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Is teetotaler still an acceptable term for someone advocating alcohol abstinence? If not, what is a better word to use?

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5 Answers

It's not used as much as it used to, but it could always make a comeback (it sounds fancy and classy). Most alcoholic abstainers nowadays get referred to as "Straight Edges" but that has more variation and can also include smoking, drug use, promiscuous sex, and can even extend as far as abstaining from soda, caffeine, prescribed medications and meat or animal products. It also tends to be more associated with those who listen to punk music. I personally refer to myself as being on the spectrum between teetotaler and straight edge, but I'm not a vegetarian or vegan and I do occasionally drink caffeinated tea (not soda though).

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I would consider it problematic in that sense. While originally it meant an active member of the Temperance movement, it can be used simply to mean someone who personally abstains. Certainly here in Ireland it would be taken to mean that you didn't drink, but not to say anything about your reasons for that choice, or your attitude to others drinking.

I think if I wanted to be clear that I was talking about someone who actively advocated abstaining from alcohol, I would simply say "temperance advocate".

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I'd say that teetotaler is fine for somebody who practices alcohol abstinence, and perhaps even for somebody who mildly suggests that others abstain (perhaps militant teetotaler?) However, for somebody who strongly advocates alcohol abstinence, a better (stronger) word to use might be prohibitionist.

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A teetotaler (originally tea-totaler, as I understand) doesn't necessarily advocate abstinence. The word means that he practices abstinence, that he himself abstains.

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Originally "T-Total". –  Jon Hanna Jan 17 '13 at 4:54
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Yes, teetotaler is acceptable. Ngrams shows a slight decline in usage since 1900, but the term is used to refer to the same concept today:

The Wikipedia page linked above gives some synonyms as well:

Nephalism, temperance, abstinence, abstemiousness and restraint are synonyms for teetotalism.

Note that none of the above synonyms is specific to alcohol as teetotalism is, except nephalism, which is a rare term:

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