Food that has touched the mouth/lips of someone else

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Illuminatus, Jun 27, 2008.

  1. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Hello everyone,

    We have a word in almost all Indian languages (Jhootha, in Hindi), which is used to denote food (or drink) that has touched (directly or indirectly) someone's mouth.

    As far as I know, there is no specific word in English for expressing the same meaning.

    This concept is quite ingrained in Indians, at least. Most of us won't drink water out of a bottle which has touched someone else's mouth. Ditto with using same spoons or eating off a bowl.

    With family or close friends, this might be a bit relaxed, but otherwise it is quite rigid.

    I wanted to know whether anything of this sort exists in the Western World.

    Recently I saw a French person drinking water off a bottle with his lips enclosed around the top (something which makes the water Jhootha), and then offering it to me. Here, if we know that the bottle will be used by someone else, we hold the bottle slightly above the mouth, so that neither the lips nor the tongue make any contact (something which doesn't make the water Jhootha)
  2. mtmjr

    mtmjr Senior Member

    California/Ohio (US)
    English (US)
    I don't think there is a word for the concept to which you are referring. As far as other peoples' actions, I think it would depend on the culture, or more specifically, peoples' individual preferences.
  3. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Yeah, I basically wanted to know exactly that. What does your culture say about this?

    In hindsight, I feel it is better if a moderator shifted this thread to the Cultural Discussion sub-forum, thanks.
  4. mirx Banned

  5. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    In the Western world such restrictions do not exist - not to the extent that they do in India. At least to my best knowledge.

    Under normal circumstances many people would not drink from a bottle from which another person (a stranger) has drunk - there's just no reason why they should do so. But there are many occasions when this happens.

    For example in Austria (I don't know if this is exclusively Austrian or shared by some of our neighbours) there is the tradition of 'Doppelliter trinken' = drinking-beer-from-a-two-litre-mug. The mug really takes two litres, and the tradition is typical for rural Austria (villages and small towns).
    Usually when there's a reason to celebrate something - anything will do, really - someone may order a two-litre mug (and pay for it), and another one stands up and cries his or her thank-you-dear-payer and takes the first mouthful (of course with lips touching the mug - it would be all but impossible to drink from a two-litre mug the 'Indian way' without lips touching, especially if we are talking about beer), and then gives the mug to the next person who takes his or her turn to drink, and so on.
    So drinking-from-the-same-mug is, in a way, even a tradition here, even though many city-dwellers here in Austria might not approve this tradition.

    Also it is not unusual at all (even here in Vienna) for people to taste the drink of another one in certain circumstances - e. g. when you sit at a bar with a friend and your friend has ordered a Bloody Mary while you are drinking a Very Dry Martini: you may ask your friend for a mouthful of his or her drink with saying 'now what's this all about Bloody Mary, never ever drank one, is it really that good?', or your friend might say 'hellish drink this, you've got to take a mouthful' - or alternatively your friend might say 'there's something wrong with this drink, I think it is watered down, now take a mouthful and say for yourself, I think I'll complain to the waiter'.

    Or another scenario - at some festival anywhere, or in a disco, some drunken people (no down-and-outs, just normal people from the street, but already drunk heavily and being in the mood for a prank already) might pass by other people's drink and inconspicuously - or even not so inconspicuously at all - take one or two gulps, or gulp the drink down completely.
    This is not seen as polite or good-behaved at all, quite the contrary, and I never would recommend doing that under any circumstances,*) but it happens nevertheless and is rather considered bad behaviour than breaking a taboo.
    *) Well, I have to admit I've done it too, if I dig deep into my past.

    And so on.

    So it is not like it would be completely normal - at least here in Austria - to drink other people's drinks, but it happens and it isn't seen as a taboo at all.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2008
  6. ordira

    ordira Senior Member

    En el Valle de las Fortalezas
    Mexico - Spanish, English, Albures
  7. mirx Banned

  8. xqby

    xqby Senior Member

    Oxnard, CA
    English (U.S.)
    The only time it's really common in California to turn down someone else's food is when the other person has a communicable illness, such as a cold. And this is only because of the common sense aspect of avoiding germs, rather than any ingrained taboo.

    It's considered polite to hold water away from your lips when you drink, but I wouldn't really think twice about drinking from a bottle that someone else had slobbered on.

    The only other example I can think of is that if there is a communal dipping sauce such as guacamole for corn chips or marinara for breadsticks, it's mildly rude to dip your food using the end that you bit off of the previous time. But again, it's a rule of etiquette that isn't a big deal to break.

