"In water there is bacteria"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sun Sep 18 15:25:04 UTC 2011

How much of the following did Ben Franklin really say?

In wine there is wisdom,
In beer there is freedom,
In water there is bacteria.

The OED dates "bacterium" to the late 1840s.  (This can probably be
brought back to the 1830s -- Pritchard, "The Natural History of
Animalcules", 1834), but Google Books is particularly infected here
with journals and other misdatings.)

And Franklin praised as well as drank water.  From his Autobiography:

In Boston as an apprentice, his "light repast, ... was often no more
than a biscuit, or a slice of bread and a handful of raisins, a tart
from the pastry cook's, and a glass of water".

While aboard a boat on the way to Philadelphia, "In the evening I
found myself very feverish, and went to bed: but having read
somewhere that cold water drank plentifully was good for a fever, I
followed the prescription ; and sweat plentifully most of the night:
my fever left me, ..."

Upon arrival in Philadelphia, he "went for a draught of the river
water".  (And survived.)

As an apprentice in London, he "drank only water; the other workmen,
near fifty in number, were great drinkers of beer."  The other
workers "wondered to see ... that the Water-American as they called
me, was stronger than themselves who drank strong beer!"  He could
not convince a companion that he could gain more strength at less
cost from the grain in bread.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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