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Teetotalism refers to either the practice of or the promotion of complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler (also spelled teetotaller; plural teetotalers or teetotallers) or is simply said to be teetotal. The teetotalism movement was first started in Preston, England in the early 19th century.
Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are psychological, religious, health, medical, familial, philosophical, and social, or sometimes it is simply a matter of taste or preference. When at drinking establishments, teetotalers either abstain from drinking completely, or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee and mocktails.
Contemporary and colloquial usage has somewhat expanded teetotalism to include strict abstinence from most recreational intoxicants (legal and illegal). Most teetotaler organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.
One anecdote attributes the origin of the word to a meeting of the Preston Temperance Society in 1833. This society was founded by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author of The Pledge: "We agree to abstain from all liquors of an intoxicating quality whether ale, porter, wine or ardent spirits, except as medicine." The story attributes the word to Dicky Turner, a member of the society, who in a speech said "I’ll be reet down out-and-out t-t-total for ever and ever".
An alternative explanation is that teetotal is simply a duplication of the first 'T' in total (T-total). It is said that as early as 1827 in some Temperance Societies signing a 'T' after one's name signified one's pledge for total abstinence. In England in the 1830s, when the word first entered the lexicon, it was also used in other contexts as an emphasized form of total; a comparable American English locution would be "total with a capital T" (an instance of the "[word] with a capital [word-initial letter]" snowclone). In this context, the word is still used, predominantly in the southern United States.
A common misspelling is "tea totaler", implying that the "person prefers to drink tea instead of alcoholic beverages".
Numerous idioms and slang terms imply abstinence from alcohol. A common American term is "on the (water) wagon", which frequently means those who have had a problem with alcohol, as well as the terms "dry" and "sober". "Straight edge" is a newer idiom for abstaining from alcohol and other intoxicants, referring to a sub-culture born within hardcore punk that promotes abstinence from promiscuous sex, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. "Temperance" was a more popular term in the 19th century and early 20th century when temperance unions throughout the US battled consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Notable teetotalers 
Islam, some sects of Buddhism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Seventh-day Adventist Church, Amish, Old Order Mennonites, Conservative Mennonites, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Sikhism and the Salvation Army are notable religious groups that require adherents to abstain from alcohol. Members are also required to refrain from selling such products.
See also