Softly, softly, catchee monkey

Posted by R. Berg on September 07, 2001

In Reply to: Softly, softly, cachee monkey posted by ESC on September 07, 2001

: : Does anyone know where this phrase come from and what it actually means?

: I know this came up before but I can't find it in the archives.

It's discussed in Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day. Partridge says it means "Gently does it!" and probably appeared in the late 19th century. Origin is hazy because the phrase was largely "neglected by the editors of the relevant works of reference." Partridge quotes a paraphrase by Wilfred Granville, "Dictionary of Theatrical Terms" : "Stalk your prey carefully; or, generally, to achieve an object by quiet application."