A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why do people clink their glasses together after a toast?

October 14, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

Why do people cling their glasses together after a toast?

SDStaff Div replies:

When you start discussing why we do things in social settings, there's probably no better authority nowadays than Miss Manners. I quote from Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, pp. 642-643.

"One story about the clinking of glasses is that the purpose is to spill each person's wine into the glass of the other, for assurance that nobody is being poisoned (or everyone is)." Yeah, sure, bottoms up, everybody! I don't think so. That doesn't sound like a happy hour to me.

"Another story is that the custom of clinking glasses originated in the Middle Ages when any alcoholic drink was thought to contain actual 'spirits,' such as the 'demon' in 'demon rum, who, when imbibed, inhabitated the host's body, causing the imbiber to do things that he would not ordinarily do. Since bells and other sounds were thought to drive spirits away ... the clinking of glasses was thought to drive the 'spirits' out of the spirits and thus make it safe to drink." (Now I know why they play "Danny Boy" at parties.)

Now this makes a lot of sense. Or maybe it's just all the parties I went to.

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