    Se puede traducir "borracho" a "drunken" si es un adjetivo. Aquí sería "drunks" o "drunkards."
  9. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member

    Another example is when people dip pieces of bread into a cheese fondue, could be disgusting it they do that.
  10. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    And to think that kissing as a form of expressing affection and sexual desire first appeared in India!

    Did you really mean 'a foreigner' (non-Austrian)?
  11. DiabloScott

    DiabloScott Senior Member

    USA English
    As far as a word for this: not quite the same, but someone may refuse sharing a bottle of drink with someone else and claim the liquid is "backwash" (includes saliva and germs from previous drinkers).
  12. WestSideGal

    WestSideGal Senior Member

    English, US
    Well, yes, Adolfo, that is true and what we here call "double-dipping", meaning you take something, dip it into a cheese spread or other saucy food, bite it off, then dip it back into the bowl. Definitely a no-no and considered impolite and unsanitary.

    We usually warn folks, "No Double-Dipping!!!!" at parties. :)
  13. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    The title of Illuminatus' thread seems to have gone unnoticed. (Perhaps he meant to write "touched", instead of "eaten".) I agree that drinking from the same cup as someone else, or eating from the same plate, or sharing utensils, may be done in Europe, when the people in question have a certain degree of familiarity. (And children are of course a special case.)

    However, eating what others have already eaten, or drinking what they've already drunk, is a whole different matter! Just in case some reader might wonder... ;)
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2008
  14. Wobby Senior Member

    English [England]
    I don't think there's any word to describe the idea, and one's reaction really depends on the individual. :)

    Friends after playing football or something may ask another for some water if they don't have their own, and wouldn't really hesitate about drinking from the same bottle that someone else has drunk from. That said, I probably would still, but then that's just me being obsessive... :p

    Using someone else's plate after they have eaten from it doesn't seem to be a problem unless it was something 'wet' like spaghetti. I know a few people (me included) that would begin drinking from the side of the cup where the handle is if they realise that someone else has drunk from their cup with or without their permission because it has the highest probably of being the side not drunken from!

    The not re-dipping the end of a breakstick/crisp etc. that you have bitten seems to be a pretty much unwritten rule too, but as mentioned earlier, it's not big enough a deal for someone to make a fuss over.
  15. sureño Banned

    In Argentina, we have a particular beverage called 'mate' (you can see the Mateamargo's avatar to get a rush idea what it is); The mate (amargo or dulce) is sucked from the same 'bombilla' for everyone in the meeting.
    Some people take care to clean it with hot water, but others don't.
    I know this mate habit, very popular in Uruguay and also Paraguay, is considered unygienic for many people, and a lot of foraigners are horrified. Not just because this weird beverage, but also because it's very easy burn your mouth if you drink it unaware.
  16. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    Thanks everybody for your replies.
    I wanted to quote many people, but it would be difficult, so I would just put in my replies:

    I wrongly phrased the putting lips around thing. I just meant touching with the lips.
    Also, I title should indeed have been - touched by someone else. Perhaps a moderator would oblige. Actually, even touched doesn't work, because just touching food doesn't make it Jhootha

    Also, I mentioned the French guy thing to show that probably, in France, it isn't a thing of concern. There was no drinking from a bottle a foreigner has used.

    Also, lovers can often be seen drinking from the same glass using two straws or even drinking it directly.

    That's it for now. I will add more later.

    Again, thanks all of you for your replies.
  17. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Sorry - certainly not, and thanks for the correction, I've edited my post above. I meant of course another person, someone you don't know - the John Doe on the street, that is in other words: a stranger.

    It was a loan translation, my 'foreigner' in this post, so German interference (in German 'Fremder' can mean both 'foreigner' and 'stranger').
  18. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Yes, of that I know too - and I too like to avoid possible 'touch-spots' of other people's lips on a cup.

    Apart from that some people also wipe a cup or mug or bottle after someone else has drunken from it, with their hands you know (right, doesn't sound too hygienic at all :D), but it is done and you may see it in public - e. g. on a construction site when workers share a beer (beer bottle or tin).

    By the way, Russians - it is said, especially Moscovites (Moscovians?) - allegedly like to share a bottle of wodka (or was it a half-bottle?) in their lunch break, and allegedly the most preferred number of people sharing one bottle should be three people, all of them (I suppose) drinking from the bottle with lips touching it: probably some Russians could confirm.

    Yes, I anticipated as much and was rather sure that you meant - above all - touching with the lips.

