[Ads-l] Antedating (?) BYOB and BYOL and BYOS

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 20 02:06:53 UTC 2018

BYOL and BYOB both came into wide use after passage of the 18th Amendment in 1919.

Widely reported news items, beginning in late-1919, discuss the fact that it is a new addition to (or replacement of) R. S. V. P. to invitations to parties in New York City.

Princeton Daily Clarion (Princeton, Indiana), December 15, 1919, page 2.
"Many New York invitations bear this corner inscription: B. Y. O. L. Bring your own liquor."

BYOB appears as early as July 1920, usually defined as bring your own booze, instead of beverage.

The Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota), July 30, 1920.
"What Does B. Y. O. B. Mean?  On the bottom of the sheet announcing the coming meeting of the Minnesota State Bar association, off in an inconspicuous corner is the legend: 'P. S. - B. Y. O. B.'  Now what we want to know is whether that means 'Bring Your Own Books' or 'Bring Your Own Basket,' or 'Bring Your Own Boo-- we haven't the heart to say that, knowing the freeness with which the surpetitious flagon flows in the Saintly City. - Daily Virginian."

BYOL appears to have been most common, but a widely reported controversy about invitations to a government/military function in Washington DC in 1924 involved BYOB.  That same week, there was a similar controversy involving invitations for the national convention of the Associated Harvard Clubs of the World in Detroit, involving the initials, "O, B. Y. O.", which the reporter interpreted as "Oh, bring your own." There were also occasional uses of B. Y. O. H. (bring your own hooch).  My favorite one, however, was a humor piece about imagined Hollywood orgies that used "B. Y. O. H. N" - "bring your own hypodermic needles" - liquor was plentiful in Hollywood (they said), but drugs were harder to come by.

A few years earlier, there were several reports of the use of "B. Y. O. S." for "bring your own sugar."  The earliest example dates to 1917, and relates to sugar rationing in England during World War I.  There are several more examples of B. Y. O. S. in the US in 1918 and 1919, after the US entered the war.  A few of those references refer to Herbert Hoover, who led the United States Food Administration and encouraged rationing.

Santa Ana Register (California), September 17, 1918, page 5.
"At noon a Hooverized Hoover luncheon will be served.  B. Y. O. S. (bring your own sugar) and notify hostess by Thursday."

I have found one, isolated instance of "B. Y. O. L.", with apparently the same meaning, from 1916, in Montgomery, Alabama.  It is not explicitly defined, and there is no suggestion that it is a custom to write it on invitations yet, but the context suggests that they intend it to be understood as "bring your own liquor."  In a poem about an upcoming picnic of the Montgomery Cotton Exchange uses it three times.  Here is a representative stanza:

Montgomery Advertiser, May 14, 1916, page 3.

"A silent wink, a secret sigh,
Gives entrance to much pleasure.
Watch, friends, initiates align
In bringing on their treasure
Which lendeth cheer and addeth tone;
Thus, you bring too, some of your own,
As else, perhaps, you find it - 'fudge!'
That you forget - B. Y. O. L."

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

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