You’ve no doubt heard of Episcopalians. But have you heard of Whiskeypalians?
A saying goes that where you find four Episcopalians, you’re sure to find a fifth about as well. That’s “fifth” as in a fifth of liquor, not a fifth Episcopalian!
The two entries below for Whiskeypalian (also spelled Whiskypalian) and where you find four Episcopalians, you’ll find a fifth show that the Episcopal denomination has long been associated with an indulgent attitude toward the consumption of intoxicating beverages. If you thought the Roman Catholics were the only Christian denomination to be teased about excessive drinking, think again!
One of the interesting things about these Christianese expressions is that even the Episcopalians (and other mainline denominations) use them, even in reference to themselves.
The saying “where you find four [insert denomination here], you’ll find a fifth” is most commonly used in reference to Episcopalians, but as you can see from the supporting quotes, the saying is also used in reference to Lutherans, Presbyterians, and pretty much any mainline denomination you can think of. In fact, look closely at the quotations for 1989 and 2010 and you’ll observe that this saying is even used in reference to Baptists, a denomination typically associated with abstinence from alcohol!
Read on for the full definitions of these terms as well as a plethora of illustrative quotations.
Whiskeypalian n. Also: Whiskypalian; e-whiskey-palian. [whisk(e)y + Episcopalian] or [Episcopalian + whisk(e)y + Episcopalian] A playful but potentially offensive nickname for an Episcopalian. The pun references the supposed permissive attitude toward alcohol among Episcopalians. The term is used by Episcopalians as well as by other Christians.
See also *fifth.
• 1900 Goodlander Memoirs and Recollections of C.W. Goodlander of the Early Days of Fort Scott: From April 29, 1858, to January 1, 1870 29,30 : We met in the old land office building, and as we came out we met Salmon P. Hall sitting on the steps of the land office. He said: “Boys, been having a game?” “No,” said Willis Ransom, “We have just organized an Episcopal church and us five are vestrymen.” Hall said: “You are a hell of a set to start a church; you are better suited to run a saloon or variety show!” … I suppose owing to the character of the first vestry, Joe Ray and Jack White used to call it the “Whiskeypalian church.” 1916 Anti-Saloon League of America, National Convention Proceedings 136 : At that hearing a chaplain in the navy, another Episcopal minister, appeared on the side of the brewers. The burden of the remarks of this Whisky-palian was that Prohibition does not prohibit. The next morning, the newspapers throughout the country had this chaplain’s remarks in full and the natural inference was that the Episcopal church was solid both against Prohibition and the right of the citizens to deal directly with the liquor traffic. 1941 Mag. of Albemarle County History IV. 30 : Now in those outwardly tranquil days there was beneath the surface but seldom if ever acknowledged, a friendly, yet none the less, severe, rivalry between the two congregations, Robb White’s somewhat scandalous Whiskey-palians, who sometimes played six-handed euchre and in extreme instances countenanced “round dancing,” and Rev. Dr. Petrie’s more sedate flock who ostentatiously refrained from these flagrant vices. 1965 Presbyterian Outlook CXLVII. 9 : A good Episcopalian (we do not mean a “Whiskeypalian” but a sincere from-the-heart-out member of that church) takes comfort, even when he takes no pride, in belonging to a church with the apostolic succession. 1979 The Christian Moral Vision VI. 71 : Friend and foe alike have tirelessly repeated witticisms about “whiskeypalians” and stale jokes like, “Wherever there are four Episcopalians, there is sure to be a fifth.” Episcopalians have taken a perverse pride in such remarks, which seemed to testify to the sophistication of the church and its freedom from petty moralism. 1979 Dillard Coming Hither—Going Hence: A Memoir of Herbert Nash Dillard, 1913–1976: A Biography 39 : She was funny and flighty, tender and loving. Two anecdotes about her still make the rounds in Rocky Mount. Being a true “Whiskeypalian,” Big Mama loved her toddy every night. 1985 Bennett, Ames The American Experience with Alcohol: Contrasting Cultural Perspectives 413 : Jokes such as “whenever you see four Episcopalians, you see a fifth” and designations such as “whiskypalians” were frequently noted as signs of a heavy-drinking notoriety among Episcopalians. 1988 Thompson The Church, the South, and the Future 11 : The Episcopalians, … with aristocratic insouciance, indulge in such pagan customs as drinking. For this reason, they are frequently called “Whiskeypalians.” 1993 Taylor Ordinary Miracles: Life in a Small Church 37 : “Whiskeypalian” was an epithet heard all too often of Episcopal rectors. 1998 Delffs The Martyr’s Chapel 16 : “Fix you a drink while we wait, Padre?” asked Cale, opening an armoire bar. “No, thank you,” I replied. “What? A whiskey-palian who doesn’t drink? Surely not.” “Are you always this offensive to strangers, or can I attribute this to the late hour and unusual circumstances?” I asked calmly. “Just a little joke, Father Reed. Forgive my familiarity.” 2001 Boles Autobiographical Reflections on Southern Religious History 149 : I grew up an Episcopalian in upper East Tennessee…. True, other southerners sometimes call my people “whiskey-palians,” referring to our noncompliance with the Eleventh Commandment of Evangelical Protestantism. 2008 Quinn The Boomerang Kid 000 : “What religion were you brought up in?” Kai asked him. “Episcopalian,” Matt replied then added, “Whiskey-palian. My parents believed the golf course was a spiritual place on Sunday mornings. They took Communion at the nineteenth hole. 2012 Richard House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer’s Journey Home 78 : The church smells good, old wood, fresh starch, and the cologne and expensive perfume of the Whiskeypalians, as some of the Baptists call them. 2013 Chrzan Alcohol: Social Drinking in Cultural Context 82 : I was offered the Southern staple “sweet tea” while visiting with working-class South Carolinians, but offered alcohol when spending time with the wealthy. The latter were far more likely to be Episcopalians as well (a denomination often called “Whiskeypalians” in the South).
fifth n. See run-on entry below.
