I was just having a rough cup of tea all by myself.

longxianchen

Senior Member
chinese
Hi,
Here are some words from the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover(para. 258) by Lawrence(the University of Adelaide,here):
How warm and lovely it was to hold a child in one’s lap, and the soft little arms, the unconscious cheeky little legs.
I was just having a rough cup of tea all by myself. Luke’s gone to market, so I can have it when I like. Would you care for a cup, Lady Chatterley? . . . ’

What's the meaning of "a rough cup of tea" please? I feel "rough" here means "not smooth"(the cup is not smooth), but one Chinese version translated it as "of low quality"(the tea is of low quality). However, if the meaning by the Chinese version is right, I think it should be "a cup of rough tea" rather than "a rough cup of tea".

Thank you in advance
 
  • Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    If there was a sort of tea called rough tea then Lawrence would probably have written 'a cup of rough tea'. We'd say 'I'm just having a cup of green tea/ a cup of 'Earl Grey'( a type of tea)/ a cup of cocoa.
    There are different qualities of tea: I know of 'broken' tea as inferior to whole leaf tea and cheaper. It was often sold loose, not prepacked. I vaguely remember the grocer in my childhood selling very cheap tea, tiny bits of the far superior whole leaf teas, and on looking it up just now I do recall this being known as 'fannings', or even tea 'dust'.

    I think that 'rough' means 'informal, casual' and with no dainty food to go with it. After all, the meal taken in the afternoon by the middle and upper classes, was elaborate with beautiful delicious sandwiches and several sorts of cake, and elegantly presented and served.
    Rough can be used as a contrast to smart or well dressed, lacking in finesse.

    'What a rough looking fellow! Was he asking you for money?'

    'When I was a child, we wrote all our homework in our 'rough books'. After it had been corrected, we'd copy it into our exercise books. That's why they were called copy books.'


    Mrs Flint is apologising for the simplicity of the offer. She explains that her husband's away, so she hasn't bothered to prepare the tea as a meal and possibly to explain why she's drinking tea when it's not teatime.

    It's another example of the ingratiating, apologetic manner she uses talking to Connie.

    ('A cup of tea' means 'a cup of tea').
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I imagine it could be indifferent tea in a cup and from a pot that don't belong to her good set. She may have some good tea and better cups and saucers in the cupboard, and she only brings those out when she has visitors. This is guesswork.
     

    longxianchen

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Wow, very good explanations think. So detailed. Thank you a lot.
    But is "a perfect cup of tea" the same as "a cup of perfect tea"?
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, what velisarius said was what I thought of immediately. It isn't so much the quality of the tea, but that it wasn't served in a refined way. Think of 'rough' as in the phrase 'rough and ready' (produced quickly, with little preparation).

    LXC, I can't ever imagine saying 'a cup of perfect tea'.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't think there's any special significance to "a cup of perfect tea". The thing is that "a perfect cup of tea" is really a set phrase, so that most native speakers wouldn't dream of saying "a cup of perfect tea". I might say it ironically I suppose - if I was served perfectly-brewed lapsang souchong in a nasty cup :).
     
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