33 Comments

  1. The expression “tea and sympathy” is well known to those of us (even old gaffers like me) who have never heard of the movie. I suspect the movie title comes from the expression rather than vice versa. So there is no reason for the comic to refer to the movie.

  2. I’ve never heard of “tea and sympathy” (neither as an expression nor as a title), Given that he has a teacup in his hand, I found the reference to the movie superfluous rather than helpful. My (moderate) appreciation for the comic was based on the German phrase “Abwarten und Tee trinken“, which refers to the patience required in a difficult situation (roughly: “drink some tea and wait for it”).

  3. Within the past day or so, I read a phrase about ‘have some tea; 20 million [not exact number] Brits can’t be wrong’ . . . of course, I’ll never find the phrase again, but that was the gist of what I’d read (either online or one of the books I’m reading).

  4. I’m currently re-watching both ‘Vicar of Dibley’ and ‘As Time Goes By’ and the amount of tea served and [sometimes] consumed is remarkable. Coffee, too, but tea is still the front runner. Coming in third is G & T or scotch [a tie]; fourth is wine, including champagne. Water runs [pun intended] far behind, altho it is mentioned and served once or twice, as is ‘a half’ [pint of beer or cider]. NO ONE drinks soda. Ever. Even in the USA scenes. Tequila Sunrises and Black Russians each get a serving/mention.

    If I’d known this was going to be a thread, I’d’ve kept better track of liquids served/consumed as I watched the DVDs.

  5. Nathan, I’m curious about what the expression “tea and sympathy” means in general circulation for you, when not attached to the stage-play and movie. In those works, a woman teacher at a boarding school, no I’m wrong she’s something like the headmaster’s wife but maybe not otherwise officially attached to the school, tells a troubled boy pupil that she isn’t what we would now call a counselor but can talk with him: “All I can offer them is tea and sympathy”.

  6. When I visited the UK in 1990 and stayed with various relatives of my girlfriend, I remember being nearly drown in tea: I distinctly counted at least six cups offered (thrust upon) me before breakfast the first day, when I realized I would have to be more forceful about declining tea if I wanted to avoid kidney failure.

    They say the Irish actually out-consume the British, but back then, I was just a hostel-dwelling eurailer who had run out of money and so quickly needed to return to my home base in Austria (communicating banks were only for rich people back then), and decades later I stayed with my sister and her husband, so he’d already been tempered to non-local expectations, so I didn’t get to experience what locals would naturally do in the privacy of their own home like I did in England.

  7. there was a s movie called “Tea and Sympathy”?

    I always knew it from the Rolling Sones Lyric from “Let it Bleed”. (although google I realize it’s actuall “Coke And Sympathy” in the song)

    I figure “Tea and Sympathy” is a common phrase no-one knows where it came from.

    I never heard of the movie but the phrase (but not it’s meaning) is very common.

  8. “20 million [not exact number] Brits can’t be wrong’”

    Do X: million Y can’t be wrong” is a common slightly sarcastic phrase. Mad Magazine played a lot with it in the 70s.

    I’m backing up Nathan’s “Tea and Sympathy” as a common phrase. I’m quite familiar with phrase but never heard of the movie. But means just what the woman in the movie said. It’s a kind ear offered in a time of stress. “All I want is a little tea and sympathy” Or “if you ever want some tea and sympathy I am here”.

    Googling it seems the phrase did come from the play in 1953 but it has taken on common usage. I imagine our parents from whom we probably first heard this phrase knew it from the source but those of us second generation do not. Makes me wonder, are there people under 40 who have been using phrases such as “Groundhogs Day” without knowing they refer to movies?

  9. Dutch tradition, carried on in my family when we came to USA: Breakfast, tea; 10 a.m., coffee; lunch, tea; 3 p.m., coffee; dinner, I can’t remember, sometimes wine; 10 p.m., coffee. The 10 a.m., 3 p.m., and 10 p.m. coffees were accompanied by cakes and/or cookies.

  10. Perhaps the modern equivalent of “tea and sympathy” would be the “hopes and prayers” that are so often offered in place of substantive solutions?

  11. One such was “Fifty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong”. Which until five minutes ago (following w00zy’s lead and looking up something I thought I knew) I didn’t know came from a particular 1920s song and 1929 Broadway musical. My teenage friends and I thought it passed in polite society with a meaning of something like “… about French women being attractive” but that sophisticates (or degenerates 🙂 ) could understand it as applying to specific practices.

  12. Since I thought of the earlie play rather than the movie, does that (agagin) make me an uber-gaffer/geezer?

  13. When I hear ‘Tea and Sympathy’ my mind goes to ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’, wherein one shouldn’t accept the tea from the sympathetic old ladies.

    Cognitive dissonance combined with a flighty imagination does wonderful things.

  14. I’m pretty sure that “tea” is not in the British sense of the evening meal but just in the sense, both British and American, of having a cup of tea with someone. I heard the expression occasionally when I was a kid. If someone had a death in the family you might invite them over to have some tea and talk about it. That’s what I think “tea and sympathy” means.

  15. I had not heard of that either. I have heard that tea consumption among young people in the UK has been declining,at least the traditional black tea.

    I have one cup per day, around 4pm (I have calendar event to remind me). I rotate Earl Grey, Oolong, and lemon-flavored. I have a couple of cookies (biscuits) with it.

  16. Put me down as one who has never once heard that expression or of the movie.

    My parents are British who emigrated to Canada shortly before I was born. They did drink tea, but not to the levels being described here. I also lived in the UK for a number of years and have had many British friends and roommates, and didn’t find them to be maniacal tea drinkers. More so than back home (which was practically nil), yes, but they didn’t swim in it.

    That has been my experience, anyway.

  17. @Andréa, not “3 billion Indians, Chinese people, and Pakistanis can’t be wrong”?

    It isn’t as if England invented tea.

    (I have of course left out Russians, Tibetans, etc.)

  18. I think that, in movies/tv series about the British, making tea/coffee is giving the actors something to do with their hands, and giving them something to say. Probably the same in the British mysteries I read. I shouldn’t take movies/tv/books as a reflection of real life.

  19. Yes, I realize the Brits didn’t ‘invent’ tea, but the books/tv series I read/watch are all British. And that comment wasn’t original to me . . .

  20. Didn’t mean to imply you made that odd omission, I was just commenting on how people tend to wear cultural blinders. It’s as if someone in Italy talked about how much maize and rice they use, in a way that implies their approval is what makes those grains desirable.

  21. It existed before but they developed it in order to end the Chinese monopoly (mid 19th century).
    It was mostly for exportation towards the UK, and it wasn’t a popular drink in India until after independance (to absorb excedent production?).

  22. Ah, for some tea & sympathy. Offered in good conscience (unlike the thoughts & prayers) with sometimes some soft fuzzies but usually with a dose of reality confirmation. Aunt Caroline made tea on the woodstove, letting the bags & the water get used to each other for 20 minutes or so. Mom asked about this, Caroline’s response was “When I make water, I make water. When I make tea I make tea.” Irish Breakfast from Trader Joe’s my lunchmeal beverage of choice. For an evening pick-up a fine smokey scotch whiskey or Lapsang Souchang loose leaf. How I do go on.

  23. I wonder if “Have thoughts. Need prayers.” would be funny. Or the reverse. I don’t think it would be, nor would “Have sympathy. Need tea.” I think the joke depends on having the proverbial tangible and needing the intangible.

  24. @ zookeeper – “How I do go on…
    That’s exactly why most of us keep coming back to read old threads.

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