La tournée de l’archevêque

From Guy de Maupassant’s Mon Oncle Sosthene in his collection Les Soeurs Rondoli. I much appreciate how many drinking idioms I’ve learned from his stories – even if, as here, I often can’t find that they’re anything but a phrase of his own invention.

À six heures on se mit à table. À dix heures on mangeait encore et nous avions bu, à cinq, dix huit bouteilles de vin fin, plus quatre de champagne. Alors mon oncle proposa ce qu’il appelait la « tournée de l’archevêque ». On plaçait en ligne, devant soi, six petits verres qu’on remplissait avec des liqueurs différentes ; puis il les fallait vider coup sur coup pendant qu’un des assistants comptait jusqu’à vingt. C’était stupide ; mais mon oncle Sosthène trouvait cela « de circonstance ».

At six we sat down at the table. At ten we were still eating and we had drunk – between the five of us – eighteen bottles of wine and four more of champagne. Then my uncle proposed what he termed the ‘ tournée de l’archevêque.’ You were to place in a row in front of you six small glasses that you then filled with different liqueurs; then you had to empty them one after the other while one of the attendees counted to twenty. It was stupid but my uncle Sosthenes found it ‘in the spirit’.

I want to say ‘tournée de l’archevêque’ is a pun – building ‘the archbishop’s round (of drinks)’ off a more technical term for an archbishop’s itinerary of visits around his diocese (or whatever his province is termed) – ‘the archbishop’s tour.’

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