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Ten facts about toasts

By Jessica Harris

On 4 August 1693, Dom Perignon invented champagne, or so the story goes. The date is no doubt made up, sparkling wines had existed long before the 17th century, and the treasurer of the Abbey of Hautvilliers actually did everything he could to prevent wine from refermenting. But who wouldn’t mind a glass of bubbly to celebrate?

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  1. “Toasting” comes from the piece of toast that was put into loving cups, communal drinks that were passed around at banquets, at old universities.
  2. In 1918, as World War I was ending, Sir Winston Churchill proclaimed, “Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”
  3. A thought-provoking toast from the time of the Cold War (c. 1955): “Here’s to today! For tomorrow we may be radioactive.”
  4. After the American War of Independence, dinners had to be accompanied by thirteen toasts: one for each of the states of the Union at that time. This tradition — unsurprisingly — faded, but persisted during Fourth of July celebrations for many years.
  5. Sláinte (‘health’) is the most common Irish toast, and the word has passed into general use in Ireland and among the Irish abroad.
  6. A ‘Yorkshireman’s Toast’ is as follows: “Here’s to us, all of us; may we never want anything, any of us; nor I either.”
  7. When giving a toast to the monarch, everyone must stand — except for members of the Royal Navy, who are allowed to sit. Why? The story is that when George IV acknowledged a toast in his honour on a ship, he bumped his head on a beam as he stood up.
  8. During the American War of Independence, toasts were usually curses, such as: “To the enemies of our country! May they have cobweb breeches, a porcupine saddle, a hard-trotting horse, and an eternal journey.”
  9. A wonderful Scottish toast from the eighteenth-century goes: “Here’s tae us; wha’s like us?
    Gey few, and they’re a’ deid.” [Here’s to us; what’s like us? Very few and they’re all dead.]
  10. And finally, a fantastic toast from Jonathan Swift: “May you live all the days of your life.”

Jessica Harris graduated from Warwick University with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics and has been working as an intern in the Online Product Marketing department in the Oxford office of Oxford University Press.

Oxford Reference is the home of Oxford’s quality reference publishing, bringing together over 2 million entries, many of which are illustrated, into a single cross-searchable resource. Both fully integrated and cross-searchable, Oxford Reference couples Oxford’s trusted A-Z reference material with an intuitive design to deliver a discoverable, up-to-date, and expanding reference resource.

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Image credit: Cheers! Two champagne glasses. © karandaev via iStockphoto.

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