There’s a fun infographic making the social media rounds showing how to say “Cheers” in 20 different languages. You can see it here.
This of course raises the question as to why people say “cheers” in the first place. The obvious answer is so that a hit sitcom would have a name.
Once upon a time, there were no toasts. When people wanted to drink, they picked up their cup (or gourd) and sipped.
Very original, independent types they were.
Then two brothers decided to go out for a drink.
An hour later they came home, bloody and bruised and generally in rough shape.
“What happened to you two?!” cried Momma who was crying more because she’d lost her evening of quiet than at the site of her damaged children.
“He started it!” the boys bellowed in unison. (You know what comes next, right?)
“And I’m going to end it!” Momma declared. “You,” she pointed, “sit there. And you,” again with the point, “there. Do. Not. Move.”
Momma was a many times descendant of Mrs. Joe Neanderthal and still had a great deal of her mothering mojo.
The boys sat. There was no question but that they’d sit until they were told (by Momma herself) that there was another alternative.
Momma then marched down to the corner pub the way a hurricane marches toward land. She went straight up to the bartender (who had the misfortune not to be descended from Mrs. J. N.), stared him straight in the eye with a look that simultaneously burned off his eyebrows and froze his innards (this was back in the day when everything you kept inside your skin was referred to as “innards”).
“What,” asked Momma in a voice that was not to be ignored, “happened?”
The bartender was a great devotee of the three big truths about bartending. 1. Wear comfortable shoes. 2. Keep the tips. 3. If you find yourself in a situation where you won’t be tipped, get out as politely as possible and go find more generous patrons.
The bartender’s shoes were tightening under Momma’s stare.
“The boys came in,” he said, starting with the obvious. The Look on Momma’s face suggested that she was not interested in the obvious or in the status of his footwear.
“They ordered a drink. I delivered the first one and went back to make the second. I guess one boy started drinking before the other and they started fighting.”
Momma leaned over the bar so that she was very close to the bartender. The bartender didn’t care for that but was smart enough not to object.
“Let me get this straight,” said Momma. “You were dumb enough not to serve them at the exact same time?”
The bartender squirmed. Momma glared. The bartender squirmed some more and wished that one of the other patrons would develop a need for a refill. All the patrons knew their refill orders would wait happily until Momma was done. The bartender, having found that squirming was all he could do, did it again.
Momma gave him one last glare that Said It All (none of which was printable), turned on her heel, and left.
On her way home, Momma thought. This was not in fact her strong suit. She was much better at glaring. But occasionally thought was required and this was one of those occasions.
When she got home, she found the boys just as she’d left them.
She was not surprised.
“Boys,” she said to them. “It was not your fault.”
While they boys each believed that, neither had expected to hear their mother say it.
“It’s the toast.”
This confused them. Momma went on.
“In this part of the world,” explained Momma, “the toast demands parity. The toast demands equality. The toast,” summarized Momma, “requires Words.”
Momma may have summarized, but the boys had no idea what she was talking about.
“When you go to have a drink,” Momma clarified, “you must raise your glasses at the same time and say ‘Toast’. Then the toast will be satisfied and you won’t feel the need to fight. But you must do it at the same time.”
This made about as much sense as the boys could hope for and they immediately went to the corner pub to practice.
Early toasts involved a lot of spilled beverage which is why the industry encouraged them.
It’s all about the industry.
And now you know.