USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘prohibition’
Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
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Italian Toast

“This wine is good and clear.
Good health to everyone.
Hope they bring to the cemetery the ones
who wanted to do away with it.”

This saying has been passed down through the paternal side of my family, who are all of Italian heritage.  My father’s grandparents were immigrants in the early twentieth century and were the last to speak Italian fluently in my father’s genealogy.  Some of my older relatives still remember this saying, however, and have said it on occasion though it is obsolete.  My father begins it when toasting to his family, but never gets past the first sentence.  As it involves Prohibition (1920-1933), its terminus post quem is 1920.  As recent immigrants, my great grandparents had left a country where good wine was plentiful and many people drank it daily, and were now faced with an across-the-board ban on every kind of alcoholic beverage.  According to my informant, the Italian men who immigrated near this time would continue to make wine that their families would drink, keeping it hidden in their cellars while brewing.  When the wine was finished and illegally drunk, a toast such as this would be offered.  This particular saying was either created or picked up by one of my father’s grandparents, and as my family has increasingly forgotten Italian (I know essentially none), the saying has remained, whether or not my relatives are aware that it is an anachronism.  Though it is obsolete, it reminds us of our common heritage and of my great-grandparents (now deceased) and their families.

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