Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Episode 153: In Vino Veritas Show Notes

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast

Episode 153: In Vino Veritas

Record Date: April 10, 2022

Air Date: April 13, 2022



Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh


And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook

Most people keep a good deal of their thoughts throughout the day to themselves. They also hide bigger thoughts, feelings… secrets… from those around them. However, many individuals tend to share just a bit more freely after having a few alcoholic beverages… for as they say, 

In Vino Veritas. 


In Vino Veritas is a Latin phrase. The individual words in English are: In, In - Vino, Wine and - Veritas, Truth. For English-speakers this is typically translated to In Wine There Is Truth

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase In Vino Veritas, is a borrowing from Latin that means


Truth comes out under the influence of alcohol; a drunken person tells the truth. 

End Quote 

This is a pretty consistent definition, though it also is often used as an expansive concept of truth-sharing. It sometimes is used as a way to say that a person is revealing character traits, opinions, beliefs, desires, etc. This would go beyond merely not lying in the moment or sharing a secret that has previously been kept.

The phrase is sometimes paired with a rejoinder “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas”: “In wine there is truth, in water health.” This is a fun add-on, though it is not the most common usage by any means. 

Alright, but who started it? 

The phrase has a very rich history. And by that, I mean that it has a plethora of origin stories. Here are some highlights. 

Who are the world’s deep thinkers? Those who gave us philosophy, provided generations with ancient knowledge? What names come to mind for you? 

Perhaps Plato, Socrates, Confucius, Erasmus, Pliny the Elder, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin? 

We are going way, way back in time… 

The Histories of Herodotus is considered the founding work of history in Western literature. The works were written in 430 BCE in classical Greek.


The day which every man values most is his own birthday. On this day, he thinks it right to serve a more abundant meal than on other days: oxen or horses or camels or asses, roasted whole in ovens, are set before the rich; the poorer serve the lesser kinds of cattle. [2] Their courses are few, the dainties that follow many, and not all served together. This is why the Persians say of Greeks that they rise from table still hungry, because not much dessert is set before them: were this too given to Greeks (the Persians say) they would never stop eating. [3] They are very partial to wine. No one may vomit or urinate in another's presence: this is prohibited among them. Moreover, it is their custom to deliberate about the gravest matters when they are drunk; [4] and what they approve in their deliberations is proposed to them the next day, when they are sober, by the master of the house where they deliberate; and if, being sober, they still approve it, they act on it, but if not, they drop it. And if they have deliberated about a matter when sober, they decide upon it when they are drunk.

End Quote 

Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia from about the year 77CE has an something similar to the phrase 


olgoque veritas iam attributa vino est

End Quote

This translates essentially to 

and the truth is already ascribed to wine

But we have to remember the difference between Modern, Middle, and Old English. This is just sort of close. 

We have to jump pretty far forward for the next one… to 1506. This was the earliest attestation I was able to find in print as opposed to a printing of an older story. That being said, it is in the style of those ancient teachers. 

The book Four Dialogues Made in Imitation of the Ancients, By Orasius Tubero via Francois de La-Mothe Le-Vayer was published in 1506. It contains this excerpt,


Car c’est, dit-il,

la plus certaine,

& la plus innocente preuue qu’on peut pretédre des mæurs d’vn homme,

que de le mettre en cet estat-là,

puis que,

suiuant le proverbe, in vino veristas

End Quote 

A close translation follows


Because it is, he says,

most certain,

and the most innocent proof that can be given of the morals of a man,

than to put it in this state,


following the proverb, 

in vino veristas

End Quote 

And then we have 

A Collection of Old Adages by Desiderius Erasmus. This is from 1510.


vinum em cuiuseµ ingeniu arguit Alcibiades in Symposio Platonis. 

End Quote

Which translates to basically, 

wine proves his genius Alcibiades in Plato's Symposium. 

The English rogue: described, in the life of Meriton Latroon By Richard Head, was published in 1665.


End Quote 

The Spirit of the French Refugees Manifested: Being an Apology in Favour of the English and French Proselytes, and Particularly, of John Baptist Denis. Shewing the Subject and the Just Reasons which Forced Him to Withdraw Himself from the Churches of the French Refugees in London, After Having Frequented Them for Upwards of Fourteen Years, Etc

By Jean Baptiste DENIS (Protestant Minister.) · 1722


End Quote 

Next we have the April 12, 1834 edition of the Alexandria gazette out of Alexandria, DC. 

Jackson County sentinel., May 05, 1921, from Gainesboro, Tennessee, shares the opposite that we’ve been hearing all these years. 


End Quote

In the Dickenson County herald. out of Clintwood, Virgina, March 23, 1950 edition, there is a short little section with the header,


End Quote

One story in the section reads,


End Quote 

Apparently, the proverb can help win a legal dispute? 

The November 08, 1953 edition of the Evening Star out of Washington, D.C. shared the story, One Man’s Miracle. Here is a snippet,


End Quote 

This begs the question… did the vino make him a liar or just mean?

Turns out, this phrase has been used this way - apparently since humans invented alcoholic beverages - perhaps this was the very first warning label… In Vino Veritas. Is this still how we’re using today? We’re going to find out.

But before we get to our modern uses we want to say thank you to our sponsors…

A Quick Thank You


This episode is sponsored by our amazing Patrons on Patreon.

You can help support this educational artform and get awesome perks along the way! Tiers start at $3 a month, which get you our polls and community-only discussions, early access to the podcast, and the behind the scenes video for each episode so you can watch along as we make the show. 

