Date: Sun, 16 Nov 1997 07:08:55 -0500
From: "Barry A. Popik" Bapopik[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: Origin of "How"
Tom Dalzell is writing a book on "sin words," and I owe him words on
drinking, gambling, drugs, horseracing, sex, and more.
The following term is not in the RHHDAS H-O and can be considered with
"Here's Looking at You," which I posted about a month ago. This is from the
Long Branch (NJ) Record, 19 January 1900, pg. 11, col. 4:
ORIGIN OF "HOW"
Why It Came to be Used in Connection with Drinking.
They were all sitting around a table in the Gibson House cafe, Farny and
a few other genial spirits, says a Cincinnati Enquirer man. Some one ordered
a drink, and when it came and everyone was about to raise his glass Farny
said "How!" It is an expression that is heard in a cafe hundreds of times a
day, and yet few people know its origin. Seated in the crowd at the table in
the Gibson House was an army officer, and someone said: "Where in the world
did this expression 'how' come from?" Then the army officer laughed, and
said: "Draw close my children, and I will tell you." And he did.
"'How' is an expression used by every man when he drinks, but it had its
beginning in a joke. Years ago, when the army was engaged in driving the red
man further and further towards the setting sun, the officers had many
experiences with the Indians, many pow-wows and meetings were held, and at
those assembled many Indians could speak but a few words of English. Army
officers are proverbially hospitable, and at these pow-wows they always
produced a bottle and asked the chiefs to drink. In those days the officers
said to the chiefs: 'I drink to your good health.' The chiefs, who knew but
a few words of English, always replied ' How.' The thing started as a joke,
but every army officer fell into the habit of saying 'How,' and now it is
recognized as the proper thing to say, when drinking, particularly when doing
so with the sons of Mars."