Posted by ESC on November 08, 2002
In Reply to: The cat's ass posted by Gary on November 08, 2002
: : My co-workers and I were pondering why someone would use the
phrase "that's the cat's ass" in response for something good. Last
time I checked a cat's ass wasn't a very pleasant thing. So why
do we use it that way and where does this saying come from?
: : Can anyone help?
: Or the dog's bollocks? I like the inventive alternative, 'the mutt's nuts', athough why either is used to signify quality is beyond me.
Perhaps it's a variation on the 1920s "series" that included "the cat's pajamas," "the bee's knees," etc. Someone pointed out that all of those expressions included a part of an animal's anatomy except for "cat's pajamas." (And looking at the list, "clam's garters") Maybe someone decided to correct that situation with "a cat's ass."
From "Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past" by Stuart Berg Flexner: "For 'great' (in the 20s) we have: the cat's pajamas, remarkable, first used around 1920, when pajamas were still somewhat shockingly new...similar expressions...the duck's quack, 1920; the bee's knees, the clam's garters, the elephant's wrist, the eel's ankles, the gnat's elbow, all 1923 the elephant's arches and the sardine's whiskers, both 1924; the bullfrog's beard, the cuckoo's chin, the leopard's stripes, the pig's wings, the snake's hips, and the tiger's spots, all 1925."