View Full Version : Church Keys
The stereotypical church key, key to the city or other humongous key looks pretty much like an normal key at the business end, but the handle is usually in the form of an ornate, hollow ring.
On your standard issue bottle opener, the cap opener bit looks like the handle on the archetypical big key I've just described.
I first heard the term 'church key' on SCTV's Great White North segment. Bob and Doug were discussing why US beers have twist-off caps. The answer: US beer has less alcohol than Canadian, so the twist-off allows us to consume more in less time (no fumbling around for church keys). They suggested we should put more alcohol in our beer like the Canucks do. GREAT IDEA EH?
05-25-2000, 04:34 AM
This whole question of why those can/bottle openers are called churchkeys was posed to us one day in class (I'm in culinary school, so it's something related to cooking. Sort of.)
My Chef Instructor told us the history behind the "churchkey" name came from the time of Prohibition, when church elders would gather at the church to drink--as they would be uninterrupted--and would never forget to bring their "Church Key" before running off.
Doncha just love how the English language evolves when naughtiness is involved?
05-25-2000, 03:15 PM
The mailbag item being referenced is
What's the origin of "churchkey," meaning a can or bottle opener? (http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mchurchk.html)
05-26-2000, 11:55 AM
JavenMaven, I must say your answer sounds better than the one the staff writer proposed. But I bet there are even more convincing etymologies out there. Maybe not, that thing about drinking in church sounds awful realistic (not).
Duck Duck Goose
05-26-2000, 05:02 PM
I think Mac was just goofing around. The Straight Dope on this issue, according to my father, who is a strict temperance Methodist and who is old enough to have been there, is that it was a joke name having to do with drinking and the Temperance Movement.
There were some people who called themselves "temperance" who nevertheless didn't think that beer counted as "drinking". ("Drinking", to them, meant "spirits", like whiskey and rum.) So the beer bottle opener was jokingly termed a "church key" by those who wished to indulge without being too overt about it. "Don't forget the church key!" would be the friendly reminder when packing a picnic basket.
05-26-2000, 05:22 PM
10-23-2001, 09:24 PM
Boy, what a difference a year and a half make.
DDG Your response here would never make it under your current standards. Anechdotal at best.
Lighter, the "Bible" on US slang cites in print from 1951. Now, that doesn't mean anything. But can you supply some actual dates for your father's use of the term. When would he have used it before 1951 that you can cite? And what is the connection to the "temperance movement?" How late/early would that have been?
I don't mean to bring up old threads, but we were discussing it over at Dave Wilton's Site (http://pub55.ezboard.com/fwordoriginsorgfrm1.showMessage?topicID=892.topic) today.
10-29-2001, 11:22 PM
Churches, which put their faith in God and offer sanctuary, should not need complicated locks on their doors. Something simple, like a can opener, should get you in, in your time of spiritual need.
John W. Kennedy
10-31-2001, 11:07 AM
Yes, but most churches have locks and keys.
And until recently, most of those locks and keys (at least in the USA) were humongous 19th-century affairs that looked as though they'd been constructed by the local blacksmith. Some of them probably were.
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