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"old Tom"

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 01, 2004

In Reply to: "Old Tom" posted by R. Berg on April 01, 2004

: : Thank you very much for your answers, ESC and Steve!

: : Another question if you please (connected to the previous):

: : "Some friends of mine had a cat, a big black Tom...One day a Chinchilla came to live in the neighbourhood and the two cats met at a garden wall party."

: : Do you think that Tom and Chinchilla are their names or perhaps Tom stands for a "male cat" also(as "old Tom" does)?

: "Tom" means an unneutered male cat. A dictionary would have answered that question for you. In cats, "chinchilla" refers to a silvery-white coat color.

If you like whimsical stories about the adventures of animals told in human terms, try Don Marquis and his "archy and mehitabel." I'm glad Ms. Berg was clear about the chinchilla-coated cat, because normally one would expect the word chinchilla to refer to the small, furry rodent from South America with that name. A real chinchilla would be seen by a hungry tom cat as a tasty morsel. A "garden wall party" is a cute way of saying a "garden party" (a gathering out in the back yard), but on the garden wall (where cats like to sit and sometimes yowl, or caterwaul). Tom is a generic word for male turkeys as well as unneutered male cats (as Ms. Berg said). The word is also sometimes used as an abbreviation for Uncle Tom, but I hope you never need to remember that. SS