snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Language » Rotgut

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Rotgut
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 24 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: I saw something on TV a few years ago that said that rot-gut
whiskey got its name like this:

Two doctors in Maryland (maybe 1800's, maybe earlier) were doing autopsies
(a fairly new thing back then), and the townsfolk didn't like it. They
razed the doctors' office, and the doctors built a medical facility for
Maryland State University...right on the edge of town. The building was
tall, and the top floor couldn't be seen into and was difficult to find
once you were inside. The doctors and a few select students were
performing autopsies there.

The groundskeeper of the building would watch funeral processions go by,
and at night he and a buddy would roll a barrel of whiskey down to the
fresh grave, dig a hole just big enough for the body, pull the body up by
its chin (using a hook), and throw the body into the barrel. They'd roll
the barrel back, set it outside the medical building. When the doctors
needed a body, they'd roll the barrel into the building, remove the body,
and roll the barrel back outside. The groundskeeper and his buddy would
sell the whiskey to the students...and so, rot-gut whiskey.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kathy B
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Kathy B     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The online Etyumology dicitonary says "Rotgut 'unwholesome liquor' is from 1633" but does not give a citation. I found a message board post that said the OED dates it to 1633.

Someone else reported that the Science Channel had a program about east coast grave robbers storing cadavers in whisky as the originof the word.

--------------------
The plural of "anecdote" is not "data."

Posts: 4255 | From: Sacramento, CA | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Danvers Carew
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Danvers Carew         Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
My Dictionary of Slang says "Late 16th C". 'Rotgut' presumably just refers to the effect of drinking the cheap unwholesome booze on a person, like the similar 'red-eye', etc, but the OP story is quite inventive - never heard this before!

--------------------
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Posts: 2372 | From: Scotland | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Top Kat
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Top Kat   E-mail Top Kat   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There's no Maryland State University. There is a University of Maryland, but I don't believe it has a medical school.
Posts: 264 | From: Washington, DC | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


Icon 1 posted      Profile for AnglsWeHvHrdOnHiRdr     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There is a U of MD medical school.

A google search on "Maryland State University" resulted in a "diplomas for less" hit, so...

--------------------
"When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty."--George Bernard Shaw

Posts: 19266 | From: Nashville, TN | Registered: Jun 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Dr. Dave
Frosty the Pitchman


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Dr. Dave     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Top Kat:
There's no Maryland State University. There is a University of Maryland, but I don't believe it has a medical school.

Ohmigod. Am I in trouble then. [lol]

(Yes, there is one. It is just in Baltimore, not College Park.)

Posts: 400 | From: Maryland | Registered: Jun 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
lazerus the duck
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for lazerus the duck   E-mail lazerus the duck   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Seems a long explanation for a simple descriptive term.

--------------------
All the world's a face, And all the men and women merely acne.

Posts: 673 | From: Glasgow, Scotland | Registered: Oct 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Kid Kilowatt
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Kid Kilowatt   Author's Homepage     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Hmmm. This isn't one I'd ever wondered about, really. I thought I'd figured it out the first time I woke up after a night of drinking cheap whiskey.
"Uhhhhh....my gut has rotted...."

Kid "One more shot of Evan Williams, barkeep!" Kilowatt

--------------------
The book says, "We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
- Magnolia

Posts: 252 | From: East Greenwich, RI, what! | Registered: Aug 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
arnie
Jingle Bell Hock


Icon 1 posted      Profile for arnie     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Seems a long explanation for a simple descriptive term.
I quite agree. Applying Occam's razor makes much more sense. The stuff rots your guts. QED

--------------------
De gustibus non est disputandum.

Posts: 593 | From: Charlton, Sarf Lunnon | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
RealityChuck/Boston Charlie
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for RealityChuck/Boston Charlie   Author's Homepage   E-mail RealityChuck/Boston Charlie   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Usually in etymology, the more complicated the "derivation," the more likely it's an urban legend. If the derivation isn't 25 words (and often 10 ) or less, then it's false.

For the record, the OED says:
quote:
[f. ROT v. + GUT n.]

and the cites are:
quote:
1633 HEYWOOD Eng. Trav. IV. Wks. 1874 IV. 72 Let not a Teaster scape To be consum'd in rot-gut. 1666 G. HARVEY Morb. Angl. xxviii. (1672) 76 They overwhelming their panch daily with a kind of flat Scarbier, or Rot-gut; we with a bitter dreggish small liquor. 1715 ADDISON Drummer v. Wks. 1830 II. 208 Sir George. Drink nothing but smallbeer for a fortnight . But. Smallbeer! Rot-gut!

