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Skin a cat

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 17, 2004

In Reply to: Kill a cat posted by Rube on April 14, 2004

: : : I want to learn about the proverb "there is more than one way to kill a cat"the origin of it,who said it first ,in which situations it is used? please help me .thanks:)

: : It is a variation of "more than one way to skin a cat."

: : From the archives:

: : SKIN THE CAT - According to Charles Earle Funk in "A Hog on Ice" (Harper & Row, New York, 1948) the expression "to skin the cat" refers to a boy's gymnastic trick: "In America, as any country boy knows, this means to hang by the hands from a branch or bar, draw the legs up through the arms and over the branch, and pull oneself up into a sitting position. As we must abide by the record, we cannot say positively that the name for this violent small-boy exercise is more than a century old, but it is highly likely that Ben Franklin or earlier American lads had the same name for it. No one got around to putting it into print until about 1845. One can't be sure why the operation was called 'skinning the cat,' but maybe some mother, seeing it for the first time, saw in it some resemblance to the physical operation of removing the pelt from a cat, first from the forelegs and down over the body." Mr. Funk doesn't say WHY anyone would actually skin a cat, but anyway.

: : "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996) lists the expression "more than one way to skin a cat" but doesn't really address the origin. Mr. Titelman does say it dates back to the 1678: "MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT --There are many ways to do something. The proverb appeared in John Ray's collection of English proverbs in 1678, and is first attested in the United States in 'John Smith's Letters' . 'There are more ways to kill a cat besides choking him to death' is a variant of the saying. The words 'with butter' or 'on cream' may replace the words 'to death' in the latter version."

: "this means to hang by the hands from a branch or bar, draw the legs up through the arms and over the branch, and pull oneself up into a sitting position."

: This cannot be the origin as there is only one way to "skin" this cat - just as described.

Rube is right, this maneuver cannot be performed in more than one way. Charles Funk claims that every country boy in America knows the maneuver. Well, I was a country boy in America, and although the maneuver was certainly well-known, it was not known by that name in any part of the country where I ever lived. The name "skin the cat" makes little sense in connection with the saying. This is a case where to "skin a cat" is very different from "skin the cat." This etymology is just plain wrong. As for there being "more than one way to kill a cat," that's pretty obvious. I'm not convinced that that saying (if there really is one) has anything to do with the "skin a cat" saying, unless it simply resulted from a misunderstanding or faulty memory of the latter. SS