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Cat got your tongue

Posted by Joel on February 25, 2000

In Reply to: Cat got your tongue posted by ESC on February 25, 2000

: : I know when someone can't or won't speak someone would say: "What's the matter?" "Cat got your tongue"?
: : Where did this come from!?

: "Has the cat got your tongue? Why don't you speak? Your silence is suspicious. The saying originated in the mid-nineteenth century and was used when addressing a child who refused to answer a parent's questions after some mischief..." From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titleman (Random House, New York, 1996).

The humorous "shorthand" in this phrase encapsulates a chain of reasoning. You're not speaking. Maybe you have no tongue and can't speak. Cat's hunt and eat small bits, like mice, goldfish, and songbirds. Maybe a cat caught and ate your tongue. "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?"