Think I've might had too much mead.
August 24, 2008 10:13 PM   Subscribe

At the risk of sounding daft, please explain this old 16th Century English Proverb for me.

Wine is but single broth, ale is meat, drink, and cloth.

Cloth meaning weave your tastes together? anyone...Buhler?
posted by CoinOp to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Near as I can tell, it's an ale-lover's way of disparaging wine. The proverb is basically saying that a good mug of ale is hearty enough to sate your appetite, quench your thirst, and make your body warm -- like meat, drink, and clothing all rolled into one. Wine, on the other hand, is just another liquid.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:36 PM on August 24, 2008

Best answer: The context suggests that cloth could be akin to "warming up the body" here. John Bickerdyke agrees with me.
posted by onalark at 10:37 PM on August 24, 2008

Rhamoi's got it.
posted by bigmusic at 10:37 PM on August 24, 2008

Rhaomi said it better than I did.
posted by onalark at 10:38 PM on August 24, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by CoinOp at 10:46 PM on August 24, 2008

Best answer: The earliest citation in the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs is from Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602): 'the liquor itself is the Englishman's ancientest and wholesomest drink, and serveth many for meat and cloth too'.

Meat, drink and cloth (clothing) were traditionally regarded as the three things necessary for survival. 'Ale is meat, drink and cloth' means that it gives you everything you need to keep body and soul together. Strong ale was a staple food for many people, so it's not just comic exaggeration.

The beer vs wine debate goes back centuries. Beer = English; wine = French; and like everything in England, it has strong class connotations: beer = working-class; wine = upper-class. The same stereotypes are still around today.
posted by verstegan at 1:56 AM on August 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was in Dublin years ago, I learned: "Guinness: there's food in it, there's drink in it, and there's a night's lodgin' in it!" Quite similar.
posted by languagehat at 7:36 AM on August 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Languagehat's "... there's a night's lodgin' in it." could suggest that the "cloth" referred to in the original saw was primarily 'bedcloth' for people sleeping rough after their quaffs. Somewhat like the (almost) contemporary hobo's 'putting on the Tokay blanket'.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on August 25, 2008

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