senatorial saucer (1872)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Mon Nov 10 13:17:53 UTC 2008

On Mon, Nov 10, 2008 at 12:45 AM, Dan Goodman <dsgood at> wrote:
> I wonder when and why people stopped pouring coffee or tea into the
> saucer to cool it.

In this telling of the story from 1877, the practice is pegged at 50
years previously:

Nelson Sizer, _How to Teach According to Temperament and Mental
Development_ 1877, p. 278
Fifty years ago people poured their tea into the saucer to cool, and
drank from that. It is said that Jefferson, while he was Secretary of
State, was dining with Washington, and they were discussing the
propriety of having a Senate as a branch of the National Legislature.
Jefferson asked Washington why a Senate was necessary ? At the same
time he poured some tea into a saucer, and Washington, with his long
finger, pointed at it and said, "You have answered the question by
pouring that hot tea from the cup into the saucer. Let the House of
Representatives pass a bill in its haste, and pour it into the Senate
to cool it."

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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