The term in the beverage-opening sense is apparently not an old one; Merriam-Webster finds written attestation only since the 1950s. Several themes exist, the most popular being when you cut yourself, opening a can or bottle, you take the Lord's name in vain.
A churchkey initially referred to a simple hand-operated device for prying the cap (called a "crown cork") off a glass bottle; this kind of closure was invented in 1892, although there is no evidence that the opener was called a "church key" at that time. The shape and design of some of these openers did resemble a large simple key.
In 1935, beer cans with flat tops were marketed, and a device to puncture the lids was needed. The same term, "church key", came to be used for this new invention: made from a single piece of pressed metal, with a pointed end used for piercing cans — devised by D.F. Sampson for the American Can Company, who depicted operating instructions on the cans, and typically gave away free "quick and easy" openers with their beer cans.
- Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster.
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- January 1980 JFO Newsletter
- United States Bartenders Guild~Newsletter Archived May 11, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- Short History of the Beer Can (part 2) :: Streeter's Electronics :: Home of The Treasure Hunter's Gazette, BONE, and PTHHS Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine
- Flat Top Beer Cans Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Opening Instruction Cans
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