Why Are People Who Don’t Drink Called This, Teetotalers?

Some folks prefer wine or the occasional beer over whisky or other harsh liquors. Some prefer beer, while others exclusively drink hard liquor. None of them abstain from alcohol completely. A teetotaler abstains from consuming any and all alcoholic beverages. Where did this strange term originate from, and how did it come to be used to describe people who didn’t drink at all?

Although the term “to teetotal” (t total, t-total) now simply means “to never drink,” Teetotaler originally had a different meaning. Most temperance clubs didn’t think there was anything wrong with wine, beer, or cider during the start of the temperance movement. They even embraced them. Distilled spirituous liquors were considered to be the real source of evil. At that time, temperance meant avoiding alcoholic beverages with a high proof. This was considered a reasonable approach to the issues with alcohol.

Later, perceptions shifted, and alcohol-related issues with wine, beer, and cider were viewed on par with those with spirits. As a result, the temperance movement started to advocate complete abstention from all alcoholic beverages. To be teetotal meant not drinking any alcoholic beverages, including wine, beer, etc. You were urged to abstain from all alcoholic beverages, however you may still use moderation and limit yourself to just spirits. A teetotaler is someone who “doesn’t drink” distilled spirits, wine, beer, or anything else, rather than someone who “doesn’t drink at all.” It was still possible to “exercise temperance without abstaining from alcohol.”

Origin of Teetotalers

The precise origin of the word “teetotal” is unclear. One prevalent notion is that the “tee” is merely added to the beginning of the word total as a source of emphasis because those who are teetotal really and truly mean it. TEETOTAL abstinence, not just abstinence! This may not have been unique to abstinence from drinking if it was merely repeated sounds for emphasis. It might have been used to stress anything done “completely” in general. Where did the word begin if this is not its origin? There are a number of popular origin myths, which I shall list here along with some suppositions about the plausibility of each. I make no claims to understanding the word’s precise etymology, and some of these tales might be true.

Richard “Dicky” Turner’s Life Story

An epitaph lends credibility to one of the most well-known origin tales. “Beneath this stone are laid the remains of Richard Turner, creator of the name “teetotal” as applied to abstention from all alcoholic liquors, who departed this world on the 27th day of October 1846, aged 56 years,” is written on a grave marker close to Preston in Lancashire, England.

Keep in mind that just because the person who wrote the epitaph truly believed it, doesn’t mean that he or she had uncontestable evidence for it. That is one strange and lengthy epitaph, and the fact that someone would go to the trouble of engraving it on a tombstone may seem to be very good evidence that Turner really did invent the word.

Around 1832 or 1833, Richard “Dicky” Turner allegedly made the decision to give up drinking and went to a local temperance meeting. He addressed the membership with such sincerity that he proclaimed that all forms of alcohol should be completely avoided. He dubbed this “teetotal abstinence,” and he added that “nothing but the teetotal promise will do.”

Dicky did he stammer?

It has occasionally been asserted that the “tee” at the start was added for the overall emphasis mentioned above. It’s possible he stumbled as well. He may have been inebriated when he declared his complete abstinence. Another argument is that the word was an old one from the dialect of Lancashire and wasn’t created by Turner.

Was he a frequent stutterer if he did stutter? Some publications don’t note that he regularly stutters, while others refer to him as a stutterer. Did they presume he stammered because they thought the story made sense with him stuttering? Or did they have proof to back it up?

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Richard Turner did really enter St. Peter’s schoolroom where a temperance meeting was taking place while intoxicated, according to P.T. Winskill’s The Temperance Movement and its Workers: Volume I. Although he had only intended to have a little fun, he ultimately agreed to sign a promise of complete abstinence.

Turner isn’t credited with coming up with the phrase in this speech. But did he use a phrase that he had already coined? The theory that Turner developed the term as a result of an unintentional stutter may not be supported by the fact that he cites signing the “teetotal pledge” rather than the “total pledge,” which shows that it was a more or less acceptable method of characterising the pledge.

Winskill claims that Mr. Livesey, who was well-acquainted with Tuner, stated that Tuner did not stammer and that those who claimed otherwise were misinformed. Turner “was never at a loss for a term; if a suitable one was not at his tongue end, he coined a new one,” according to Livesey, who seems to indicate that Turner invented the word on purpose.

Turner did not invent the word, according to Dr. F. R. Lees; rather, he just used it. According to Lees, who is cited as the basis of the “archaic usage” assertion, Turner was employing a term that had been used in Ireland and Lancashire for 100 years and that was well-known in English literature when Turner used it. Lees provided a few literary examples of its application. Other contemporaries confirmed that the term “teetotal” was a well-known Lancashire expression.

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