Posted by ESC on June 13, 2004
In Reply to: Apologies to Mr. Funk. posted by Smokey Stover on June 13, 2004
: : : : : : : : : I can't find the phrase "Theres more than one way to skin a cat". Is it here or did I just miss it? I hear this phrase accaisionally from older folks. Thanks.
: : : : : : : : : Try typing "skin a cat" and that should do it!
: : : : : : : From the archives:
: : : : : : : SKIN THE CAT - According to Charles Earle Funk in "A Hog on Ice" (Harper & Row, New York, 1948) the expression "to skin the cat" refers to a boy's gymnastic trick: "In America, as any country boy knows, this means to hang by the hands from a branch or bar, draw the legs up through the arms and over the branch, and pull oneself up into a sitting position. As we must abide by the record, we cannot say positively that the name for this violent small-boy exercise is more than a century old, but it is highly likely that Ben Franklin or earlier American lads had the same name for it. No one got around to putting it into print until about 1845. One can't be sure why the operation was called 'skinning the cat,' but maybe some mother, seeing it for the first time, saw in it some resemblance to the physical operation of removing the pelt from a cat, first from the forelegs and down over the body." Mr. Funk doesn't say WHY anyone would actually skin a cat, but anyway.
: : : : : : : : : "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996) lists the expression "more than one way to skin a cat" but doesn't really address the origin. Mr. Titelman does say it dates back to the 1678: "MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT --There are many ways to do something. The proverb appeared in John Ray's collection of English proverbs in 1678, and is first attested in the United States in 'John Smith's Letters' . 'There are more ways to kill a cat besides choking him to death' is a variant of the saying. The words 'with butter' or 'on cream' may replace the words 'to death' in the latter version."
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: : : : : : why even give the 1948 comment space on here?
: : : : : : when there are clearly much older origins, to give space to Americocentric cr@p again?
: : : : : : FFS - the world existed before 1776 or even 1492 and English was around a long time before Americans (apart from the native ones they got rid of).
: : : : : : if the Whole 9 yards turned out to be an American expression or first in print in the US Fine! I have no problem with that, but please spare us the fairly recent US usages for Old World phrases.
: : : : : : If you are a frequent visitor to this site, you are already aware that the language evolves differently in various parts of the world and we have contributors from different lands and backgrounds. Those who answer requests on this site do so from a variety of sources that deserve to be read and considered. Should you have other sources on the origin of any words and phrases you are more than welcome to contribute them here.
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: : : : this board spreads across the world and folk come from all quarters of the globe to discuss words and phrases. I have become email friends with Americans through this board, so don't see me as xenophobic. what gets my goat is when a phrase of obviously old origin - often using very comonplace words is cited with a fairly modern US origin. there have been lots of examples over the time that I have posted on here.
: : : : maybe I don't speak for many, but mentioning some bod in 1948 trying to create a link with Benjamin Franklin for an Old World English phrase is compounding an error in my opinion and it should be discouraged.
: : : : there are times when such references are appropriate, but this is not one.
: : : Hit one wrong key and you're in deep do-do! That's why there's a superfluous entry under my name. Anyway, would any American say "Americocentric"? We Yankees can be chauvinistic, even jingoistic, but Americocentric? Never! (We residents of the U.S. are Americans, but our land is the U.S. or U.S.A. After all, the entire New World is America. We Americans just inhabit part of it.) I tried to debunk Mr. Funk's explanation of "skin a cat" twice on this site, but it just keeps popping up. Nobody ever looks at the archives. And at least twice more before the year's end someone will ask about skinning the cat, and Mr. Funk will be cited. Give the man a break--anyone can make a mistake. He and some other authors have worked hard to assemble information about popular sayings, and occasionally they err. What a surprise! If that phrase, "There's more than one way to skin a cat," falls into desuetude I, for one, shall not be sorry. What an ugly expression! SS
: : Explain to me why you think Mr. Funk is wrong? He is talking about the name given to a trick that young boys like to do. It may or may not have anything to do with the proverb that the second reference traces back to the 1600s.
: Sorry if I'm kicking a dead horse, but when Mr. Funk was cited in connection with the saying, "There's more than one way..." etc., I inferred, perhaps incorrectly, that the citation from his book, although only partial, was intended to refer to the saying, not solely to the expression "skin the cat," which he claims was popular among American boys in some location at some time. Well, Mr. Funk may not have been wrong about "There's more" etc., but I have yet to hear that anyone besides Mr. Funk knows first-hand that any significant number of American boys performed the specified maneuver to which he gives the name "skin the cat." Funk is presumably trying to explain common sayings and phrases. Is "skin the cat," referring to said boyish maneuver, a common saying, phrase or expression? Perhaps it was somewhere, sometime, but where and when? And just how common? SS
I was just posting the information as grist for the discussion mill. I am protective of Mr. Funk. His was the first phrase book I bought.
The Americocentric charge is very annoying. I am from the U.S. and my reference books are either published in the U.S. or Britain. However, most of the authors have done extensive research and cite uses of a phrase in other countries. My last word on the subject: If anybody wants to buy me some books published in other countries, I will be glad to set up a post office box and accept donations.