Posted by ESC on March 04, 2000
In Reply to: Speakeasy posted by Margy on March 04, 2000
: I know a Speak Easy was a place where illegal alcohol could
be had, but what is the origin of the phrase
: speak easy.
SPEAKEASY - "Speakeasy, 1889, in the dry state of Kansas; sometimes shortened to 'speak' during Prohibition (of alcohol in the U.S.). The word may have come from the English underworld 'speak-softly shop' , a smuggler's home or place of business. Many Prohibition speakeasies were 'clubs,' some charged a 50 cent entrance or membership fee; some issued much-sought-after identification cards to their regulars, which would be flashed at the peephole or at the doorman; others were 'key clubs,' giving door keys to regular patrons. It was the first time many Americans talked about clubs, key clubs, identification cards, or even peepholes. If you weren't known, a simple 'Joe sent me' would often do. Some of the better 'clubs' became legitimate 'nightclubs' after Prohibition, or successful restaurants, such Sherman Billingsley's Stork Club and The 21." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).