What’s the origin of “churchkey,” meaning a can or bottle opener?

A STAFF REPORT FROM academicpursuits.us SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

Why are beer can openers called church keys??? If you know you are a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

SDStaff Mac replies:

Two reasons, the first being the “Ben Abbate” answer. For some of us, opening a beer bottle -is- a religious experience. The other is that churches used to have big doors with big locks, with equally large keys. Churchkeys (the real ones) are often oversized hunks of metal, kinda like churchkeys, the bottle-opening kind.

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