The Meaning of Popular Cat Clichés and Sayings
Learn more about the meaning and origin of popular cat clichés, expressions and sayings. Take the quiz at the end of the article to uncover more fancy feline phrases!
Are you 'kitten' me? What did you just say?
Curiosity killed the cat. This morbid-sounding cat expression is often used as a warning about the dangers of poking around in other people's business or getting involved in things that don't concern you. Perhaps we use this phrase because cats are naturally inquisitive and like to roam freely without concern for traditional boundaries. They often end up trespassing where they're not wanted.
Let the cat out of the bag. When someone has 'let the cat out of the bag,' they've revealed a secret, uncovered a deceit or exposed something that was hidden. The origin of this expression comes from a time when farmers would bring a suckling pig to market in a bag. Sometimes a cat would be put in the bag instead to try and cheat the buyer out of his money. If the buyer bought the squirming, wriggling bag without looking inside first, he would be ripped off. If the buyer looked in the bag before before handing over is cash, then the cat would be 'let out of the bag' and the farmer's lie would be exposed.
Take a cat nap. A cat nap is a short, light, opportunistic snooze that is taken when you're quite busy but you really need to recharge your batteries. Cat naps are light and refreshing; they don't leave you feeling sluggish or groggy when you wake up. Some people also refer to cat naps as power naps, but a power nap can usually be taken day or night (such as in the middle of a late-night study session). A cat nap, on the other hand, is taken during the day. So what does a cat have to do with a cat nap? Cats often sleep lightly during the day, sometimes seated upright (as in the photo below). They're quite alert during these cat naps and if you watch carefully, you can see a napping cat's ears move in the direction of various sounds, even when they appear to be asleep.
Has the cat got your tongue? When someone, often a child, is rendered speechless because they've been caught in a fib or they're too shy to speak, someone might say to them, "Has the cat got your tongue?" There's no particular reason that the phrase includes 'the cat' other than that the saying was often directed towards children. Asking a shy child, "Has the cat got your tongue?" may coax a smile out of a nervous youngster while a stern "Speak up, child!" would have the opposite effect.
It's raining cats and dogs! When someone looks out the window and exclaims "It's raining cats and dogs!" you better get your boots and umbrella out. The rain is coming down hard and heavy.
The expression is believed to be related to Norse mythology--the cat symbolizes heavy rain while the dog, a companion of Odin, the storm God, represents blasting wind. Whether or not you know Norse mythology, the expression makes sense in light of the tumultuous relationships cats and dogs often have.
Can you identify some of these common 'cat-ch" phrases?
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Almond, Jordan. Dictionary of Word Origins: A History of the Words, Expressions, and ClicheÌs We Use. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 1998. Print.
© 2017 Sadie Holloway