Yesterday’s post about F.X. Matt rolling out a 32-ounce growler raises the oft-asked question: Where did the phrase rush the growler come from?
The World Wide Words website provides a nice overview, but doesn’t really settle the matter of the origin of the word growler. It does trace usage back into the 1880s, and quotes from an article in Harper’s Magazine in July 1893:
“In New York a can brought in filled with beer at a bar-room is called a growler, and the act of sending this can from the private house to the public-house and back is called working the growler.” The job of rushing the growler was often given to children.
World Wide Words correctly concludes that you can’t really prove or disprove what the true origin of the word might be. Two possibilities:
- Jonathon Green, in the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, suggests that the word might have referred to the growling noise the full can made as it was pushed across the bar.
- An early reference, in the Trenton Times for 20 June 1883 said “It is called the growler because it provokes so much trouble in the scramble after beer.”
When in doubt, it always seems safe to lean on Dave “Beer Dave” Gausepohl, who wrote in All About Beer Magazine:
The term “growler” originated as a result of children handling beer. The father or grandfather of the household would usually send the kid down to fetch a fresh pail of beer. If the child was not careful and splashed the beer out of the bucket, the old man was said to “growl.”
Ah, the good old days.