Lately, I've been hearing the colloquialism spill the tea more and more often as slang for "to share gossip", and the tea to just refer to rumors. Curious about its origin, I turned to the internet, and the results are fascinating. The earliest references are from early 1990s African-American drag culture, where it was originally just the letter T, as an abbreviation for Truth. Eventually, tea sort of emerged as an alternate spelling and pun, meant to evoke an image of someone literally spilling a hot cup of tea after receiving a juicy bit of information. As black drag culture gained prominence (especially with shows like RuPaul's Drag Race later on), so did their phrase, and it really took off with a popular meme of Kermit the frog sipping tea in the early 2010s. At this point, it's a well-established part of American vernacular, and examining its origin was quite fun!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.