teetotal pledge

Teetotalism [tee-toht-l-iz-uhm] refers to either the practice of or the promotion of complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices or advocates teetotalism is called a teetotaler (plural teetotalers or teetotalli). The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England in the early 19th century. Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are religious, health, family, philosophical, or social reasons, and, sometimes, as simply a matter of taste or preference.

Contemporary and colloquial usage has somewhat expanded teetotalism to include strict abstinence from most recreational intoxicants (legal and illegal). Most teetotaler organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.

One anecdote attributes the origin of the word to a meeting of the Preston Temperance Society in 1832 or 1833. This society was founded by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: ‘We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine.’ The story attributes the word to Dicky Turner, a member of the society, who had a stammer, and in a speech said that nothing would do but ‘tee-tee-total abstinence.’

An alternative explanation is that teetotal is simply a reduplication of the ‘T’ in total. It is said that as early as 1827 in some Temperance Societies signing a ‘T’ after one’s name signified one’s pledge for total abstinence.

Nephalism, temperance, abstinence, abstemiousness and restraint are synonyms for teetotalism, and numerous idioms and slang terms imply abstinence from alcohol. A common American term is ‘on the (water) wagon,’ which frequently means those who have had a problem with alcohol, as well as the terms ‘dry’ and ‘sober.’ ‘Straight edge’ is a newer idiom for abstaining from alcohol and other intoxicants.

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