Posts: 675 | From: Schenectady, NY | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Megan'sMom
Deck the Malls


Icon 216 posted      Profile for Megan'sMom   E-mail Megan'sMom   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There is, of course, a University of Maryland School of Medicine. However, as it was not established until 1807 it would be difficult for it to be the origin of a 16th century slang term.

quote:
rotgut While it’s easily understood why our forefathers called cheap, harsh liquor rotgut, it is surprising to learn how long the word has been around. Long before the victims of Prohibition complained about having to drink “bootleg rotgut that would kill a herd of buffalo at fifty feet,” drunkards were gritting their teeth and calling “unwholesome liquor” rotgut as far back as 1633.
from Modern Drunkard Magazine

--------------------
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of --
but do it in private, and wash your hands afterwards.

- Lazarus Long

Posts: 300 | From: Waldorf, MD | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Richard W   E-mail Richard W   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
1633 = 17th century...
Posts: 8725 | From: Ipswich - the UK's 9th Best Place to Sleep! | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Megan'sMom
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Megan'sMom   E-mail Megan'sMom   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:
1633 = 17th century...

I was referring to Danvers Carew's post
quote:
My Dictionary of Slang says "Late 16th C". 'Rotgut' presumably just refers to the effect of drinking the cheap unwholesome booze on a person, like the similar 'red-eye', etc, but the OP story is quite inventive - never heard this before!

The 1633 came from Modern Drunkards.

--------------------
Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of --
but do it in private, and wash your hands afterwards.

- Lazarus Long

Posts: 300 | From: Waldorf, MD | Registered: Jan 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
RubyMoon
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for RubyMoon   E-mail RubyMoon   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Univerity of Md better have a medical school, because that's what it says on my Mother in laws Doctors license.

The story of the University Medical grave robbing was certainly beleived around here in the mid 1800's, people would stand guard over fresh graves of relatives for a week or two until they figured the bodies were no longer suitable, especially in the Cemetary accross the street from the original building. (Westminster cemetary -- where E A Poe is buried) Don't know for real if it's true, but know that it was beleived at the time (I guess Urban legends have always been around).

But besides the term rot gut being much older than Univeristy of MD, the alchol was supposed to prevent rot -- so it's illogical to think that's the origin.

It's called rot gut because that's what it does, rots your guts.

edited for spelling

Posts: 280 | From: Maryland | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
RealityChuck/Boston Charlie
The First USA Noel


Icon 1 posted      Profile for RealityChuck/Boston Charlie   Author's Homepage   E-mail RealityChuck/Boston Charlie   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by RubyMoon:
Univerity of Md better have a medical school, because that's what it says on my Mother in laws Doctors license.

The story of the University Medical grave robbing was certainly beleived around here in the mid 1800's, people would stand guard over fresh graves of relatives for a week or two until they figured the bodies were no longer suitable, especially in the Cemetary accross the street from the original building. (Westminster cemetary -- where E A Poe is buried) Don't know for real if it's true, but know that it was beleived at the time (I guess Urban legends have always been around).

I don't know about Maryland, but in London, graverobbing was common enough that measures such at this were necessary. Medical schools needed cadavers, and were willing to pay -- no questions asked. They even left empty hampers outside their grounds so the robbers had something in which to hide the corpse during transit.

See http://tinyurl.com/lb4lv for an account.

Posts: 675 | From: Schenectady, NY | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
RubyMoon
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for RubyMoon   E-mail RubyMoon   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
The only part of the story that I don't know for sure about is if the grave robbing was actually happening here, or that the news and knowledge of it happing in London got spread like modern UL's -- everybody who tells it tells that it happened right here down the street.

According to my mother in law who I just spoke to, the college does have copies of arrest reports on profesors, and a couple of dental students who were arrested for possession of dead bodies, but no proof of where the bodies came from. I personally don't think they were comming from Westmister cemetary because that would be too obvious --gee build a hospital and then the cemetary right next to it gets robbed.

Also in reference to the OP -- it wasn't just because the neighbors didn't like it, disection of human cadavers was illegal in England and the US at the time. Don't know for sure about other countries.

Edited, cos I was on the phone and posting at the same time, and I needed to correct my grammer and add to the post.

Posts: 280 | From: Maryland | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2