A Brief History of Phrases

Everyone always says “that’s not my cup of tea” to describe something they don’t enjoy, but most people don’t know there’s an interesting story behind that phrase. Back in 1705, Queen Anne was hosting high tea. She put down her cup of tea and left the room to use the chamber pot. When she returned, she picked up what she thought was her cup of tea, took a sip and immediately spat it out, yelling “that’s not my cup of tea”. You see, Queen Anne drank her tea with milk, while this tea was black. She then found out whose cup of tea it was and had that person hanged for treason.

That’s not the only phrase with an interesting story behind it. Today people say “spill the beans” for letting a secret slip out. To stave off episodes of gout, Queen Anne was put on a strict diet of beans in 1698. One of her maidservants was bringing her a plate of fava beans for a mid-morning snack. The maidservant, rushing to bring the plate of beans to the Queen, tripped, spilling the beans everywhere. She collected them onto the plate and served them to the Queen without her knowing. Later, another maidservant let Queen Anne know of what had transpired. She had both maidservants hanged for treason.

To celebrate her pregnancy in 1694, a group of chicken farmers in England gave Queen Anne a basket of eggs as a symbol of her fertility. When the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, she asked for the name of every farmer who “put all of their eggs in one basket”. Anne the Tyrant then had those farmers and their chickens hanged for treason. That is why today we say “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, because of bloodthirsty Queen Anne.

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