Frequent commenter Zythophile is an expert on (and fan of) beer, as his nom de blog implies (Wikipedia: “The word zythos is a Greek version of an Egyptian word for beer”), and his website is a must-read for anyone interested in the history and arcana of that delicious beverage. His latest post begins with the mystery of “a pub in the small market town of Baldock called the Pretty Shades” (it turns out that shades is, to quote the OED, “a name for wine and beer vaults with a drinking-bar, either underground or sheltered from the sun by an arcade”) and goes on to an exhaustive catalog and explication of the various terms for the parts of a traditional British drinking establishment; it includes a 1960 “glossary of bars” (divided into “Southern Usage” and “Northern Usage”) and has glorious illustrations. Many thanks to AJP for linking it in this thread.


  1. I was wondering, the bit at the beginning,

    the Oxford English Dictionary confirms that “the Shades” was “originally, a name for wine and beer vaults with a drinking-bar, either underground or sheltered from the sun by an arcade. Hence subsequently used, both in England and in the US, as a name for a retail liquor shop, or a drinking-bar attached to a hotel.”

    I’d never heard that name in England, does anyone know of a “shades” in N. America?

  2. From Elliott West, The Saloon on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier (1996), p. 88 (which also has a nice photo of Crapper Jack’s Dance Hall and Saloon in Cripple Creek, Colorado): “‘No bummers or ladies of doubtful fame’ were admitted to the fancy dress ball in the Shades Saloon of Virginia City in 1864, and its owner promised the strictest propriety would be maintained.”
    From Gerald Carson, The Social History of Bourbon (2010), p. 106: “And in Butte, Montana, when Molly Demurska, queen of the underworld, took the town marshal, Jack Jolly, to have and to hold, the knot was tied in the Clipper Shades Saloon, after which the happy pair were drawn through the streets on the town fire engine.”
    And to visit the more northern realm of North America, from The Local Courts’ and Municipal Gazette, Vol. 4 (1868), p. 106: “the applicant kept a saloon in Guelph by the name of ‘The Shades Saloon,’ and in his yearly application for license to keep such saloon named his house as ‘The Shades Saloon’…”

  3. I think the very fact that the origin of the name of that Baldock pub (which doesn’t appear to exist any more) should have been considered a “mystery” is proof enough that the word — as “a name for wine and beer vaults with a drinking-bar, either underground or sheltered from the sun by an arcade” — is thoroughly dead in British English, and has been so since even long before the advent of the Beatles.

  4. John Emerson says

    Oddly, the word “tavern” is used but not defined, and seemingly is the umbrella word for all the others.
    I’m pretty sure that for Americans of my generation (b. 1946) and younger, “saloon” is heavily associated with cowboy movies and means fancy places with gambling, ladies of ill repute, and shootouts.

  5. John Emerson says

    For the record, “tavern” came into English very early (1300 they say) from French and before that, Latin.

  6. John Emerson says

    And saloons always have spittoons, for the rhyme.

  7. My daughter has just acquired a puppy she’s named Jack, so I like “Jack Jolly”, though “Crapper Jack” works well too.
    ‘No bummers or ladies of doubtful fame’ were admitted
    It’s quite remarkable how claiming to exclude people who are dying to get in has been such a popular strategy. Nowadays nightclubs have the doorman and velvet rope and “the VIP room”, and it’s almost exactly the same as the old “Private Bar” and “Snug” with the additional impediment-slash-advertisement of making the punters queue up outside.
    The English system of segregated bars that fan out from a barman, he or she who serves everyone from a point at the centre, the typical pub layout of old, is Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon principle.

  8. J.W. Brewer says

    I don’t want to overgeneralize from a limited sample size, but the two old-fashioned used-to-be-men-only private clubs in Manhattan with which I happen to be personally most familiar (the Yale Club and the N.Y. Athletic Club) both have something called the “Tap Room” which is a dining/drinking space that’s less formal than the club’s more formal dining room but still not for the riff-raff off the streets. is the Yale Club’s, which is actually less pub-like than the same establishment’s Grill Room. The one at the NYAC is more pub-like, but probably would place toward the high end in the British hierarchy
    Other similar establishments likewise have “tap rooms” according to google (e.g. the University Club), but I haven’t done enough research to know how much of a standard feature it is.

  9. Where I grew up the pubs were owned by the government i.e. on both sides of the border around the head of the Solway Firth. It was the remnant of a WWI attempt to stop the mainly Irish labour in the munitions works being permanently drunk. They weren’t denationalised until the 70s.
    They didn’t constitute much of an advert for government ownership of businesses, though an associated government-owned canteen served an acceptable pie-peas-and-chips lunch. Acceptable, that is to say, if you didn’t plan to eat there more than a few times in your life: like McDonald’s, I suppose.

  10. Does Zythophile know that the Latinized form zythum is the very last word in the 2126 pages of the Oxford Latin Dictionary? If you combine it with the very first word, you get an appropriate phrase: A! zythum! (“Ah! beer!”).

  11. LH, many thanks indeed for the link: a Hattic link is even better and more prestigious than a gold tankard from the Guild of British Beer Writers. And thanks, too, for the North American “shades” references.
    Dearieme, the names of the bars in the Carlisle State Management Scheme pubs were apparently “First Class”, the equivalent to “saloon bar”, and “Second Class”, the equivalent to “public bar”. They came in three shades, varieties or flavours, “men’s”, “women’s” and “mixed”.
    Michael – no, I didn’t know that. “Zythos” survives in modern Greek only in the word for “brewery”, ζυθοποιία. “Beer”, of course, is the international μπύρα.

  12. John Emerson says

    Apparently Greek spells “b” as “mp”. That makes sense when you think of it but I never would have thought of it. (Wade-Giles Chinese transliteration spells “b” as “p” and “p” as ” p’ “.)

  13. John Emerson says

    Wiktionary includes ζύθος as a synonym.

  14. Trond Engen says

    Is it certain that Greek ζύθος is a loan from Egyptian? If it’s borrowed from an IE language with z- &lt *g’h- — Thracian or Phrygian — it looks to me like it could be derived from PIE gh’ewH-tós– “(that which is) poured out”, and thus a possible cognate of ‘God’.

  15. Trond Engen says

    There was supposed to be a question mark after “Thracian or Phrygian”. Now that I forgot it, I might add that the English Wikipedia article on Thracian indicates that *g’h- &gt z- is fairly certain there. There’s little evidence in Phrygian, but the name of the earth godess Zemelo is suggestive.

  16. Trond Engen says

    Since I’m doing this discussion all by myself, I may also add that I wonder if the Egyption source is nothing but old surmisery. Hat’s Wikipedia link to Egyptian zythos does not give the Egyptian word. The two sources of the entry (as of today) are works on the language of the Talmud, and I suppose they too attribute the word to Egyptian without any more detail. Hebrew sisni is hardly even a lookalike and can’t throw any light on Greek without the presumed Egyptian word.
    I suggested a loan from a neighbouring IE language, but it could be even simpler: EtymOnline (under Beer) mentions zýthos and says it could be related to Gk. zyme (and thus from the same root as e.g. Lat. iu:s, Eng. yeast, Scand. ost “cheese” and Slav. júxa “soup” — providing these are from one and not two roots).

  17. Don’t worry, Trond. I’m here too.

  18. Trond Engen says

    Ssh! Hat’s finally got peace.

  19. Ginger Yellow says

    There’s a pub called Woodin’s Shades opposite Liverpool Street station in London.

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