WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Three Threads

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Three Threads

So it’s Election Day Eve in the United States. Yes, I totally made up the name for today, but it should be a thing.

We’re all going to need a drink.

Three Threads

Half common ale, mixed with stale and double beer.

If that doesn’t sound terribly palatable, consider that it is a slang term, a cant term used by the lower classes – the thieves – so likely the name tasted better on the tongue than the product. But drink was drink, and sometimes the cheaper, the better.

What’s interesting about this Word of the Week is its rumored ties to the origins of Porter and Ale. What by definition above sounds cheap and suspect, folklore myth romanticizes.

Sometime in the 1720s-1730s, one Ralph Harwood allegedly decided to brew a drink that blended ale, strong beer (double beer), and leftover (stale) beer into one cask. His new drink was said to feature the best characteristics of its three ingredients, so the story goes that its popularity grew enormous in London. It was an idealized story told often without any evidence to support it: the perfect apocryphal tale.

The Picture of London, by John Feltham, 1802

John Feltham, in The Picture of London, 1802, first wrote of Three Threads. His words were subsequently reprinted, word-for-word, in myriad and diverse publications thereafter: Arithmetical Questions, On a New Plan, by William Butler, 1811; Rural Sports, by William Barker Daniel, 1813; An Encyclopeaeaedia of Domestic Economy, by Thomas Webster, 1815; The Vintner’s, Brewer’s, Spirit Merchant’s, and Licensed Victualler’s Guide, by A Practical Man, 1826; et. al.

From The London Magazine, Volume 5, 1826:

The controversy surrounding Three Threads seems not to be in its existence, then, but in its ties to the development of Porter. There’s no evidence of a recipe for the quantities mixed, no evidence that three separate casks of beers and ale were used, and no evidence Three Threads wasn’t delivered from brewers to publicans pre-made.

So a bit of a modern-day unsolved mystery/bar trivia/”that there’s fighting words” amongst true ale aficionados.

We all need to stop, take a breath, grab and pint, and sing a song: an ode to Beer, Beer, Beer.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Feast

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dutch Feast

It’s Thanksgiving week in the United States. I talked a little bit about my historical ties to Thanksgiving in a previous year’s post, specifically my two relatives on board the Mayflower, one of whom happened to be John Howland, the man who fell overboard. When you’re clutzy in my family, you’ve pulled a Howland. We’re that kind of people.

Anyway, this year I thought to address the funnier side of the holiday, and really anytime family and friends gather together – that one relative who gets drunk.

In my family, we have an uncle who can be counted on to be “happier” by the time all the relatives gather together to break bread. Honestly, he’s a thousand times more entertaining and interesting than the usual exchange of gossip, comparison of family achievements, and inevitable jealousy over who cooked what better. I always put my seat next to this dear man, who can be counted on to keep up fascinating conversation and hilarious football commentary once the Cowboys game begins. He’s a harmless, erudite tippler. It also doesn’t hurt that he always declares me his favorite niece.

Most of the time at any social gathering, it’s one of the guests who imbibes too much. When it’s the host, well, there’s a vulgar slang term for that. And lovely historical illustrations that fit the theme in looks, if not titles.

Inconveniences of a Crowded Drawing Room by George Cruikshank, 6 May 1818, public domain.

Dutch Feast

Where the entertainer gets drunk before his guest.

Monstrous Craws at a New Coalition Feast by James Gillray, 29 May 1787, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

But once the event is over, and the devilry and revelry are past, there’s the devil to pay…

The Head-Ache by George Cruikshank, 12 February 1819, public domain.

Happiest Thanksgiving feasting! And go Cowboys!


Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.