(WYTV) – Why do we use saucers with cups and why do they call it a saucer anyway?

Of course, when we’re alone, we usually don’t bother putting a saucer beneath our cup. We’ll do it when company comes over.

At first, the saucer was just what the name implies — a small dish for holding sauce. Then it moved to its familiar spot beneath a cup, the place to put your spoon or soggy teabag.

Not long ago, the saucer served a purpose. It was common to pour hot tea or coffee from the cup into the saucer to cool the drink. This was a time when coffee was boiled and it was served extremely hot.

It was more efficient — and actually considered more polite — to drink coffee from a saucer first rather than trying to carefully sip it while it was hot. You could delicately slurp your drink from the saucer or return it to the cup. There was even a side plate to rest your cup on while the saucer was full of tea or coffee.

There’s an old story told of cups and saucers and American history. Thomas Jefferson was in France during the Constitutional Convention. When he returned to the United States, he asked why the delegates created two houses of Congress — a House and Senate.

“Why did you pour that tea into your saucer?” asked George Washington.

“To cool it,” Jefferson said.

“Even so, we pour legislation from the House cup into the Senatorial saucer to cool it,” Washington said.