Wednesday, November 23

making contact

The bumpers filled, Mr. Blandois, with a roystering gaiety, clinked the top of his glass against the bottom of Mr. Flintwich's, and the bottom of his glass against the top of Mr. Flintwich's, and drank to the intimate acquaintance he foresaw.

-- Charles Dickens Little Dorrit

Clinking glasses -- rapping them to call everyone present to attention, or tapping them together when toasting -- has always given people pleasure. Clinking one glass against another is making contact, an action we perform precisely because we are not sharing one cup; in doing it we remind ourselves that the wine, now separated into glassfuls, is still one, and we reach out to each other even though we do not hand our glasses on. Russians go one further and smash their glasses after particularly fervent toasts, vows, or oaths. The half-Russian poet Apollinaire loved using the image of a smashed glass to express exultant joy. People have often felt that disposing of the wine in a toast was really not sufficient: the cup should go too -- either broken or given away -- otherwise the words symbolized in drinking are not finalized, and the action is lacking in generosity. Smashing the glass also ensures that no less worthy toast shall ever be made in that glass.

-- Margaret Visser The Rituals of Dinner