    In your posts it really looks like this is a very strong taboo in India - while in the Western world I don't think that there exists any taboo like that at all, which the posts above already seem to have confirmed.
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2008
  19. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish

    In Spain, when we are at a restaurant, for example, and we see that someone picks some food of another one, we guess that they are at last very closer friends. If one offers a bit of food in his fork or spoon, we know thay they a couple or very close familiars.

    Some young couples can share a sweet or even a chewing gum, and I've seen mother licking theirs children dummi in order to clean it, before giving it to him.

    For sharing a sandwhich or a bottle of water, that deppends on the circumstnces (more formal or informal), the relationship between the people and their personal preferences. Here, it is possible that a friend of you feels a little bit upset if he offers you a sandwich and you don't bit directly but cut a small piece, or if you clean the top of the bottle that touched his mouth. He may say you that he is not ill, or think that he is revolting to you, or not as friends as he thoght, etc. However, if we see a bitten (by a stranger) sandwich or piece of cake, most people will refuse to eat it.
  20. No_C_Nada Senior Member

    Castillian - Perú
    There is also a drink in the Amazon region of Perú. It is made by chewing the leaves of a certain plant (I don't know the name), and after it's done, this beverage is passed around for everybody to drink. If you refuse to drink it, you are refusing the hospitality of the natives.

  21. MadrigalTriste

    MadrigalTriste Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    English (Canada), Spanish (Argentina)
    In Argentina we "share germs" all the time. As daily drinkers of "mate" (a tea that is sipped through a straw and passed around a circle), we are accustomed to sharing drinks and even food with other people. I have never gotten any diseases from it either.

    Wiping the "mate" straw before drinking from it after it has been passed to you will seem rude, and wiping it for the next person after you use it yourself will seem excessive.

    If you are hanging out with people and you take out a sandwich, you'll be expected to offer EVERYONE a bite. If you do not offer what you're eating, it will seem rude. This is awful for two reasons: 1) You may be left with very little to eat for yourself, making you go hungry, 2) They leave their bite marks on your sandwich! Ack!

    I do not mind the drinks anymore, but being expected to let people take a bite out of your sandwich is just too much for me.

    Edit: I see sureño mentioned the mate, I did not notice that before.
  22. No_C_Nada Senior Member

    Castillian - Perú

    Sharing food is a very ancient Oriental custom.

    If you go to any authentic Chinese restaurant or to a traditional Chinese family, you will see that all the food is placed in the middle of the table and everyone picks it up with his/her own chopsticks. And yes, all of them have put those chopsticks inside their mouths more than once before picking up more food from the middle of the table. They do not have a separate pair of chopsticks to pick up the foods from the middle of the table. And you do not see them wiping out their chopsticks before picking up more food from the middle of the table.

  23. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Well, I have to say that our Chinese copadres never, ever put their chopsticks in their mouths. (I suspect that initially we must have been quite offensive dinner guests, because we did .... but we caught on eventually.) The chopsticks are used to bring pieces of meat or vegetables to the mouth, but never actually put inside. As for rice, the chopsticks are used to sweep rice out of the bowl and into the mouth.

    Regarding mate, I've never gotten sick hanging out with Argentines. Perhaps that metal straw is hot enough to kill all the germs - I've certainly burned my own lips a few times!

    The story about the Amazon vine reminds me of Andean chicha. In some areas of Bolivia, at least, the corn is still prechewed by the women before it's fermented. And yes, everyone drinks from the same gourd. That's probably how I got typhoid on my first visit ......

    Gee, I'm long-winded this morning - my apologies.
  24. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    If you participate in Catholic (and I think Anglican/Episcopalian) communion, the priest offers you a cup (chalice) of wine to sip along with a piece of bread. After it is taken by a communiant, the priest wipes the chalice with a cloth, but it is passed on to the next person.

    If someone knows they have an illness or cold, normally they would refuse the wine and only take the piece of bread.

    But no one finds the shared cup shocking--it's the established tradition anywhere in the world for Catholics, I believe--maybe even in India?
  25. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    In Portugal, I don't normally see the priest offer the chalice to anyone during communion. He and his assistants just dip each host into the wine, and then place it in the person's open mouth. Some people prefer to receive the host in their hands, for hygiene reasons.
  26. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Same in Austria - exactly the same: the host is put either into the mouth (= 'old style') or in the hands of the people, and there is no chalice with wine offered. This is the traditional Catholic ritus practised here.
    Wine is involved too in the ceremony, but only the priest drinks some.
  27. chics

    chics Senior Member

    Catalan - Spanish
    Same in Catholic ritus in Spain. :(
  28. Lilla My Senior Member

    In France it's not a concern to drink at the same bottle, even if it's more common among friends or family than with strangers.

