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To Insure Promptness

Coffee and tipEdward Lloyd opened his coffee house in Tower Street in London in 1688. One corner of the coffee shop was reserved for ships’ captains where they could compare notes. Wealthy individuals who frequented Lloyd’s coffee house would each take a share of the risk of insuring the ships and their cargoes, signing their names one beneath the other on the policy, thereby being known as “underwriters”.

To Insure Promptness

It was in Lloyd’s Coffee House that a brass container for the benefit of waitrons was first inscribed with the words “To Insure Promptness”. The idea was that a patron would put an amount of money into the container before sitting down to insure promptness of service from the waitrons. The “to insure promptness” on the container is what we now call a TIP.

Or so it is told. The Oxford Dictionary explains the origin of “tip” (as gratuity) being from the 17th century, meaning “to give” or “to pass”. World Wide Words points out that TIP was first mentioned in George Farquhar’s play The Beaux Stratagem of 1706: “Then I, Sir, tips me the Verger with half a Crown”.

Lloyd’s of London

Lloyd moved his coffee shop to Lombard Street, London in 1691. Edward Lloyd himself was not involved in insurance but after his death in 1713 his coffee shop remained the center for marine insurance. In 1769, the coffee shop moved to Popes Head Alley as New Lloyds Coffee House. In 1771, seventy-nine underwriters who did business at Lloyd’s coffee shop subscribed £100 each and Lloyd’s Coffee House became The Society of Lloyd’s of London. It was incorporated in 1871. You’ll now find them at 1 Lime Street, London in the Inside-Out Building.

The idiom “A-1″ – an expression of something that is the best – comes from a term used in Lloyd’s Register of Shipping. It is used to describe a ship that is in topnotch condition. The key of the register indicates that the A stands for a new ship or a ship that was restored or renewed. The stores of the vessel are rated 1 and 2. The 1 indicates the stores are in good shape.

Prompt or not

Whatever or wherever the origin of the word “tip”, it is now given after being served, whether the service was prompt or not.

Also see: Coffee

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