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Re: Where does Kitty Corner derive from

Posted by Bruce Kahl on December 14, 2001

In Reply to: Where does Kitty Corner derive from posted by jacob on December 13, 2001

: What is the origin of Kitty Corner?

A paraphrase from the Word Detective:

The word is "catercorner" or "catercornered." The "cater" is an Anglicization of the French "quatre," or "four," and "catercornered" originally just meant "four-cornered." To specify that something is "catercorner across" from something else is to stress the diagonal axis of an imaginary box, as opposed to saying "directly across" or just "across."

According to the Dictionary of American Regional English "catercorner" first appeared around 1883 in the South, and originally meant "askew" or "out of line." The "diagonally across" meaning soon took over, however, as did the transition from "cater" to "catty." Linguists call this process "folk etymology" -- people replacing an unfamiliar element in a word or phrase ("cater") with a familiar one ("catty" or "kitty"). "Cattycorner" has remained purely an Americanism.