¶ where there are four Episcopalians, there is bound to be a fifth Also four Lutherans; four Presbyterians; four Baptists etc. [in loose allusion to Matthew 18:20; fifth is a pun on fifth ‘a measure of alcohol equal to one-fifth of a gallon’] A humorous catchphrase that alludes to the common habit of social drinking in some mainline denominations.
• 1969 The Impact of Alcoholism: Hearings, Ninety-First Congress, July 23–25, 1969 XI.–XII. 76 : “Where there are four Episcopalians there is always a fifth present.” “That applies to Methodists, too whether I admit it or not.” 1979 The Christian Moral Vision VI. 71 : Friend and foe alike have tirelessly repeated witticisms about “whiskeypalians” and stale jokes like, “Wherever there are four Episcopalians, there is sure to be a fifth.” Episcopalians have taken a perverse pride in such remarks, which seemed to testify to the sophistication of the church and its freedom from petty moralism. 1985 Bennett, Ames The American Experience with Alcohol: Contrasting Cultural Perspectives 413 : Jokes such as “whenever you see four Episcopalians, you see a fifth” and designations such as “whiskypalians” were frequently noted as signs of a heavy-drinking notoriety among Episcopalians. 1989 Black Handy as Hip Pockets on a Hog: The Colorful Language of the American Southwest 65 : Quips at the expense of the South’s largest church about … its hypocrisy about abstention (“Where there’s four Baptists, there’s usually a fifth”) are most often told by members of that denomination themselves. 1992 Williams Just as I Am: A Practical Guide to Being Out, Proud, and Christian 143 : Episcopalians are sometimes called “whiskeypalians,” or Matthew 18:20 is paraphrased, “Where three or four Episcopalians are gathered, you’ll find a fifth.” 1994 American Wood-Preserver’s Association Annual Meeting, Proceedings LXXXX. 11 : I’m a Presbyterian. That’s a Baptist who started drinking. I can’t afford to be an Episcopalian. You find four Episcopalians, you’re sure to find a fifth. I’ll tell you that. 1996 Buescher Religious Humor: 409 Bits of Humor for Preachers, Teachers, and Public Speakers 42 : Wherever you find four Lutherans, you’ll find a fifth. 1999 Newberger The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nuture of Male Character 240 : The ubiquity of drinking is expressed in such folk humor as “Wherever four Episcopalians are gathered, there is sure to be a fifth.” 2001 Reed How to Survive Being a Presbyterian! A Merry Manual Celebrating the Funny Foibles of the Frozen Chosen 179 : Episcopalians are Catholics Lite, who have one-third less guilt, and call themselves “Whiskeypalians” because they say that when four of them get together there’s always a fifth. 2002 Mills Light for the Orphans: Poems 27 : I’m a whiskey-palian. That’s the kind where if there’s three or four of them together, you will usually find a fifth. 2002 Pipher The Middle of Everywhere: The World’s Refugees Come to Our Town 6 : Wherever four Lutherans are gathered there is always a fifth. 2003 Mansfield The Faith of George W. Bush: Bush’s Spiritual Journey and How It Shapes His Administration 66 : Jones liked to joke that he was “raised Episcopalian, and where you find four Episcopalians you’ll usually find a fifth.” 2003 Harris On the Questions of Jesus 400 : [There is] a certain denomination where it is said, “Where two or three are gathered, there’ll be a fifth.” 2004 Robertson Religion and Alcohol: Sobering Thoughts 4 : My denomination is viewed by other Christian groups as especially lenient when it comes to alcohol. So goes the old joke, “Whenever there are four Episcopalians in a room, you’re sure to find a fifth!” 2008 Graham Final Solution 166 : Well, I am a Whiskeypalian, you know. And wherever three or four Episcopalians are gathered together, there’s bound to be a fifth. 2009 Crouse Temp Tales: A Survival Guide 61 : After all, I was an Episcopalian, and wherever you find four Episcopal priests you find a fifth. 2009 Smith A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church 185 : There was another notorious expression popular at Sewanee, infamous for its drinking culture: “Where you find four Episcopalians, you will find a fifth.” 2009 Gutcheon Good-bye and Amen 143 : I mean it’s an old joke: where two or three Episcopalians are gathered in His name, there’s bound to be a fifth. 2010 Byrd, ed. Lone Star Noir 000 : Just like the television comics said, “Wherever you find four Baptists, you’ll always find a fifth.” 2011 Kyger There Will Be a Highway There 114 : They always said, “Wherever you can find four Presbyterians you are bound to find a fifth!”