At $10 you’ll also get original digital artwork from Shauna once a month featuring exclusive art about an idiom or other turn of phrase. At $15, you’ll also get personal on-air recognition like Pat Rowe does every episode. And of course huge thanks goes to the top spot among our Patrons, our Dean of Learning, Mary Halsig-Lopez. Thank you so much to Mary and all of our patrons. 

If you want to help create Bunny Trails week after week, whatever your budget, we are bunnytrailspod on Patreon. 


Modern Uses

First let’s visit the 

Stage & Screen 

The 1993 movie Tombstone features Val Killmer as Doc Holliday. In the film, Doc has a number of excellent quotes, several from a single scene. During their very first meeting, Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday exchange unkind words, some even in Latin. This is the well-known saloon interaction that also includes the lines, 


“I’m your Huckleberry.” 


“Why Johnny Ringo, you look like somebody just walked over your grave.”

End Quote 

Doc states that he hates Ringo and Wyatt Earp comments that he’s drunk. But Doc replies,


In Vino Veritas

End Quote 

This begins a brief back-and-forth in Latin between Doc and Ringo, which escalates to Ringo showing off his fast pistol spinning skills… and finally dies down when Doc turns things into a joke by spinning his cup rather than a pistol of his own. 



Next up, we have Adrian von Ziegler, a Swiss composer from Zürich. Adrian creates Celtic Music, Emotional Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Music, Oriental Music, Fantasy Music, Movie Scores, Metal and many other genres. He gained popularity on YouTube where he has an impressive 1.06 million subscribers. Adrian posted the musical piece titled Medieval Music - In Vino Veritas on youtube on July 18, 2021. 

Adrian shared a little about this song in the description. Here is an excerpt.


I wanted to make a true Medieval tavern/party song, something that when you close your eyes and listen makes you feel like you're right there in the midst of the revelries of ye olde peasant folk after a hard day's work. I chose the instruments carefully, so that it really sounds like something that is played live, by 3 or 4 performers. The same care applies to the background sounds. In Vino Veritas is Latin and means "there is truth in wine". It refers to the blunt and unashamed honesty many people express when under the influence of alcohol.

-End quote

It’s a nice instrumental piece.. and it has a good balance of background sounds and voices along with the music… I can imagine this as D&D tavern music or at a Renaissance Faire. 

Port O'Brien released the song In Vino Veritas From the album All We Could Do Was Sing in 2008. This one seems almost as much about the video as it is the song. The video was directed by Joey Izzo using Super 8 film. It was filmed in Cambria, California at Nitt Witt Ridge. 

The first few lines of lyrics include 


Lost my mind and I spend my time

Down in the bottom of a bottle of wine

Left in the weather for days and days

Waiting for a plan to come and play

End Quote 

The last few lines of the song are


But don’t fear that I have nowhere to run to

And I can taste that my truths are bleeding lies

End Quote

and it finishes up with a series of no noooooo no nooooooo 



End Quote

April 5, 2022 Ariella posted the following on Twitter


End Quote 

In the World of Art 

In vino veritas? (with a question mark)

Is a collage by Louis Prud'homme out of Canada. This is a collage described as Wood on Wood. It is upcycled wine corks arranged to create an image of a wine glass… it’s pretty cool. There are prints available online as well as the original 

And my last modern example for today…. 

In Vino Veritas is the name of the official Harvard University Wine Club

Our purpose is to introduce interested members of the Harvard Law School community to the exciting world of wine at both formal and informal tastings.

No wine experience is required to have a great time in an informal environment with your fellow wine lovers! 

Wrap up...

So even Harvard agrees with me. Wine is the best. Just deal with it. But really, I’m of the opinion that as people have a few drinks and relax together, they become more comfortable. They relax their minds and bodies a little and we do lose some of our inhibitions. We feel more trusting, because we feel a little safer. Those are all wonderful things. Of course, we still have to be careful in life… so consider who you’ll be with and how much you might be drinking. Then maybe you won’t have to worry about the truth coming out… because you’ll be sharing with people you’d have told those same things to sober. Also… don’t do stuff you need to hide from your mates! Make good choices and we can keep this a positive phrase. Now say it with me….

In Vino Veritas! 



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, reach out to us on social media where we are @bunnytrailspod, or comment on our website


Poll time! 


In a recent poll with our Patrons, we said it was time to pick the Song of the Year... from 2000!

Here are the nominees…

  • I Want It That Way performed by Backstreet Boys

  • Livin' la Vida Loca performed by Ricky Martin

  • Smooth performed by Santana featuring Rob Thomas

  • Unpretty performed by TLC

  • You've Got a Way performed by Shania Twain

Showing our Patrons have a variety of tastes, there was somehow a 4-way tie for first place! Only Shania Twain’s You’ve Got a Way fell behind. It received none votes. Sorry Shania. 

Smooth won in 2000, but for this relitigation, we have to have a tie breaker. And since I’m the one reading, the winner is…

<pregnant pause>

Unpretty, by TLC.  <applause>

I listened to each of these songs again and Unpretty was just ahead of its time for being anti-bullying and anti-body shaming. Such a great song!


I agree with your thoughts on Unpretty - what a great song! I voted for Smooth… I remember our Jazz band all sitting around picking out the notes and getting that song on paper so we could perform our own version of it. I loved it!


If you want to join our polls, head over to where Patrons at all levels can participate in our weekly silly polls that mean absolutely nothing and aren’t even scientifically valid. But they are fun to talk about!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 


Words belong to their users

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