about eBay is certainly that of the toast with the Virgin Mary face that has been sold for $28.000. Even though a bite is missing from it. What's even more absurd than this toast being sold for such an amount is that it was bought, not by a religious nutcase, but by an internet casino saying the toast had become a "part of pop culture".


See also: Make a toast in 50 different languages




  1. Hey Leucipio,

    'Brindis' is great! I've noticed that in most cases my German friends don't actually use the German word 'Prost' but instead 'Cheers'. I guess (besides the ever growing influence of the big-nation-in-the-west) 'Cheers' is just nicer because it's a smile-word :-) 'Prost' is a fish-word :-o 'Brindis' is a smile-and-wink-word ;-)



  2. What's the story with Galois?

    I probably should have learned Spanish in high school instead of Latin.



  3. I didn't know that. But probably there are lots of Americans who never toast because they never drink alcohol and toasting is seen as something that's only done with alcohol. Well, I guess this is your "low brow" correspondent's experience anyway. ;-)

  4. Hey RaeAnn,

    But you don't have to drink alcohol to toast, do you? I had a friend who'd toast To our livers, but I know many people who just toast with soda or juice or whatever. I'm not a big drinker myself, I can hold onto a glass of wine a whole night. But I'm not a big toaster either. Never know what to toast to. To my new paper? To my one-thousandst past due bill? To climate change? What's the thing to toast to this season?



  5. Hi Bee!

    By alluding to the Virgin Mary's face imprinted upon a grilled-cheese sandwich, you're--oddly enough--somewhat in keeping with the holiday spirit.;)

    Keep in mind though, The Bad Astronomer--sometime in September--reached new heights (actually, reached new depths;)), when he posted on the ultimate intimate in pareidolia.

    Not only is his post--entitled "Holy...well, holy something"--destined to be a classic, the comment thread is likewise to become a classic. To name a few comments from the thread: "Well, god backwards is dog, after all"; "Holy holes Batman!"; "Who says god doesn't have a sense of humor?"; "Dogs-bottom-Jesus"; and finally "Are the Apostles the testicles?"

    By the way, I would, if I could, create a link to this post. At present--sorry to say--I'm incurably a one-dimensional practitioner when it comes to mining for, in turn, harnessing newfangled tricks on the internet.

    All the best,

  6. In the upper midwest of the US: Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, parts of Michigan, etc. "Prost" is very common. Also I never remember anyone worrying about whether someone had an alcoholic drink in a toast or not - a glass of water was fine - and this was in the drunkest city in the US according to Forbes.


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