In Reply to: Screwed like a house cat posted by R. Berg on January 31, 2009 at 17:47:
: : : : : : What does "Screwed like a house cat" mean and where did it come from please?
: : : : : Some people declaw their house cats. The declawing would make them at a disadvantage in an alley fight. Maybe that is an explanation.
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: : : : There's a brief Yahoo forum here: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090130062419AAp63wR
: : : : The few example I found witha quick "google" all seem to be from the US - reproduced below, with cintext where it helps:
: : : : The 21-year-old Vick was charged with three misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm, and was released on $10,000 bond.
: : : : He is done, screwed like a house cat in heat.
: : : : Chiefly, we need to spend a hell of a lot less money or we are screwed like a house cat!
: : : : The poor guy is probably still in shock from getting screwed like a house cat by his ex's attorney.
: : : : ...... could keep gasoline prices high, possibly for years to come.
: : : : We are getting screwed like a house cat from Dick and Co.
: : : : The examples show that while the phrase is paying reference to the alternative, sexual meaning ("in heat" is the clicher", that's not how it's used - all the above have the meaning "cheated" or "in serious difficulty".
: : : : So, one of thousands of similes with a deliberately disjointed reference, and used as a humorous intensifier. Someone may be able to find a "first recorded use" for you, but I'd be surprised if there's much more out there to find.
: : : : The "from Dick and Co" extension has me foxed - almost certainly another instance of contrasting two meanings of the same word, but what is the "straight" meaning here?
: : : "could keep gasoline prices high, possibly for years to come.
: : : We are getting screwed like a house cat from Dick and Co."
: : : Dick and Company could refer to that omnipotent controller of worldwide gasoline prices, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
: : : Screwed like a house cat in heat doesn't make much sense to me. Wouldn't an *alley* cat in heat attract more attention and be more accessible to suitors?
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: : I'd go with the Cheney thing - fits with the context - so the "Dick and Co" bit is not associated with the phrase as such, then.
: : House cats vs alley cats? I'm not sure how much logic you can throw at phrases like this - in the end, the phrases that get passed around are the ones that people think are cool or funny or forceful, for whatever reason. Maybe if a tom cat gets into the house, the house cat can't get away? - but I don't put this forward with that much seriousness. For that matter, why cats as opposed to some other animal? Is their mating a particularly "thorough" affair?
: : We've not yet heard from the guys with the reference books, and it'd be interesting to know how long this phrase has been around.
: Why cats? Maybe because cats in heat make themselves conspicuous by yowling. The courtship vocalizations of cats are piercing cries that are unlike everyday meows. Cats' matings are noisy and numerous. "House cat" would distinguish the animal from a wildcat. If a female cat in heat is confined indoors with no male, she'll carry on loudly, annoying the human residents, until the period of hormonal readiness passes. ~rb
There seem to be enough examples of this phrase to indicate that a portion of the population not entirely negligible believes that house cats are mostly unspayed, and therefore can come into heat, and that they are then likely to be screwed, presumably by some unneutered male with which they come into contact. How? By being let outside by stupid owners? By owners who have their very own tomcat inside the house? (I don't think owners are stupid because they let their cats go outside, but rather because they don't have their cats neutered or spayed. Not to do so i s irresponsible.)
The very existence of this phrase should remind owners of cats to see that their pets are all neutered. As for declawing, this is barbaric and should be unnecessary. Give the cats a scratching post impregnated with catnip.
Phrases that the chattering public finds appealing do not have to make sense, so "screwed like a house cat in heat" is probably destined to survive for a while.
I'm a guy with only one reference book, the OED, and it doesn't mention "screwed like a house cat." But it does have screw in both of the implied senses. To screw, in the sense of to copulate, or to have sex with, seems to have become common in the early 20th century, and is now part of the language. To screw in the sense of to extort or force is an older usage, found somewhat in the 17th century, but more commonly in the 18th. To screw in the sense of to ruin, to spoil, to make a mess of, is also an early 20th-century American usage which has persisted and spread.
Incidentally, rb has correctly described the noises made by female cats, both when they are in estrus and frustrated, and when they are actually copulating. Unless the female gives a shriek at some point she has probably not been impregnated. This is because of a peculiarity of feline copulation. (I don't know about the large cats.) As they say, no pain, no gain.