Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why I hate toasts

Toasts seem increasingly barbaric to me, a product of a pre-modern society. They are supposedly about praising a special guest or family member. But are they not more about control? Shades of Bentham's Auto-Icon. And is not the so-called toaster/praiser in fact praising himself? Listen carefully next time you hear a toast, I bet the toaster will cite values that reflect well on the toaster most of all.

Beware the toast, and beware the toaster. Don't let them toast you, if you can avoid it.

11 comments:

MikeK said...

Perhaps that would be true in America, but I'm familiar with the cultures of Russia and Georgia where toasting is obligatory and quite different.

Toasting there always involves the toast to everyone's health, and is always collectivist in nature, even when there is a specific honored person in the gathering (birthday, wedding, etc.).

In Georgia in particular, it is also common for some sort of story or anecdote to be told with the toast.

The "blessings", whatever they may be, are nearly always offered to "us", which perhaps fits your theory in that it includes the speaker, but it also invariably includes all other participants.

Omar said...

I agree with mikek. The problem with toasts in America is that people have lost the basic rules of the form. A toast is not supposed to celebrate a person or persons (say a married couple), it is supposed to recognize a value that everyone can celebrate. A proper toast should also have a saying (i.e. "to friendship") that everyone participating in the toast repeats. Our blessedly informal cultural has unfortunately forgotten the basic etiquette that makes a toast work.

Advocating for an end to toasts, however, is like arguing against the art of rhetoric because so many of our elected officials are inarticulate. Just because so many do it poorly doesn't mean it can't be done with heart and grace.

Tyler said...

Toasts, like all things, have their place. People usually don't give toasts in everyday situation. It seems as though Americans have problems speaking in public; this problem is compounded when its in front of a large group of peers. People tend to talk about things they know and they know themselves. Being a host, or any other position where you are likely to give a toast, puts one in a position of power.

Personally, I was best man at a good friends wedding a few years ago. I've never really cared for toasts. His situation compounded things as the marriage was due to an unexpected pregnancy and really just thrown together. It seemed best to spare him the trouble of hearing about himself in a group of his closest family and friends all of which understood the situation. I suppose I'm in the minority here, though.

DWPittelli said...

I agree and disagree. In general, toasts are what they were, short general sayings or jokes for all, preceding a drink. But the Best Man's Toast is quite different: a speech praising or roasting the groom, ideally ending with a toast of the former type. I did one recently, and blogged about it:

http://woodedpaths.blogspot.com/2007/06/best-mans-toast.html

Kent Guida said...

What Tyler says about toasts could also be said about eulogies.

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