Posted by Lewis on October 15, 2004
In Reply to: Cracked open a bottle posted by Lotg on October 15, 2004
: It's almost 1.30pm on Friday here and I just told a friend that the sun's now over the yardarm, so I just cracked open a bottle and am now supping my wine.
: Given we usually either uncork, or these days shudder to say, unscrew wine bottles, or even uncap beer bottles or whatever - how did the term 'crack a bottle' open start. I can't imagine that it would ever be desirable to crack a bottle open, given it would leave shards of glass or even pottery if that's what the bottle was once made of. So I'm wondering why that term ever came about.
cracking open is usually a reference to bottles of wine.
if a receptacle is stoppered and sealed, then it may well be necessary to "crack" it open - these days, few people decant their drinks, but that was fairly normal 100 years ago in places of "quality". decanting removes both sediment and shards, so cracking the bottle would not be the danger it sounds.
I think wax was often used to seal bottles after the cork had been inserted. we don't get many 'corked' bottles these days and corks are more often an inert plastic than true cork, so there is little chance of bad reactions occurring in the bottle. if a cork had deteriorated, and a corkscrew more likely to fragment the cork, cracking the neck of the bottle would be a way to avoid waste.
I can't recall when corkscrews were invented - anybody know?
of course, cracking open could refer to barrels of beer - when people get carried away, they often 'breached' the barrel rather than used a spigot/tap. Vikings etc do it in the movies all the time - they must have had very active coopers!
you could say breaching a barrel is like cracking it open, but I haven't heard the expression used about beer unless it has been bottled and because bottling beer is a later process than serving it from barrels, wouldn't exprect beer to be the originator of the phrase.