People generally choose teetotalism for religious, health, family, philosophical and/or social reasons, and, sometimes, as simply a matter of taste preference. Others may wish to preserve their good judgment during a business meeting, on a date, or when expecting to operate a motor vehicle. When at drinking establishments, they either abstain from drinking or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as water, juice, and soft drinks.
Contemporary and colloquial usage has somewhat expanded teetotalism to include strict abstinence from most "recreational" intoxicants (legal and illegal, see controlled substances). Most teetotaller organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce non-alcoholic intoxicants.
A more likely explanation is that teetotal is simply a repetition of the 'T' in total (T-total). It is said that as early as 1827 in some Temperance Societies signing a 'T' after one's name signified one's pledge for total abstinence. In England in the 1830s, when the word first entered the lexicon, it was also used in other contexts as an emphasized form of total; in this context, the word is still used, but predominantly in the southern United States. The word could also be confused as a fusion of the words tea, a common non-alcoholic beverage, and total, albeit with the spelling changed slightly (Tea-total) — but this is not widely believed.
U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes was a famous tee-totaler. His wife acquired the nickname Lemonade Lucy because of her practice of serving guests non-alcoholic beverages while entertaining in the White House.
Numerous idioms and slang terms imply abstinence from alcohol. Common American terms includes "on the wagon," which frequently means those who have had a problem with alcohol, as well as the terms "dry" and "sober." "Straight-edge" is one of the newer idioms for abstaining from alcohol and other intoxicants. Temperance was more popular of a term in the 1800s and early 1900s when temperance unions throughout the US battled "demon rum," "mountain dew," and "corn liquor."