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"Kick the Can"

Posted by R. Berg on March 26, 2003

In Reply to: Another kick at the can/cat posted by TheFallen on March 26, 2003

: : Two questions:
: : 1. What is the origin of the phrase "another kick at the can" (or cat), meaning "another attempt", as in this example: "In spite of our committee's previous failures to agree on this item, I'll take another kick at the can in drafting a proposal."
: : 2. Which form -- using "can" or using "cat" -- is the original one? I have found examples of each on the internet, but other than forming the opinion that "can" is more commonly used than "cat", I haven't found which was used first (and is probably therefore more legitimate).

: It's "another kick at the can", I'm pretty sure. I think it refers to an exclusively American children's game, called (staggeringly enough) kicking the can - but don't ask me how it's played. Steven Spielberg directed an "episode" in the 1983 movie "The Twilight Zone" called "Kicking The Can".

: "Kicking the cat" is also an idiom in its own right, usually used when one wants to express frustration - "That meeting was so boring and unproductive that when I finally got home, I had to kick the cat."

For the record: What Spielberg directed was a remake of four episodes from the American TV series "The Twilight Zone." The original episode "Kick the Can," written by George Clayton Johnson and directed by Lamont Johnson, was broadcast in 1962.
Source: Marco Scott Zicree, "The Twilight Zone Companion" (2nd ed.), Bantam Books, 1989.