Tempest in a Teapot

Meanings of “Tempest in a Teapot”

The phrase “storm in a teacup” or “tempest in a teapot” means an insignificant incident, or event that receives an exaggerated reaction as if it were serious.

Origin of “Tempest in a Teapot”

English people see the phrase “Tempest in a Teapot” as a mangled version of their “Storm in a teacup” expression. It is possible that it was first derived from writings of Cicero, in De Legibus, Circa 52BC. The translated meaning of his “Excitabat fluctus in simpulo” is “He was stirring up billows in a ladle”. The first person to use this phrase “tempest in a teapot” iin English was The Duke of Ormond   in his Letters, published in 1678, where it is stated as; “Our skirmish … is but a storm in a cream bowl.”

Later, Scottish novelist, Catherine Sinclair, used this phrase in her novel, Modern Accomplishments. It was published in 1838, where it is stated as; “As for your father’s good-humored jests being ever taken up as a serious affair, it really is like raising a storm in a teacup.” Since then, the phrase is used by various authors conveying various shades of meanings.

Examples from Literature

Example #1

Tempest in a Teapot by Kat Micari

The storm in my mind,
Stronger than the storm at sea,
I rage against all that I am
And all that I will be.

Illusions cloud my mind,
The pictures that you paint.
I make your diaries mine.
I feel dizzy and faint.

The magic that you cast,
The spells that you weave,
The strings that you pull,
Still my heart is on my sleeve.

You would claim my innocence
As a prize of your own
Never once imagining
The power is my own.

In this poem, the poet speaks about the perplexing condition of her brain; she seems unhappy with her life. In the first two stanzas, she speaks about the inner struggle, for she may have lost somebody, and that grave loss is not letting her catch the positive vibes. While in the last two stanzas, the reason for her rage is more evident; she recalls the time when she was attracted toward someone but that person might have turned his back toward her, leaving her in a state of despair. That one incident has come to a boiling point, resulting in great despair. Kat has used this phrase as the title as well as a metaphorical representation of her mind in an understatement.

Example #2

A Tempest in a Teacup by A. Van Jordan

Assume, just for a moment,
I am denied a job
in the factory of my dreams
under the fluorescent lights
of a porcelain white foreman.

It’s orderly and neat.
I feed my family.
No one questions my face.
I raised my son in my likeness,
so he would never go unseen,

bobbing on a wave of expectation,
I set in motion with my back
put into my work, praying
for my country, blessed
with more of me, never worrying

about those who might die,
or those who did, trying
to stir a storm, trying
to stand where I’m standing.

In this poem, the poet tries to make the readers realize that we should not try to create a bigger picture for the things that demand less attention. As a parent, he has raised his family by providing them with everything he could afford. To him, one should not create a bubble of dreams and expectations around and should try to fulfill his duties for both the country and the family without blowing the whistle. The phrase seems to have been explained through this short, metaphorical poetic rendering.

Example #3

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life by Helen Czerski

The book takes us to the exciting, lively, and entertaining world of physics. The write-up introduces us tools to alter the way we magnify every object around us, making connections with ordinary things such as coffee stains, popcorn popping, and fridge magnets. She beautifully connects the things we use and see every day to the world we live in. The phrase shows its use in extended metaphor.

Example #4

Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper

The author provides us with a story of Sophie Taylor who comes to spend quality time with her Auntie Rose, who runs a cozy Victorian Teahouse. The serenity of the place, calendar of the teahouse events, and antique dishes teapot collection of Aunt Rose attracted Sophie. Soon, she discovers that her aunt is going to host the bridal shower of her old friend, Cissy Peterson. Unfortunately, the bride’s choice was questioned by many people, including her grandmother, La Belle Epoque. She hates Sophie’s grandmother. Tension reaches the boiling point when a lady dies while tasting a cupcake from La Belle Epoque. Ironically, the incident is exaggerated and goes too far. To solve this perplexing crime, Sophie takes help from her friends and discloses the exaggerated situation. The novel shows the phrase used as an extended metaphor in the shape of this story of Sophie Taylor as well as an implied understatement.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “My aunt dramatically made tempest in a teapot when someone made a tiny scratch on her car.”

Example #2: “The ongoing strikes and protests are nothing but a tempest in a teapot backed by media and some political parties.”

Example #3: “She believed that the company’s clash with the agency was nothing but a tempest in a teapot. Both parties should take appropriate actions to settle the dispute.”

Example #4: “Their argument over Shakespeare’s play was a tempest in a teapot. However, it predicts something bad about their bond.”

Example #5: “I hope the manager will find a suitable solution for the problem without having another tempest in a teapot.”