Tempest in a teapot is a popular American/British idiom, but what is the meaning of tempest in a teapot?
It means a small event that has been overly exaggerated beyond proportion.
In British English, a tempest in a teapot is expressed as a storm in a teacup. There are lesser-known variations of the idiom such as a storm in a cream bowl, tempest in a teacup, storm in a wash-hand basin, tempest in a glass of water, storm in a glass of water, and many others. All these variations exists because there are different variations of the English language in different parts of the world.
Although there are different variations of this expression or idiom in different places, the meaning remains the same. However, there are several points/instances in history that are linked with the origin of this term.
The first known use of the phrase is by Marcus Tullius Cicero back in 52BC, who in De Legibus, wrote: “…gratidius raised a tempest in a ladle.”
The imagery of combining weather element and a small utensil represents a minor event that is magnified out of proportion.
This idiom is applicable in many instances, and that’s why people have come up with their own variations.
You will find people talking about storms in cups as it is the case with Bengali and Arabic, while others refer it as storms in glasses of water (as it is the case with Dutch and French). Others use a smaller vessel, such as Yiddish who says squalls in spoons of water. Greek people say, drowns in a spoon of water.
Then, there are those who prefer using teacups, such as Korean and Tamil. Chinese uses winds and waves in teacups or storms in teapots.
However, the most popular usage of this idiom is by Britain and Americans. Britain uses storm in teacups, while Americans use tempest in teapots.
It is difficult to tell which idiom came first (British idiom or American idiom) as the English language is their first language and has different variations.
As for when the English and American idioms versions originated, the earliest references to both idioms are found in Scotland;
“….A tempest in a teapot!" – Blackwood Magazine, 1825
“…It really is like raising a storm in a teacup." - Modern Accomplishments written by Scottish novelist Catherine Sinclair, 1838
As you can see, the idiom is taking different suffixes- a teapot, teacup, spoon, bowl, etc. The reason for this is because there are different variations of the English language and different people have different traditions.
For instance, British people used teacups because of their tradition in drinking tea.
Chinese people used teapots because they have a tradition of brewing tea in teapots. When it comes to tea, China is known for making the best teapots- majorly Yixing teapots. These teapots are made using clay sourced from the Yixing province in China. It is one of the major reasons they used teapot in this idiom since it relates well with what many people there already know.
In other words, everyone used what people in their origin could associate with easily. However, from the looks of things, it seems a lot of people liked tea, that's why there is the usage of teaware in the idioms. And even today, people still do like tea and it is the 2nd most popular beverage, after water.
If you are a tea enthusiast, you can browse our collection of teaware sets and teapots we have in store for you;
Have you been wondering how much your antique teapots would rake in if you were to resell them? Or are you merely looking to invest in some collectables but aren’t sure about their pricing?
It’s vital to know how to value antique teapots as it may save you from getting conned. Better yet, it will enable you to charge a fair amount when reselling your antiques. As you may know, the antique market is full of fakes that get promoted as the real goods.
This is why any beginner collector should know how to do the math. With that said, here are several factors that determine an antique teapot’s value:
The first basic teapot design was first created by porters during the Yuan Dynasty. History indicates that it was probably derived from wine pots and ceramic kettles that were made of metals such as bronze. However, the basic design of the teapot has scarcely evolved in close to a half millennium. Even in this 21st century when tea preparation has shifted from using loose leaf tea to using teabags, the teapot has remained largely unchanged and ubiquitous. If you have an interest in collecting or assembling antique teapots, possibly, you are looking for information on how to know a date/period when various pots were made.