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"She" is the cat's mother

Posted by Word Camel on November 15, 2002

In Reply to: "She" is the cat's mother posted by R. Berg on November 15, 2002

: : : : G'day
: : : : I was hoping you could help me. I was wondering where the expression "She's the Cat's Mother" came from. You know when someone says..... "Oh she is over there" and then they say it's not SHE, she's the cat's mother.

: : : From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:

: : : 'she' is a (or 'the') cat's mother. One of the two or three best-known of the domestic catchphrases, this has, mid (?early) C19-20, been addressed, usually by a parent, to a child, whether very young or teenaged, referring thus to his or her mother. By 1960, slightly ob.
: : : There is a variant.: 'who is "she"? the cat's grandmother?': late C19-mid C20.

: : : We don't have this saying in the US as far as I know. From what Partridge says, I gather that it's used to reprimand children for calling their mothers "she" instead of something more proper.

: : Absolutey correct! I had completely forgotten this saying, but I now remember. It was one my Mum used on me when I called her, or one of her friends, 'she'.

: Now that that's been confirmed, I want to ask why calling one's mother "she" is (or was) bad manners. Hypothetical conversation:

: Father: Did your mother bring in the newspaper?
: Child: Yes, she did.

: What's wrong with that?

I think I've heard yound children use pronouns without making it clear to whom they refer. "She" could be anyone. The example of being to informal with other adults, not one's mother makes sense to me. Of course this is doomed to fade into history, at least in my neighborhood where adults are no longer Mr. Jones or Mrs.Thomas, but "Chuck" or "Vanessa". They even call teachers by their first names! What is the world coming to?


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