Posted by Smokey Stover on April 19, 2007
In Reply to: Pussy footing posted by pamela on April 18, 2007
: : : : : Greetings to all. I have tried to find an accepted definition and origin of the term "pussy footing (around)". I cannot find any references to the term itself so of course there is no offering of it's origin. Can anyone out there help?
: : : : I have three cats. Cats, if they choose to, can walk gingerly and carefully around breakables, etc.
: : : Cats don't weigh much (except for that magical ability of theirs by which they increase their weight tenfold when you try to pick them up to take to the vet), and they have soft feet, the lower surface being fleshy pads and fur when claws are retracted. Consequently, they can walk silently - advantageous for sneaking up on prey. ~rb
: : You'll find definitions and examples of usage if you look under pussyfoot, intransitive verb. The Oxford English Dictionary has an excellent definition and plenty of examples.
: : " 1. intr. To tread softly or lightly to avoid being noticed; to proceed warily; to conceal one's opinions or plans; to behave evasively or timidly.
: : Also with it.
: : 1903 Atlanta Constitution 20 Mar. 3 Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks is pussy-footing it around Washington...1949 Time 9 May 25/2 The ones who pussy~footed, side-stepped, straddled, carried water on both shoulders and compromised were left at home. 1951 E. PAUL Springtime in Paris viii. 155, I saw you pussyfooting around the exhibition. 1973 Times 16 Oct. 6/6 A Labour Government should not 'pussyfoot around' with reform of the Official Secrets Act but scrap it. 1975 B. WOOD Killing Gift IV. i. 129 Why do you pussy~foot, captain?.. Why not just say it -- you think Jennifer Gilbert killed him. 1977 Jrnl. R. Soc. Arts CXXV. 626/1 We have 'pussy-footed' round this issue of profit for years. 1980 Brit. Med. Jrnl. 29 Mar. 937/1 It is time someone was honest enough to stop pussyfooting about."
: : I'm going to guess that you found this verb in a political context, with Congress or Parliament on the one hand and the media on the other pussyfooting around the issue. It's often associated with political or journalistic cowardice.
: : SS
: "Carried water on both shoulders" from the OED is new to me. I wonder if it is referring to pots or jugs of water (from the well) or some other water carried on the shoulder. And why is it a bad thing? Pamela
I imagine that it comes from the expression "carry water for [someone else]," which means doing some of the labor for, typically, a better-known person, supporting him, explaining him, furthering his cause, doing him favors. Someone speaking unkindly of Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman might say that Lieberman had more than once carried water for the Republicans.
One way to carry water is on your shoulder. Carrying water on both shoulders might be carrying water for both sides.
Disclaimer: I don't know if this interpretation is correct. I have never heard the phrase, "carry water on both shoulders."