Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

31 Temperance Movement Jokes to Zing Drunkards

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

In 1867, John William Kirton wanted to show that you didn't have to drink to be saucy, fun, or extemporaneous. To prove this and to help his teetotalling pals, he put together a book, One Thousand Temperance Anecdotes, Jokes, Riddles, Puns, and Smart Sayings. It was intended to be used by "friends of Temperance, whose hearts and souls are in the work, but whose hands are too full of other matters to enable them, at short notice, to get up a speech or an address."

Included in this volume is a joke section, stuffed with a barrelful of anti-drinking zingers that are so scorchin', they will singe the hair right off the town drunk's ruddy head. I've included the BurnMeter™ to measure how hot these knee-slappers are so you don't have to worry about completely incinerating whoever is on the receiving end.

1. What is Malt? — Why, Maltreated barley!

BurnMeter: 7/10. This one goes out to all the barley lovers out there who like their stuff pure.


2. What letter is frequently drunk?—T

BurnMeter: 5/10. Not exactly a side-splitter, but they can't all be champs.


3. Wanted, some of the beer produced “when mischief is brewing.”

BurnMeter: 3/10. Not sure what this one means, but it probably sounds fierce if said with conviction.


4. Why is there no life in gin? Because it is still-born.

BurnMeter: 9/10. Yeesh, a little dark.


5. Why is drinking like an old coat? It’s a bad habit.

BurnMeter: 10/10. DAAAAAAAMN!!! *AIRHORN*


6. Why is a drunkard like a tanner? Because he soaks his hide.

BurnMeter: 8/10. No offense to tanners.


7. A canter will give you ruddy cheeks, a decanter will give you a ruddy nose.

BurnMeter: 6/10. Funny because it's true.


8. What kind of ale does a family of children represent? Home brood (brewed).

BurnMeter: 4/10. Parentheses explaining the wordplay are much appreciated.


9. Why is the letter D a great reformer? Because it makes men mend.

BurnMeter: 3/10. Really makes you think.


10. Why is a Jewish feast like a brewer in his brewery? Hebrews (he brews) drink there.

BurnMeter: 2/10. Alright, let's go easy with the cultural zings (thanks again for the parenthetical explanation, though).


11. If a toper and a gallon of whisky were left together, which would be drunk first?

BurnMeter: 8/10. Had to look it up, but a "toper" is a drunkard, so, in that case, suck on that, topers.


12. Why ought not tee-totallers to drink ox-tail soup? Because it is Whisky.

BurnMeter: 1/10. Let's keep moving, this is a creative space, it's important to get everything out there.


13. Why is a selfish friend like the letter P? Because, though he is the first in pity, he is the last in help.

BurnMeter: 6/10. Points deducted for not being about alcohol, points added for profundity.


14. What people have a geographical reason for being drunk? Those who live in the Temperate Zone!

BurnMeter: 7/10. Exclamation point solidifies the funny.


15. Why must the persons appointed to wind up joint-stock companies invariably be tee-totalers?—Because they are liquid-haters.

BurnMeter: 7/10. Some droll razzing for the smart set. You know who you are.


16. “Well, my boy, do you know what syntax means?” said a schoolmaster to the child of a teetotaller.
“Yes sir; the duty upon spirits.”

BurnMeter: 9/10. Someone pull the fire alarm, because that schoolmaster just got burned in his own classroom. Exit in an orderly fashion, children.


17. “Were you ever in Cork, sir?” was asked Foote, the comedian, one day. To which he replied,—
“That though in most cities of note he had been, Yet of Cork ’t was the drawing alone he had seen."

BurnMeter: 3/10. Don't really get it, but the guy's a comedian so it's probably really funny.


18. “Can you tell me the difference between gravity and gravitation?” said a schoolmaster to his pupil. “Yes, when you are drunk, sir, you lose your gravity, and then your gravitation begins to operate!”

BurnMeter: VOID. Pretty sure the pupil is accusing the schoolmaster of being some sort of sexual predator here. While sick burns are always appreciated, this matter should have been brought to the attention of the proper authorities.


19. What is a dram?—A dram, generally speaking, is a small quantity taken in large quantities by those who have few grains of sobriety and no scruples of conscience.

BurnMeter: 8/10. Practice this one to yourself a couple hours a night because it's pretty hard to say. But if you have it down pat, it'll be an exhilarating burn and a real show-stopper.


20. When is a scruple more than a dram? When conscience makes a teetotaller refuse a thimbleful of brandy!

BurnMeter: 5/10. A lesser zing from the scruple/dram collection.


21. What is the difference between a Rose and a bottle of Port Wine? The one helps to make a nose-gay, and the other a gay nose.

BurnMeter: 3/10. May not translate.


22. Why is wine made up for the British market like a deserter from the army? Because it is always brandied (branded) before it is sent off.

BurnMeter: 7/10. Again, the parenthetical explanation helps considerably.


23. Why is a ship which has to encounter rough weather before it reaches its destination, like a certain wine which is usually adulterated with logwood and other similar matters? Because it goes through a vast deal before it comes into Port.

BurnMeter: 6/10. A little verbose, but it eventually gets to Funnytown.


24. What portion of the trimming of a lady’s dress resembles East India sherry of the best quality? That which goes round the Cape.

BurnMeter: 1/10. Not sure how this pro-sherry joke got in here, but be sure to avoid it (the zinger and the sherry).


25. Mrs. Partington, on hearing that in California gold was found in quartz, wanted to know if any had yet been discovered in gallons. She thought when they came to finding it by the hogshead, she would go out there herself.

BurnMeter: 6/10. If you are doing this in the presence of someone whose name really is Mrs. Partington, then the BurnMeter goes up to 9.


