Toasting Myths

May 7, 2007

In the spirit of the Toast to Mom event going on, I thought I’d stick with toasts and moms as themes for this week. I suppose I approached the whole toast thing a bit backwards, looking at toasts from a somewhat introspective, philosophical angle first and then moving into the whimsical. But hey, that’s me.

There are a couple urban myths about toasting that I’ve always wondered about. So today, I’m going to dig until I get to the truth.

1) Clinking has treacherous roots. I had always heard that clinking descended from medieval times, when those in power would routinely poison their enemies and the only way to be sure you’d make it through the meal was to slosh some of your wine into your hosts to make sure they were on the up and up. I’ll be honest, it sounded like a stretch. And, according to Barbara Mikkelson, it is.

Barbara brings up the interesting point that until modern times, wine was consumed from a common vessel, which means that if I intended to poison Fred on my left, I’d be poisoned myself when the cup or flask was handed to me. When individual glasses came into play, even the worst of enemies probably didn’t wham them together as a defensive measure. Simply put, it would be a waste of wine.

According to Barbara, the clinking came in as a metaphorical nod to the tradition of being in communion over a common vessel of wine. During a toast, everyone raising their glass is joined and when the glasses touch, even the wine is reunited with itself again for a brief moment. There’s also a sensory aspect. Before clinking, wine only appealed to four of the five senses. The clink brought an aural sensation to the mix. Think about how crystal sings when it’s tapped and you’ll get how powerful that added dimension can be.

2) If you don’t look the person you’re toasting in the eye you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. Hmmmm. I’ve always wondered where this one came from. Chris and I were at a wedding in Norway once, and whenever we’d gaze at the center of the table while careening our glasses in an arc to clink whomever was in the vicinity, we were given glares. After several embarassing attempts, our friend explained that for Norwegians, the emphasis is on looking each other in the eye, not touching glass. It makes sense to me. Be rooted in the moment and the people you’re with instead of whizzing towards a crash. But where did the bad sex come in?

Wikipedia mentions that not looking into the other person’s eyes sends the message of distrust, and may be followed by seven years of bad luck. So did the superstition just morph over the years (or did it just morph among my friends? Hmmmm again . . . ) from bad luck to bad sex? Like adding “in bed” to the end of your fortune from a fortune cookie? Unfortunately, I can’t answer this one yet. I’ve just spent hours surfing for an answer and have found absolutely nada (I’m happy to report, though, that it looks like it’s not just me who follows the eye contact rule . . . just in case it’s true). Does anyone know how this myth got started? If so, please share.

Cheers (you know where my eyes are as I write that),



2 Responses to “Toasting Myths”

  1. Tracy Says:

    here is a bit of an explanation about the origins…..

  2. Max Says:
    In the medieval times, poisoning your enemy was frequent in Europe. looking in the eyes is a sign of trust for the other person. you have no fear to be poisoned…

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