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Old 04-02-2002, 12:03 PM
Tranquilis Tranquilis is offline
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Origin of "rotgut whiskey"?

Last night on the History Channel, a medical school historian stated that the origin of the phrase "rotgut whiskey' came from the practice of graverobbers packing corpses into whiskey barrels to preserve and camoflauge their cargo while shipping it to medical schools for dissection (the use of cadavers for that purpose being generally criminal in those days). The whiskey would be sold to the students after the bodies had been removed from the barrels.

Is this true?

This site claims that the origin of "rotgut" is around 1633, but doesn't give the root source, other than "unwholesome liquor".
Old 04-02-2002, 03:29 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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My suspicion is aroused by the specificity of "rotgut" when it is supposedly a whole body in there with it.

I believe the term simply derives from the association of cheap liquor and rotted-out innards in consumers of same.

Hope this helps, though I realize it's barely one notch above a WAG.
Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
Old 04-05-2002, 11:18 AM
Tranquilis Tranquilis is offline
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Old 04-05-2002, 11:32 AM
Enola Straight Enola Straight is offline
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I was under the impression that rotgut whisky was the slang term for trade whisky; a confection sold in the wild west, which
was decidedly NOT distilled spirits.

Ethyl alchohol for kick
tobacco for color
sulfuric acid for bite (!!!)
and water do dilute the whole shebang.

THAT"LL rot yer guts, man!
Old 04-05-2002, 11:43 AM
peepthis peepthis is offline
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The OED also provides 1633 as the earliest record of "rotgut" in use: "Let not a Teaster scape To be consum'd in rot-gut."

As a definition it offers
1. An adulterated or unwholesome liquor; spec. bad small beer, or (in U.S.) inferior whiskey.
More interesting, however, is the second definition offered (which dates back to 1706):
2. attrib. or as adj. Of liquor: Unwholesome, deleterious, injurious to the system. Also transf. and fig.
Since the OED also tells us that the word is a concatenation of the verb "rot" and the noun "gut," I'm inclined to believe it refers to what the potent potable will do to your innards.


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