26. Archbishop Wately once asked—“If the Devil lost his tail, where would he go for a fresh one?”
“To a gin-shop, for they retail all kinds of spirits!

BurnMeter: 8/10. Lots of layers to this joke, knee-slapper to let stew.


27. A wag hearing that in 1830 the brewers consumed 700,000 quarters of barley less than were used in 1779, and yet made a million barrels more of beer, asked, very pertinently, “which had grown smaller—the barrels or the beer?”

BurnMeter: 5/10. Good, but this joke works best if you are put in a situation where someone is rattling off brewery production stats from 1830. That way, the response will appear to be organic.


28. Why is alcohol like a clothes-brush? Because it is celebrated for destroying the coats of the stomach.

BurnMeter: 10/10. BOOM! *EXTENDED AIRHORN*


29. Why is a toper, who hesitates to take the pledge, like a sceptical Hindoo? Because he does not know whether to give up the Jug-or-not.

BurnMeter: 2/10. Okay, pump the brakes on this one. Let's slow it down.


30. Why is a vain young lady like a confirmed drunkard? Because she is constantly using the Glass.

BurnMeter: 9/10. Two zings in one, this burn is double trouble.


31. Why do not printers succeed in business as well as brewers? Because the printer works for the head, and the brewer for the stomach. For twenty men who have a stomach, only one has a brain.

BurnMeter: 6/10. Not so much a joke, but rather the printer of 'One Thousand Temperance Anecdotes, Jokes, Riddles, Puns, and Smart Sayings' trying to rationalize his financial troubles. Still pretty sizzlin' though.

Big Questions
Is There Any Point in Letting Red Wine Breathe?

by Aliya Whiteley

At the end of a long day, few things beat simple pleasures like watching a good film, eating a bar of chocolate the size of your head, or drinking a big glass of red wine.

By this point in the evening, most people don’t want to be told that they need to uncork the bottle and let the wine sit for at least 30 minutes before it becomes pleasantly drinkable. Yet that's (by the letter of the unwritten law) what you're supposed to do.

But why? Well, let's start with the assorted historical reasons.

Red wine has been around since the Stone Age. In fact, in 2011 a cave was uncovered in Armenia where the remains of a wine press, drinking and fermentation vessels, and withered grape vines were uncovered; the remains were dated at 5500 years old. Early winemaking often had a ritualistic aspect: Wine jars were found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, and wine appears in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles.

The concept of letting wine "breathe" is, historically speaking, relatively new and probably has its roots in the way wine was once bottled and stored.

Traditionally, sulfur is added to wine in order to preserve it for longer, and if too much is added the wine might well have an ... interesting aroma when first opened—the kind of "interesting aroma" that bears more than a passing resemblance to rotten eggs. Contact with the air may have helped to remove the smell, so decanting wine may once have been a way of removing unwelcome odors, as well as getting rid of the sediment that built up in the bottom of bottles.

It’s also possible that the concept springs from the early 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III asked Louis Pasteur to investigate why so much French wine was spoiling in transit. Pasteur published his results, which concluded that wine coming into contact with air led to the growth of bacteria, thus ruining the vino. However, small amounts of air improved the flavor of the wine by "aging" it. In bottles, with a cork stopper, the wine still came into contact with a small amount of oxygen, and by storing it for years the wine was thought to develop a deeper flavor.

However, how much of that actually matters today?

Many experts agree that there is no point in simply pulling out the cork and letting the wine sit in an open bottle for any period of time; the wine won’t come into enough contact with oxygen to make any difference to the taste.

However, decanting wine might still be a useful activity. The truth is this: It entirely depends on the wine.

Nowadays we don’t really age wine anymore; we make it with the aim of drinking it quickly, within a year or so. But some types of wine that are rich in tannins (compounds that come from the grape skins and seeds) can benefit from a period of time in a decanter, to soften the astringent taste. These include wines from Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, for instance.

If you really want to know if a particular wine would benefit from being given time to breathe, try your own experiment at home. Buy two bottles, decant one, and let it breathe for an hour. Do you notice a difference in the taste? Even if you don’t, it's an experiment that justifies opening two bottles of wine.

One word of warning: No matter where a wine comes from, it is possible to overexpose it to oxygen. So remember Pasteur’s experiments and don’t leave your wine out of the bottle for days. That, friends, would be one hell of a waste.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

A Beer From the Middle Ages Is Making a Serious Comeback

Hop-forward beer is all the rage today, but in the middle ages many imbibers preferred brews that skewed towards the sweeter side. Now, centuries after it fell out of fashion, Atlas Obscura reports that gruit ale is making a comeback.

Gruit beer is any beer that features botanicals in place of hops. The ingredients that give the drink its distinctive sweet, aromatic taste can be as familiar as ginger and lavender or as exotic as mugwort and seabuckthorn. The herbs play the role of hops by both adding complex flavors and creating an inhospitable environment for harmful microbes.

It may be hard for modern beer lovers to imagine beer without hops, but prior to the 16th century gruit was as common in parts of Europe as IPAs are in hip American cities today. Then, in 1516, that style of beer suddenly vanished from pint glasses: That was the year Germany passed a beer purity law that restricted beer formulas to hops, water, and barley. Many of the key botanicals in gruit beer were considered aphrodisiacs at the time, and the rising Puritan movement helped push the brew further into obscurity.

Hops have dominated the beer scene ever since, and only in the past few decades have microbrewers started giving old gruit recipes the attention they're due. In 2017, the Scratch Brewing Company in Illinois released their seasonal Scratch Tonic, made from a combination of dandelion, carrot tops, clover, and ginger. The Põhjala Brewery in Estonia brews their Laugas beer using Estonian herbs, caraway, and juniper berries. Get in touch with your local microbrewery to see if they have their own version of the old-school beer in their line-up.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]


More from mental floss studios