Church key

Victoria Neufeldt vneufeldt at M-W.COM
Tue Apr 4 17:33:20 UTC 2000

It seems from this discussion that  "bottle openers" don't even exist
anymore, if people can confuse them with can openers, with reference to the
kind that punch a hole in the top of a can.  I haven't tried to buy a bottle
opener in years, but then I have two and of course they last forever.  What
I have always called a bottle opener is the tool with a broad flat rounded
end that has a hole in the middle and is (was) used exclusively to open
crimped caps on beer and soft-drink bottles.  In fact I still find it easier
to use a bottle opener than to try to twist the cap off by hand, so I'm
taking good care of my church keys (a term that I also remember from years
back; and I think of it as referring only to the implement I described
above -- its business end does have the general shape of the handle of a

Merriam-Webster, Inc. P.O. Box 281
Springfield, MA 01102
Tel: 413-734-3134  ext 124
Fax: 413-827-7262

> -----Original Message-----
> > Ok, we've pretty much established that it isn't regional (and many of
> > us are too old...).  But what is that opener called, then?  A bottle
> > opener?
> >
> > Rima
> My family just calls it a can opener.  Nothing to distinguish it from
> the other kind of can opener.  But by the time I was growing up, you
> didn't use that kind of opener for beers (well, you could use it to take
> the top off a bottled beer, but other kinds of bottle openers were
> preferred).  We mostly used them for opening those big cans of juice or
> for condensed milk.  So the humor of 'church key' was dead by then.
> (I did learn church key later, but I don't remember where, and it never
> made it to my active vocab.)
> Lynne

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