"If-by-whiskey" is an adjective used to describe a waffling position by a politician. In the New York Times Magazine, William Safire traced its origin through former U.S. Senator from Florida Richard B. Stone to Fuller Warren, who was governor of Florida from 1949 to 1953 . When he was running for the office, counties in the state were voting on their individual liquor laws. When Warren was asked if he supported the "wet" position or the "dry," he responded:
“If by whiskey you mean the water of life that cheers men’s souls, that smoothes out the tensions of the day, that gives gentle perspective to one’s view of life, then put my name on the list of the fervent wets.

But if by whiskey you mean the devil’s brew that rends families, destroys careers and ruins one’s ability to work, then count me in the ranks of the dries."

If true, this is quite contrary to the advice in Warren's own book, How To Win In Politics, where he favors candidates "taking a positive and unequisition on all pertinent issues." (Yes, I know it's probably supposed to be "unequivocal position," but the single source I have for the quote gives it as above.)

On the other hand, other sources have the text of a similar speech was given by Judge Noah "Soggy" Sweat Jr., a former Mississippi legislator, in 1952 during his last year in office:

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

If when you say whiskey, you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation and despair and shame and helplessness and hopelessness --- then I am certainly against it.

But if, when you say whiskey, you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy and his happiness and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies and heartaches and sorrows; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our pitiful aged and infirm, to build highways and hospitals and schools, then I certainly am for it.

This is my stand, and I will not compromise.

Although Sweat's speech does not use the exact phrase "if-by-whiskey," it's a lot better documented than Warren's remarks. (A lone site claims the origin of the phrase is with an unnamed Kentucky congressman.)


Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.