Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cat Idioms?

I am absolutely fascinated by idioms.  No, not the Kardashians, I said idioms.  

You know, it is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning (copied from Wikipedia cause I'm not that smart.)

Most of them I can understand and even guess at their origin.  Take for instance - love is blind.  Meaning that when in love we tend to be blind to certain faults in the beloved like not having a job, a prison record, or not installing the toilet paper to dispense over the top.  Love being blind is not always a bad thing, it's a way of saying we really like this person and we're willing to overlook the fact that they aren't perfect.

However, one idiom has troubled me for years - There's more than one way to skin a cat.  What?  How did this idiom arise?  Who came up with this and why did it stick?  Here's the story....

A bunch of elderly men were watching  a younger man skin a cat?  Why he is skinning a cat, history doesn't tell us.  Anyway, as the man is skinning this cat, each older man is trying to guide him and coach him and an argument ensues.  

They are all seated in rocking chairs and the speed of the rockers increase as the debate rolls on.  This increased rocking makes the young man more nervous than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs (not the same cat).  In fact, folks begin to hear this discussion from outside and begin to gather in the room to hear the debate because, well, curiosity killed the cat (at least it was natural causes).

There were so many people there wasn't enough room to swing a cat without hitting someone (again, not the same cat).  Small arguments began among the newcomers and small groups formed alliances. 

As the fervor rose to a crescendo, in walked Sally Jane grinning like a Cheshire cat (we're not told the breed of the cat being skinned). Everyone could see it was raining cats and dogs (this explains the need to process these cats) outside as she stood there in the doorway. Billy Joe called out, "Well, look what the cat dragged in!" (actually impossible unless we include lions and tigers), and everyone chuckled.  

Frank said, "What's the matter, cat got your tongue? (a very dangerous situation indeed)"

Sally Jane responded, "I see nothing's changed around here, when the cat's away, the mice will play (ref. Tom & Jerry)You dang fools, don't you know there's more than one way to skin a cat. (a casual internet search lists 324 ways to be precise.  Warning: do not Google this!)"

And so now you know the origin of this phrase, share it with your friends, it's no secret now cause......the cat's out of the bag (no cats were harmed in the telling of this story).

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