Saturday, September 8, 2001

Folk sayings, Irish, “Tea makes pee,” folklore

Genre: Folk sayings, Irish
Sineád Dinsmore
September, 8, 2001        
“Drink tea and pee,”
“Tea makes pee,”
“Better a weak bladder than a weak mind.”
“Speak up now, or forever hold your pee [peace],”

Our Irish-born grandmother, Jennie Walsh Reilly (b. 1893 in Bantry Bay), loved her evening sup of tea. Whenever guests came, tea was the necessary prerequisite for a good gab and a visit. Tea after dinner still signals a time for storytelling. 

But strong Irish tea is a powerful diuretic and we’re all a weak-bladderd lot (“better a weak bladder than a weak mind,” my grandmother would sometimes say.) 

The funniest instance Sineád remembers of our grandmother using “Tea makes pee,” was on an unsuspecting young second cousin of ours, Barney O’Reilly—a stranger to the immediate family—visiting from Los Angeles. We were at my grandmother’s house (where I, the interviewer) was raised.

Sineád said, “I remember Grandma telling Barney ‘Tea makes pee,’ as she giggled—she had this funny ‘tee-hee’— and ran to the bathroom. It was in 1975. Barney was surprised, then he laughed.” We knew he was OK then. (It was an impromptu test to see how someone would fit in).

I think “Tea makes pee,” is a variant of the saying I learned from my grandmother at an early age: “Drink tea and pee.” Sometimes she’d get creative with it and invent a new portmanteau saying: “Speak up now, or forever hold your pee [peace].”

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