From The Riverside Villas Murder by Kingsley Amis:
‘Good.’ The colonel worked his bell-push. ‘Thank you for coming, Peter.'
‘Oh no, sir, thank you for a sawney tea. And the music.’
Kingsley Amis (1973). The Riverside Villas Murder, p. 161. London: Cape.
What is a “sawney tea”? The OED says that “sawney” means “foolish; foolishly sentimental; canting, wheedling”, none of which seems remotely appropriate in context. Eric Partridge adds the sense “bacon” (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, p. 729) which might just about be made to fit the context, but I would want to see some evidence that this usage is plausible in Amis’ period and setting (1936, England).
My other thought is that “sawney” might be a misprint, for example, for “lovely”, though it is hard to see how this could have happened, unless the book was set directly from Amis’ manuscript, his handwriting was execrable, and the proof-reader slipped up. All the editions of the book that I found online, including a 2012 edition, have the same wording in this passage.
A contemporary reviewer expressed a similar puzzlement:
The American publishers have left all the Briticisms in, which is an added mystery. I know what a “John Thomas” is, and I know that our brothers use “recce” for reconnaissance, and their use of “quieten” doesn’t bother me. But what does it mean when a character says, “Thank you for a sawney tea”? Or, “He had momentary trouble sorting out feece and pear”?† Partridge on slang doesn’t help me. Nor Mencken, nor the OED, nor a couple of English friends. Information please?
William Cole (1973). ‘Booked Ahead’. In World 2:17 (14 August 1973), p. 35.
† I can explain “feece and pear” (p. 91). This is eye-dialect for the French words fils and père, indicating the difficulty the character has in interpreting them.
(This puzzle was brought to my attention by the excellent Clothes in Books blog.)