Once upon a time, two twins lived in Trondheim in Viking Norway. They were known as Byog and Byob Halvorsen, and while they made their livings as hunters, their primary notoriety about the Trondheimsfjorden was their great love of, and incredible appetite for, alcohol. Byog Halvorsen preferred beer, Byob Halvorsen preferred mead, and together they could be found drinking, singing, and carousing whenever they were not out hunting.

One day, a dispute abut which beverage–mead or beer–was superior caused the brothers to break into angry fisticuffs. The fight, which lasted a whole day, wound up with both Halvorsens locked away for disturbing the peace. Speaking through the bars of their cells, the two brothers made a wager: whomever could return a year hence with the best written endorsement of their chosen drink would win, and the other brother would have to pay a year’s supply.

Time passed, and most townsfolk forgot about the whole incident. But the brothers did not, and their increasingly bold boasts in the weeks leading up to their contest resulted in a fair number of spectators. Byob went first, proudly producing a note from the Bishop of Nidaros in favor of mead. But Byog, grinning, then flashed a missive from the King endorsing beer. Byob protested that the King was a foreigner, a German prince ruling from Denmark and therefore biased, but the crowd declared him the winner.

Angry but true to his word, Byob Halvorsen promised to secure a year’s supply of beer for his brother. Byog, for his part, paid to have invitations posted around town for a grand celebration that would use up the supply in a single day. When the day came, though, no beer was forthcoming–instead, all the partygoers brought their own, providing the year’s supply and sharing generously with one another. Byob had cleverly convinced them all, through word of mouth, that they should bring their own drinks because he had been unable to acquire beer of a high quality. He therefore was able to pay off his debt to Byog and please the partygoers without paying a cent.

In recognition of his achievement, any party where guests bring their own spirits was, forever after, known as BYOB.

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