earl earl earl, earl of grey (yes, I’m the earl of grey)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

SINCE LAST WRITING ABOUT TEA in gen­eral and Tazo’s Earl of Grey in par­tic­ular, I have tried to other earls: both the Twin­ings and Stash’s Earl Grey Black & Green (the blend is in­ter­esting but I prefer each sep­a­rately). I can re­port with com­fort that, for my taste, while both are good nei­ther holds a candle to the Tazo. 1

Which leads us to the idiom, can’t hold a candle to: the phrase ap­par­ently has its ori­gins in Eng­land in the 17th cen­tury. It first ap­peared in print in Sir Ed­ward De­r­ing’s The Fower Car­dinal – Vertues Of A Carmelite Fryar in 1641: “Though I be not worthy to hold the candle to Aris­totle.” 2

“Ap­pren­tices used to be ex­pected to hold the candle so that more ex­pe­ri­enced workmen were able to see what they were doing. Someone un­able even to do that would be of low status indeed.”

It was ap­par­ently first used in print in the way that we cur­rently use and un­der­stand the phrase in 1883 in William Norris’ novel No New Thing: “Edith is pretty, very pretty; but she can’t hold a candle to Nellie.” (The Phrase Finder)

Aftertaste of Citrus aurantium bergamia

Which brings us ’round again to tea: with Tazo Earl Grey, the essence of the nec­es­sary berg­amot is much more ev­i­dent in the taste. Per­haps with time, my palate may yearn for sub­tlety, but at this point in time I prefer the sweet, per­fumey af­ter­taste of the fruit of the Citrus au­ran­tium bergamia. 

I have no idea why the old Gene Chan­dler hit Duke Of Earl popped into my head while writing this piece, but it did. A bit of hum-able, un­for­get­table silli­ness from the early ’60s (“Duke Duke Duke, Duke of Earl . . . Yes, I’m the Duke of Earl”), Duke Of Earl hit the top of the Bill­board chart and had one of the few doo-wop hits after that gen­re’s run of pop­u­larity in the ’50s.

The other early ’60s doo-wop biggie was, of course, the Marcels’ inane, won­derful arrange­ment and per­for­mance of Blue Moon. Anyway, I did a brief piece on Duke Of Earl for my other site (“duke duke duke, duke of earl”) that in­cludes a vin­tage video of Chan­dler as the Duke. Give it a read and a view.

A stretch of road in Chicago is now Gene Chandler "The Duke Of Earl" Way.

FEATURED IMAGE: In 2016,the En­gle­wood sec­tion of Chicago re­named a stretch of 59th Street be­tween Racine Av­enue and May Street is now named Gene Chan­dler “The Duke Of Earl” Way.



1   Give a read toDo You Think that Popeye and Olive Oyl Drank Earl Grey at Tea Time?

2   The word fower is an old Scot­tish variant on four. Al­most sounds like the way Paul pro­nounced “four” in the count-off that opens I Saw Her Standing There.


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