Catch-em-alive O

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on April 28, 2005

In Reply to: Catch-em-alive O posted by Blackbird on April 28, 2005

: What does the phrase mean?

: In 'Little Dorrit', Charles Dickens said:

: There were views, like and unlike, of a multitude of places; and there was one little picture-room devoted to a few of the regular sticky old Saints, with sinews like whipcord, hair like Neptune's, wrinkles
: like tattooing, and such coats of varnish that every holy personage served for a fly-trap, and became what is now called in the vulgar tongue a Catch-em-alive O.

: Why it's 'vulgar'? Last question, when is the first use of 'Catch-em-alive O'?

: Thank you.

: I don't know about a first use, but Cassell's Dictionary of Slang says that was "mid-19th century" slang for a fly-trap. When Dickens says "the vulgar tongue" he doesn't mean rude; he just means "slang, working-class speech".