Before Boston in 1773, a “tea party” was generally a genteel and sociable event, and the tea was sipped rather than dumped into the sea. After the Boston get-together, “tea party” also began to mean “an exciting disturbance or proceeding,” according to Webster’s unabridged. Nowadays, something new is brewing, another type of American tea party, but I’m not sure what it’s all about.
The central government cuts a deal to give a large company a monopoly in a key market. It allows that company to sell its product at artificially low prices, but the consumers don’t appreciate the bargain because of the taxes associated with it.
The consumers beseech their local representative to intercede, but are refused. So they take matters into their own hands, literally, and sabotage the product.
That was on Dec. 16, 1773, and the incident came to be known as the Boston Tea Party.
Before that, a “tea party” was generally a genteel and sociable event, and the tea was sipped rather than dumped into the sea. After the Boston get-together, “tea party” also began to mean “an exciting disturbance or proceeding,” according to Webster’s unabridged.
Nowadays, something new is brewing, another type of American tea party, but I’m not sure what it’s all about.
In 1773, the message was fairly straightforward and so was the action: They threw some tea overboard.
Some current tea partyers appear to want to overthrow the government, which seems a bit overboard to me.
It all got me thinking about another well-known tea party, the one in “Alice in Wonderland.” There were only four participants: Alice, a sleepy Dormouse, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter.
The Cheshire Cat warned Alice that the last two were mad. And when she said she didn’t want to be among mad people, the cat replied:
“Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here.”
That’s “mad” in its original sense of out of touch with reality. Later it also came to mean “angry or provoked.” Many people at the political tea parties appear to be that kind of mad.
Here are examples of Alice’s tea party talk:
After the Mad Hatter offers a riddle, Alice says, “I believe I can guess that.”
March Hare: “Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?”
Alice: “Exactly so.”
March Hare: “Then you should say what you mean.”
Alice: “I do. At least, at least I mean what I say — that’s the same thing, you know.”
Hatter: “Not the same thing a bit!”
Later, the Hatter asks, “Have you guessed the riddle yet?”
Alice: “No, I give it up. What’s the answer?”
Hatter: “I haven’t the slightest idea.”
March Hare: “Nor I.”
A bit further on, the March Hare says to Alice, “Take some more tea.”
Alice: “I’ve had nothing yet, so I can’t take more.”
Hatter: “You mean you can’t take less. It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
Alice finally storms off in disgust, saying: “At any rate I’ll never go there again! It’s the stupidest tea party I ever was at in all my life!”
Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was originally published in 1865.
There have been more than a dozen TV and film versions, beginning with the first of three silent movies in 1904. Others include the animated Disney classic of 1951, a porn version (1976), and one in 1933 whose cast included Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields.
And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a new film version of “Alice in Wonderland” that’s doing quite well at the box office. The timing couldn’t be more suspicious: Could it be yet another conspiracy of the government and the Hollywood elite?
Next week: Another serving of tea.
Contact Barry Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/woodonwords/.