Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Quaff – Wacky Word Wednesday

Last week, we learned how to fletcherize our food to a pulp. With today’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world, we’ll be focusing on the other side of dining… wining!

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s wacky word:

quaff

[kwof]

-verb

to drink plentifully and with enjoyment

A cartoon depiction of quaff, to drink plentifully and with enjoyment.

Quaff was first used in 1515, but its etymology is unclear. Some sources believe the word quaff came from quassen, which means “to overindulge (in food and drink)”, the –ss erroneously identified as –ff. Another source suggested that the word quaff came into existence as an onomatopoeia.

Quaff can also be understood as a synonym for gulp or swig, or less commonly as a noun, meaning “a hearty draft.” The slang phrase quaff a brew means to “drink a beer.” Furthermore, although quaff is usually used to describe alcoholic beverages, this is not a fixed component of the definition; quaff can also be used to describe drinking non-alcoholic drinks, including water.

Similarly, the adjective quaffable refers to beverages, commonly wine, that are easy to drink. According to WineDefine.com, quaffable is a term that is applied during wine tastings, describing a wine that is “pleasant to drink but not deserving of careful tasting attention.” Additionally, the Oxford English Dictionary lists quaff-tide as “the season for drinking.”

A quick Google search will demonstrate that a common way to use quaff is by taking advantage of its marketability: Quaff Magazine, Quaff Restaurant and Bar, Quaff Bar & Grille, Quaff Café… these are just a few examples that popped up.

If you’re thinking about reviving the word quaff back into day-to-day speech, here are some sentence examples to help inspire you:

  • For those in London: “…open to the masses and promising to be much more quirky but just as quaff-able, the Natural Wine Fair will be at Borough Market from 15-17 May” (Londonist, 12 May 2011).
  • Cruise comparison site CruiseCompare.co.uk asked nearly 1200 respondents about their drinking habits at sea compared to vacations on dry land, and found that the majority said that they quaff more aboard (The Independent, 26 April 2011).
  • T.C. Boyle, on switching from typewriter to computer: “Still, there was a pleasant rhythm to those hard-typing times, during which I would neatly stack up 10 to 12 finished pages daily, the whole business accumulating in a very satisfying way before I headed off to stroll through the woods or quaff a drink or two at the local bar” (The Atlantic, May 2011).

So now we turn to you, our dear readers: what is your favorite drink to quaff on a pleasant summer evening?

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