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  • Holly Blum, The Word Whisperer

Why A Toast Is Called A Toast

New Year’s Eve is coming. And that means it’s time to make a toast to 2017. Not surprisingly, there’s nothing I love more than a great toast to top off a festive evening. At the same time, thinking about toasting made me wonder how this tradition even started.

Believe it or not, the term “toast” originated in the 16th century when people would drop a piece of toast into a cup of wine to improve the flavor. One of the first written accounts of this was in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which Falstaff calls for a quart of spiced wine, and then adds, “Put a toast in it.”

By the 18th century, the term “toast” transferred from the literal floating bread to the person honored by the toast. And when this connection was first made, the person being honored often received the actual toast saturated with wine. I think we can all be thankful that we don’t get a soggy piece of toast anymore.

Over time, toasting became so popular that Toastmasters came into the picture (different from the organization we know today). They made sure that everyone got an equal share of toasting opportunities. Without them, people would attempt to toast each and every person in the room (and consume excessive amounts of alcohol in the process). Toastmasters were like “celebration referees,” keeping parties from getting too out of control.

The act of toasting has certainly evolved over time, but at its core, the purpose remains the same: to wish someone well. Whether it’s a couple of sentences before a meal or a three-minute wedding toast, my advice is to think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Try to avoid the clichés and speak from your heart. If you get stuck, remember that I’m here to help. A little word whispering can go a long way…

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year. May 2017 be a year to remember. Cheers!

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