    In my region we actually have a word applied to people who don't want to share a bottle/a glass/food because they find it disgusting : "narreux".
    And so we say : "Sois pas narreux !" (it means something like "don't be disgusted, it just sounds snob")

    And the (I think) common answer to someone being "narreux" is "je n'ai pas la gale" (I don't have scabies)
  29. No_C_Nada Senior Member

    Castillian - Perú
    What happens when they concelebrate?

    I'm sure each priest and each deacon drinks from the same cup.
  30. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Although I hardly can remember any more when I've last seen two priests celebrate mass I can't imagine them using two different cups: surely there would only be the one, and as they have a kerchief anyway to wipe the cup after drinking I'd guess they wipe the cup.

    But that is only guesswork.

    By the way, I seem to have a dark recollection of a mass celebrated the 'American' way with communal wine sharing - but it is so dark that really I can't tell for sure if I've seen it in real life or in a movie.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2008
  31. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    In the Holy Land the priests share one chalice. Some drink from it, others dip the host in it. Depending on the setting, the rest of us receive communion in any of a variety of ways. Most commonly it's just the host on lips or in the hand. If the host is dipped it is usually the priest who dips it and puts it in the communicant's mouth, but in some places, the communicant dips it himself or herself. There are also some places where "the faithful" (those of us who are not priests) drink from the chalice and wipe it afterwards. Big variety here.

    I have taken part in Protestant communion services here, where the wine is in tiny little plastic cups in a specially adapted tray, which is passed around and each person has their own cup. Nice and "hygienic". To the point that I am sure it is an American import.
  32. No_C_Nada Senior Member

    Castillian - Perú
    I'm sure that during the Last Supper, Jesus had only one cup and passed it around. No wonder it is a custom that has remained in the Holy Land.

    As to the lay people dipping the host in the wine, it is not allowed by the Roman Catholic Church. According to official Roman Catholic documents.
  33. Broccolicious Senior Member

    Glorious Devonshire
    English - England
    I'm on a business trip at the moment, and last night had dinner with my clients. I ordered a drink that one of the clients had never tasted before, and he reached over, took my glass and had a big sip of it.

    I was completely shocked! This is an English man (and I'm English, so theoretically there should be no major cultural differences) whom I'd met once before. I felt it would have been rude to comment, so I continued as if nothing had happened, but when we got back to the hotel another of the clients apologised to me for The Sipper's outrageous behaviour.

  34. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    He should have asked. :D

    No, in all earnest: this also would be considered rude here in Austria, especially with business contacts.
    I certainly would have been as shocked as you were.

    In family or among friends to do so could be considered appropriate if your relationship is rather close, but depending on context it could also be considered rude even then.
  35. tenseconds Member

    I have to disagree with this. I live in California and I almost never eat food somebody else has ate off of, unless we are very close (seriously like family--I don't even like eating food/drink that has touched my boyfriend's mouth!), there is no other option, or I can tell the other person will be insulted. However, it really really depends on the person. Plenty of people are like me, but there are also many who think it's no big deal and, like I said, would even be insulted if somebody refused. I actually think it has to do with how somebody was raised, because my whole family is this way and we also don't like hugging/touching other people, which I think are probably related (like we like our privacy and we like to keep a safe distance from others).
  36. Gwan Senior Member

    Indre et Loire, France
    New Zealand, English
    It's just personal preference and closeness of relationship here - sometimes it would be considered unacceptable to share, other times people would be offended if you didn't want to share with them. Which obviously can lead to some social awkwardness at times.
    As for the related issue of Catholic Mass - here the chalice will always (as far as I know) be offered to the congregation, wiped in between, but it's quite common for people just to take the host and walk past the server with the chalice if they don't want to drink from it, whether because they have a cold or they don't want to share with others I don't know.
  37. AlmostAnAngel Member

    I completly agree with chics, but there is something else here in Spain. The most tipical thing to eat in a Spanish bar is "tapas" and everyone eats directly from the common plate, we don't put food in each one plate.
    This is not rude in Spain, it would be quite weird is someone would put some salad or something in a different plate.
  38. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    It sounds to me, admittedly without knowing anything of the background, as if Broccolicious' experience was as much about an attempt to intimidate as about bad manners.

