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a debating tactic


if-by-whiskey = ein rhetorisches Argument, das beide Seiten einer kontroversen Frage vertritt und somit die Frage offen lässt



“In his ‘IF BY WHISKEY’ speech he also left behind an ever so colorful reminder that there’s two sides to every story.”

Teresa Blake - Journal Inc.

Did you


- an argument designed to be open to interpretation such that people with dramatically opposed views will find it appealing

- a political technique that attempts to champion both sides of a controversial issue


The term "if-by-whiskey" originated in a remarkable 1952 speech by Noah 'Soggy' Sweat, Jr., a politician in Mississippi. In the speech, he both intensely demonized alcohol consumption and at the same time glorified it.


On Friday, April 4, 1952, at only 28 years old, Noah 'Soggy' Sweat delivered his legendary “If by Whiskey” or “The Whiskey Speech” to a banquet room filled with statesmen and their wives at the old King Edward Hotel in Jackson, Mississippi:

“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 certainly I am 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 dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

Noah Sweat later recalled:

“When I finished the first half of the speech, there was a tremendous burst of applause. The second half of the speech, after the close of which, the wets all applauded. The drys were as unhappy with the second part of the speech as the wets were with the first half”.

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation today, say something like:

“The format of the ‘IF-BY-WHISKEY’ speech can be applied to any argument where a speaker wants to avoid taking a pro or contra stand."

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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