Why do we say "It's not my cup of tea.

Well-Known Expressions

It's not my cup of tea

Meaning:

I don't like it; it's not to my taste. Can be used in a variety of ways, such as in reference to activities (skiing isn't my cup of tea) or people (he's not my cup of tea).

Background:

Unsurprisingly, this expression originates in Britain in the first half of the 20th century. But long before that, at least as far back as the mid 18th century, the affirmative version was in use. In fact, according to phrases.org.uk, "cup of tea" was such a synonym for acceptability that it became the name given to a favored friend, especially one of ebuliant nature. From the use of it in William de Morgan's 1908 novel Somehow Good, it can be assumed that the expression started as one used by the working class:

"He may be a bit hot-tempered and impulsive... otherwise, it's simply impossible to help liking him." To which Sally replied, borrowing an expression from Ann the housemaid, that Fenwick was a cup of tea. It was metaphorical and descriptive of invigoration.

By 1932, Nancy Mitford clearly felt able to use the expression in her comic novel Christmas Pudding, without need of explanation:

I'm not at all sure I wouldn't rather marry Aunt Loudie. She's even more my cup of tea in many ways.

According to Gregory Titelman's America's Popular Proverbs and Sayings, the negative form has been in use since about the 1920s, but it appears to have caught on during the 1940s during World War II. One can't help wondering if this was due to the many Americans in Britain who likely found the nation's favorite beverage not to their taste!

In 1944, Hal Boyle wrote in his syndicated column, Leaves From a War Correspondent's Notebook that in England, "You don't say someone gives you a pain in the neck. You just remark 'He's not my cup of tea.'"

Alphabetical list of expressions

Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Kites
    The Kites
    by Romain Gary, Miranda Richmond Mouillot
    Published by New Directions for the first time in English, Romain Gary's The Kites tells a story of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Hearts of Men
    by Nickolas Butler
    Set mostly in the woodlands of north Wisconsin, Nikolas Butler spins a familial saga that explores ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Days When Birds Come Back
    by Deborah Reed

    A graceful testament to endurance, rebuilding, and the possibilities of coming home.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Driest Season

Win One of 50 Copies of This Exceptional Debut!

A deeply affecting story of loss, heartache, and—finally—hope.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.