Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)
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First published 1934 (SND Vol. I). Includes material from the 1976 and 2005 supplements.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.
BIRSE-CUP, BIRSE TEA, n. The last cup of tea, with whisky or other spirit added, usually a third cup — an extra. The spirit was put in instead of cream. It has been said that the expression originated in the parish of Birse; however a preferable explanation is that the phr. is an allusion to c. xix. of W. Alexander's Johnny Gibb, where Mrs Birse pours whisky into Meg Raffan's tea in order to make her talkative and reveal confidences.Bnff.2 1930:
Will ye tak a birse-cup, Munty, t' feenish up wi'?Abd. 1912 Scotsman (18 Jan.):
What “Birse Tea” is everyone in Deeside knows, but . . . no one is apparently able to give me a satisfactory explanation.Abd. 1922 J. Lawrence in Bnffsh. Jnl. (14 Nov.):
I have seen “birse tea” drunk in Byth.Abd. 1996 Sheena Blackhall Wittgenstein's Web 1:
Attie likit a dram in a drap o tarry tea - a Birse cup he caad it. Bch. 1929 W. Littlejohn Buchan Cottar Stories i.:
Instead of putting cream into the cup of tea, they put a small supply of whisky, and that cup was known as “birse tea.”
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"Birse-cup n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 9 Dec 2023 <http://www.dsl.ac.uk/entry/snd/birsecup>