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Another kick at the can/cat

Posted by Greg on March 26, 2003

In Reply to: Another kick at the can/cat posted by Gary 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."

: : Just for interest's sake, here is a link to for instructions on how to play "kick the can"...

: I played this in England as a child. The rules weren't quite the same as the US version. If anyone hiding could run out and kick the can without being caught they were free. A mean trick was to nail the can to the ground.

Thanks to all for your input (and for the link!). I will confess to some surprise -- I had suspected that "kick at the cat" was more "correct". I now suspect that the "cat" version is a bastardized form of the "can" version. For future study: Is usage of "cat" widely dispersed, or more particular to certain geographical locations? (I live in and grew up near Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). In any event, thanks again.