Posted by Lap of the Goddess on October 04, 2003
In Reply to: Bright-eyed . . . posted by ESC on September 24, 2003
: : : : : : : In the U.S. of A. this locution brings to mind, besides humans who are unusually alert and cheerful, squirrels.
: : : : : I totally agree with you that this phrase relates to squirrels. But one reference says the animal in question is a cat.
: : : : : "Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Bright-eyed is obvious and the bushy-tailed here is a reference to the tail of a cat, which fluffs up when the animal becomes excited. The expression means cheerful and lively, and it dates back to the nineteenth century." (From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, Facts on File, New York, 1997.)
: : : : I have been caring for cats since God was in his crib, and living near squirrels for the same length of time. I have never seen a cat with both bushy tail and bright eyes at the same time. Just because something is printed in a book doesn't make it so. From which File did Mr. Hendrickson get his Fact?
: : : Another cat person here. Shorthair cats do have bushy tails when they're angry, as when confronting another cat. Longhair cats have bushy tails all the time. I've never seen the brightness of a cat's eyes change, though, or a squirrel's. I suspect that "bright-eyed" is more fanciful than literal.
: : No evidence at all, but I've always presumed squirrels as well. Not that I'm any arboreal rodent expert, but a bushy tail carried high is, I suspect, a sign of liveliness and good health - I for one wouldn't life insure a squirrel with a moth-eaten ragged rat's tail.
: I have three cats and a yard full of squirrels. I agree that Mr. Henderson missed the mark on this one.
::: We don't have squirrels and my only experience with them is they can spot a tourist and con them out of their lunch without any effort. Cute little critters. However, as the owner of several cats, dogs, ponies, alpacas, cattle and birds, I have to agree that all these eyes remain bright all the time, regardless of their state of alertness (well except when they're sleepy of course).
BUT, when my cats spot something they REALLY want, their eyes appear to become huge and their attention very very focussed. So maybe that's what the term 'bright eyed' means.