Claim: The ritual of clinking glasses evolved from efforts to prove that the drinks contained therein were not poisoned.
Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would then just touch or clink the host"s glass with his own.
Origins: Many explanations have been advanced to explain our custom of clinking glasses when participating in toasts. One is that early Europeans felt the sound helped to drive off evil spirits. Another holds that by clanking the glasses into one another, wine could be sloshed from glass to glass, thereby serving as a proof the beverages had not been poisoned. Yet another claim asserts that the "clink" served as a symbolic acknowledgment of trust among imbibers who did not feel the need to sample each others" drinks to prove them unadulterated.
To get at the real reason for the clink of glass on glass, we have to first look at why and how we toast, and where the practice originated.
The custom of sealing with booze expressions of good wishes for the health of others dates back so far that its origins are now lost to us, yet in numerous cultures such acts of camaraderie often involved shared drinking vessels. The clinking of individual cups or glasses as a proof of trust wouldn"t have meant much when everyone drank from the same bowl. Indeed, in those cultures where shared drinking containers was the norm, to produce one"s own vessel in such company was to communicate an unmistakable message of hostility and distrust; it would have been regarded as akin to bringing along a food taster to sample the repast.
Etiquette mavens say one need not clink glasses with everyone present when participating in toasts among large assemblies. Rather than reach across vast expanses of wide tables (thereby risking losing your balance and ending up in the guacamole), simply raise your glass and make eye contact with the group.
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