Sunday, 12 August 2007

Vicar / More tea vicar?

Can anyone tell me the origin of the phrase "More tea vicar".

I don't know if it's used in America, but in England it's sort of a joke after something embarrassing happens - the idea is that the thing happens in a household of posh people having a vicar over for some tea, and he sees something totally embarrassing happening, and everyone pretends it hasn't happened and offers him more tea.
I know it sounds odd, but there we are.

Anagrams (of 'More Tea Vicar')
- Ever aromatic! (by V.Rabin by hand) (2003)
- Rot! I 'ave cream! (by Colin Thomas by hand) (2001)

I get the impression that the term "vicar" isn't much liked by... er... vicars. This may be because it has taken on a comedy image ("More tea, vicar?") or perhaps because of its rather low-status ecclesiastical connotations. Traditionally, in the CofE, livings (i. e the right to be the local rector) were in the gift of the rural gentry. These could be very lucrative because of the right to collect tithes (taxes in kind from local farmers). Some livings also included substantial land holdings (glebe lands) in their own right. So the local gentry, being deeply pious, ahem, appointed themselves or their relatives to the livings or even sold them on the open market. So many rectors were absentees or didn't want to trouble themselves with burdensome religious duties and appointed stipendiary vicars (i. e. deputies or representatives, as in "vicarious") to do the actual work.

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