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On the origins of "that's the tea"

CHALK T

In our daily lives, there is so much gossip that goes around. Sometimes we hear things that may or may not be juicy news. Sometimes there’s just nothing that keys us into the news delivered to us by our friends, but with one single word, or letter depending on who you ask, ears perk up and heads turn.

Tea.

The phrase “spill the tea” has taken the internet by storm in the past decade as a multifaceted meme. Spill the tea, according to the first definition published in Urban Dictionary, means “gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop; the news.”

The term, in its purest form, is used for gossip and to indicate that yours is the juiciest of news. Twitter has become an especially fertile breeding ground for tea, with tweets containing phrases like “Give me the tea,” “where’s the tea,” and “spill that tea” popping up around events like the Jussie Smollett verdict and the release of the Mueller Report. Tea has also been attached in popular use to a meme of Kermit the frog sipping a Lipton tea, and tweeted with the hashtag “butthatsnoneofmybusiness.”

Beyond a meme of legendary status, the phrase has much deeper roots than the 21st century. One origin theory held by many is that women in the during the 18th and early 19th century would sit on their front porches and gossip while drinking tea, but this teaory has very little tea to it.

According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase originated in drag culture, but had little to do with the actual drink. One of the first known uses of the phrase was in a nonfiction novel called “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt, published in 1994. In the novel, Bernendt interviews a drag queen who says “My T. My thing, my business, what’s goin’ on in my life.” The phrase spread from there and began to take hold in the internet age of the 21st century.

The phrase became widely known through multiple media mediums. The comedian Larry Wilmore used the phrase on The Nightly Show, saying “Weak tea” to call out someone for lying. Tea is used as interchangeably with “T” on Rupaul’s Drag Race.

Tea has entered into our daily lingo, eclipsing the word gossip almost entirely. And that’s the tea.

Guy 1: Is the black market even real? Has anyone ever been on it?

Guy 2: I tried once but I couldn’t figure out how to get on.


Guy 1: I stayed up until 2 am watching Disney plus

Guy 2: I told my girlfriend I fell asleep but I was actually watching the Mandalorian.


Girl 1: How long have you guys been dating?

Girl 2: Since the summer, well actually for like two years but it’s a long story.


Girl 1: Who are you looking for?

Girl 2: This guy, wait I found him. Fanny pack boy. He flipped off my professor after a test and ran out of the classroom.


Girl 1: How did you choose KU? 

Girl 2: Honestly, I flipped a coin. 


Boy 1: Did I tell you? I think I had a three some this weekend.

Boy 2: Woah, hold up. You think?


Boy 1: I was born a Phi Delt.

Boy 2: Please don’t ever say that again.


Girl 1: How do you get your boobs to look like that?

Girl 2: I don’t ever wear a bra? I don’t know. 


Girl 1: I just really want a guy to bend me over you know?

Girl 2: How do you know? You’re a virgin!


Guy: Sometimes I wish I could just be a dog and sleep all day. 

Girl: You wake up at like three every day. 

Guy: I know.

Girl: So…

Guy: So does that make me a dog or something?


Girl 1: I wish I was a little bit taller.

Girl 2: I wish I was balder.

Girl 1: I wish I had a...wait, wait, wait balder?


Guy 1: Let’s slap dicks

Guy 2: You ever pee and it feels like throwing up?


Woman 1: *holding baby* He would have been safer at the Hawk

Woman 2: Oh absolutely.


Girl 1: I would never date that guy.

Girl 2: Well, it depends how much money he has.


Girl 1: I’m going to the doctor to see if I have bronchitis before I hook up with him again.

Girl 2: Yeah that’s smart so you don’t give it to anyone else. 

Girl 1: No I mean I want to make sure I infect him.


Guy 1: I'm cutting some of my unnecessary costs, starting with Juuling.

Guy 2: Ight man, good luck.

Guy 1: Actually I might just start chewing


Guy 1: How was work?

Guy 2: My manager was chastising me for not dressing up in a Halloween costume, she doesn’t understand I’m strictly here to get paid.


Guy 1: I am so tired of this week, man

Guy 2: Dude it’s Monday

Guy 1: I know


Person#1: I want to be on the first ship to mars

Person#2: Not me, I doubt they have Wi-Fi

Perons#1: Yeah but at least they’re evolving up there. We’re all just devolving.


Girl 1: Um, I don’t eat pig.

Girl 2: You eat bacon all the time, bitch.


Guy 1: You better get going. 

Guy 2: Yeah, see ya. I’m off to get some Adderall.


Girl 1: Are you home right now?

Girl 2: Yeah, why?

Girl 1: I bought a cat


Girl 1: I just don't understand what fishing is for.

Girl 2: I don't know. Food, maybe?


Guy: I’m just gonna have to like carry an entire box of spiders up the hill tomorrow.

Girl: What?

Guy: Yeah, just like a hundred spiders in a box.


Guy 1: Sometimes ya just gotta give yourself a haircut.

Guy 2: Dude, you shaved half your head. That’s not a haircut, that’s a mess.


Girl 1: Can you eat fruit raw?

Girl 2: How else are you supposed to eat it?


Girl: That class is killing us. ​But they say rest is for the dead.

Guy: Well, at least we'll be rested.


Girl: She's not in class this semester

Guy: Maybe she's dead

Girl: Or studying abroad