Bottom’s Up…. Or You’re Drafted

Bottoms up- It’s a fairly common expression used to kick off a round of drinks, but you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. This one has its roots in England.

Okay, so, imagine you’re part of a group of 18th century English sailors called a press gang. Your job is to go ashore & persuade (also known as beating the ever-loving snot out of) young men from town to join the navy. You have a quota of men to recruit or face a beating from your superior officer, yourself.
Even so, beatings, as common as they are, are a last resort & to avoid the trouble having to beat the piss out of someone until they say, “Yes,” you’ll have to come up with a way to outsmart a room full of obliterated 20 year-olds into enlisting.

"Would you like to join the Navy?” “No, thanks. It’s not for me.” *Wooden stick to the face* “Would you like to join the Navy?” “Yes.”

“Would you like to join the Navy?”
“No, thanks. It’s not for me.”
*Wooden stick to the face*
“Would you like to join the Navy?”

Here’s your plan: Find a drunk man, & when he isn’t looking, drop a shilling coin into his stone beer mug. It’s alright; he won’t see it until he’s finished because the stone mug isn’t clear & by that time, you can claim to have paid for his beer in exchange his service. Boom. New sailor to fill that spot manning the 12 pounder, that’s been vacant since the old guy took a foot long cannon ball splinter to his face.

After a little while, the pubs started catching on & fixed this by putting glass bottoms to their mugs. They’d always remind customers to put their bottoms up & check to see if there was a coin. If there was, they could find out who put it there & kick them out. Although, I can only assume this would end in a giant bar brawl, with both you & the drunk guy being dragged out by the press gang anyway.

Seriously, you didn’t mess with those guys.

There you have it. Now you know. You’re welcome.


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Filed under Etymology

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