    Waltzing in and taking somebody's food is a display of serious agression in animals. It's also seen sometimes in people with dementia or Alzheimer's, who in a muddled way are trying to assert their dominance. You also hear about it occasionally from women with very controlling boyfriends or partners.
  39. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Yes, indeed, some of us are. I've always considered the habit to be nauseating and consequently, don't drink mate. Mate, by the way, is often translated as 'Paraguayan Tea'.

    As regards Mass, in the Anglican church, the priest passes the chalice around and everybody drinks from it. He does, however, wipe the cup beore passing it to the next communicant.
  40. bb008

    bb008 Senior Member

    Caracas - Venezuela
  41. Adolfo Afogutu

    Adolfo Afogutu Senior Member


    I think what Sureño has said is that foreigners are horrified by the habit of sharing the same “bombilla” to drink mate and not by the habit of drinking mate by itself. Perhaps you don’t like its taste or whatever, but if you did, you could drink it when you are alone, at home, as I do. If anyone offers me a mate, I just say: “No, thanks, I don’t drink mate” and that’s all. And I love it. Unfortunately at work I'm not allowed to drink it, so instead I drink seven or eight cups of coffee at day, no milk, not good for my health, not at all.
  42. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    Actually I used to drink it and enjoy it in Brazil where it is sweeter, but the mere idea of sharing the 'bombilla' just put me off drinking it for good. I actually much prefer coffee.
  43. Chazzwozzer

    Chazzwozzer Senior Member

    We don't have a word for it in Turkish, and many people in Turkey seem to have no problem with that. I think I'm an exception in this matter. ;)
  44. libero30 Member

    UK, English & Punjabi
    I'm Indian but have grown up in the UK. I understand the original post and this is why I see some Indians not sharing food and drinks. However, while I was growing up I did the same thing but now I think it's more important to not be rude and don't really mind.

    For me it is far worse to insult the person by refusing a drink and be seen as a snob.
  45. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)

    Is this a caste-system related tradition in India? Would people from the same caste not feel the same repulsion about touching/drinking another person's food?
  46. libero30 Member

    UK, English & Punjabi
    No, this is something different. I think Jewish people have something similar when they have to prepare Kosher food. Only with immediate family it doesn't really matter.

    But it can be even worse when different castes are involved. I've heard stories that in the 60s and 70s sportsmen from the same team (but of lower castes) were given ceramic cups and plates so that they could be thrown out after they were used rather than washed.
  47. Illuminatus Senior Member

    Mumbai, India
    India, Hindi, English, Marathi
    The response to this thread has been very interesting.

    The problem is that the Indian concept about this is quite difficult to explain.

    We are taught when we are young that we shouldn't drink from a used glass (used having been sufficiently defined in the post) and should also drink without touching the lips if the glass/bottle is to be used by someone else. Even in a friend circle, this is implicit. If 5 friends share a Cola/Coke/Soda/Soft drink, they would all drink it without touching the lips. If someone does touch it, it may be pointed out and he will wipe it off.

    Depending on familiarity, it may or may not be considered rude to refuse to drink from a used glass.

    All this is more a matter of culture than hygiene, in my opinion, though the latter also plays a part. Due to the wide cultural variation in India itself, it is difficult to make an assertion which would apply to more than your immediate surroundings.

    As for as the cast-system is concerned, that opens another Pandoras' box.

    Nowadays, it isn't seen in an extreme form in cities and the more educated areas, but I am afraid it is quite rampant in villages. Where caste-puritans live, it would be unacceptable to even think of using a container previously used by a lower caste member. Some people go the lengths of holding the jug themselves and pouring water into the mouth/cupped palms of the recipient so that the jug is not touched.

    This is also one reason why they say that Sports Unite. At least nowadays, in a cricket team, everybody would drink from the same bottle (may or may not touch the lips) and nobody would care about being Hindu/Muslim or of higher/lower castes.
  48. Broccolicious Senior Member

    Glorious Devonshire
    English - England

    Ooh - that's extraordinarily perceptive - I think you might have hit the nail on the head! The next evening, I left most of my dessert, and he reached over and took it, and finished it off, using my spoon! It might be partly intimidation, and partly an attempt to construct a false intimacy. Either way: YUCK.
  49. tonyspeed Senior Member

    English & Creole - Jamaica
    I grew up like this as well, but I'm not sure how I learned this or maybe it was just my personal preference. Even to this day I find the sharing of cups or forks or plates (other than family) repulsive to the point of sickness.
  50. KirkandRafer

    KirkandRafer Senior Member

    Español (Murcia, España)
    Among friends over here you can sometimes hear the word "asqueroso" referred to someone who, when offered a drink, wipes the top of the bottle before drinking.

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