Posted by VictoriaS Dennis on August 14, 2005
In Reply to: Re: Idioms about cats posted by Bob on August 13, 2005
: : : : : Hi!
: : : : : I`m writing you from Russia. Please, could you say me some English idioms about cats! I need it for my child`s English lessons.
: : : : : Thank you!
: : : : If you go back one page and type "cats" in the Google Search box, you'll find 304 possible answers.
: : : Like "curiosity killed the cat" -- http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/42/messages/626.html
: : It sounds stupid to have to say this, but most of the hundreds of English idioms about cats really are about real feline cats. You'll come across many confident assertions that "no room to swing a cat" is about flogging with a cat o'nine tails, that "more than one way to skin a cat" is about skinning catfish, and so on and so forth. These "explanations" are simply not true. Those sayings are about real live furry cats!
: I'm glad you said that. People (especially cat owners?) are understandably squeamish about the cruel indifference exemplified by your two examples, and they may be the ones who make up the alternate explanations thinking no one could possibly think ill of little tabby.
Yes, it's curious what a complete change there has been in the English-speaking peoples' attitude to animals in the last 150 years or so. Englishmen used to be notorious in Europe for their cruelty and indifference to animals (c.f. Robert Burton's remark "England is a paradise for women and hell for horses"), and they seem particularly to have despised cats, which were quite routinely swung by the tail as a target for marksmen, tied in sacks to be passed off to gullible peasants as piglets, and skinned for their fur when dead.There was also a charming 17th-18th century custom, when burning anyone in effigy, of filling the effigy with live cats so that the effigy would scream realistically as it burned. Ah, Merrie England!