This is from a dialogue in The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Huge spoiler ahead, so be warned if you haven't read the book.

Joe and Cappy, who are 13 year olds, drink a half quart Four Roses which was given to them by Joe's uncle Whitey. After they finished drinking and about to leave Whitey to go to their parents, Whitey says:

Gimme your shirt, Joe, he said. Leave it here. Touch the bottle again. You, too, Cappy.

Joe and Cappy have killed a man only a couple of hours ago and both puked. I'm guessing they have puke in their shirts, and since Whitey knows they committed a murder, he doesn't want their parents to know anything is out of the ordinary with them. But I didn't understand why they had to touch the bottle again.

  • He tells them to take another gulp of the alcohol. Could be to make them gain confidence before they face their parents, or to help them suppress or forget what just happened, or simply to at least mask over the stench of the puke. Or a combination of any of the above. The specific reasons may not be clear, but at any rate they are expected to drink some more before they leave.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 8, 2020 at 10:05
  • It seems an odd usage if it was meant to mean take another drink. I would probably discount that interpretation unless there were other corroborating context and got with something more literal. Maybe he wanted to make sure their fingerprints were on the bottle for some reason.
    – Jim
    Jan 12, 2020 at 5:09

2 Answers 2


I found no idioms or phrases that could possibly explain the phrase.

So, I'm going to assume that touch the bottle again means to intoxicate them one last time before leaving. I draw this inference due to the fact that there is the usage of again in the sentence. So, touching the bottle might essentially be a way of how the character Whitey tells others to imbibe.

Assumption #2 is that Whitey might want them to get inebriated so that they forget the crime they've committed, as an act of protection.

  • that ties in with the phrase "if you touch the bottle again I will ..."
    – WendyG
    Jan 8, 2020 at 9:48
  • @WendyG I found that, but it certainly doesn't fit the context.
    – Noaman Ali
    Jan 8, 2020 at 9:50
  • It doesn't fit this exactly but it is another way "touch the bottle" is used to mean drink alcohol
    – WendyG
    Jan 8, 2020 at 10:13
  • @WendyG Yes, that's what I've written in the answer.
    – Noaman Ali
    Jan 8, 2020 at 10:19
  • Your answer says "I am going to assume" I gave a solid example of where it is used to mean drink alcohol, it is a corroborating example you could use to back up your currently opinion based answer.
    – WendyG
    Jan 8, 2020 at 10:49

As I read more into the book, I realised he wanted them to touch the bottle to make sure their fingerprints are on it. He vouches for them, says they were passed out in the back of his shop at the time of the murder. So it's literal, not an idiom or phrase.

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