Posted by The Fallen on February 15, 2002
In Reply to: Swing a cat posted by psi on February 15, 2002
: : : No room to swing a cat may come from Mark Twain. I remember him describing a room as being too small to swing a cat in. Possibly in Innocents Abroad.
: : Here's what I found out
about the origin:
: : If there's not enough room to swing a cat then space is very tight; the room is very tiny. The cat in this instance is said not to be of the Pussy variety but, rather, o'nine tails type. The nine thronged whip was used as punishment at sea. Because space was at a premium below decks there was not enough room to wield the whip; in consequence the whipping always took place on deck.
: : Evidence against the above origin comes from the fact that the expression was in use in the 1500s and the cat o'nine tails was not invented until the mid 1600s. Thus it may be that the saying truly involves felines, since there used to be a "sport" of swinging cats by their tails as targets for archers.
: Ah! So does that also give an explanation for the name "cat o'nine tails"?
There *seriously* used to be a sport involving swinging cats by their tails for archery target practice? Now that's just fabulous and I MUST know more. First, was the cat released before the arrow in a combo clay-pigeon/hammer toss style? Or did the luckless catswinger close his eyes and pray that the bowman was both sober and accurate? Mind you, if you were a catswinger, the prospect of an arrow between the eyes probably paled into insignificance at the thought of an enraged spitting biting clawing yowling kitty trying to climb down one's arm - I expect that keeping up some serious revs per minute was an essential, and that centrifugal force was a catswinger's best friend.
I would love to see a url with documentary evidence of this. I am sure that I could probably get a high-class TV network - Fox for SURE - interested in televising this, so any material would be much welcomed.