Posted by Smokey Stover on January 03, 2007
In Reply to: Cat whisker posted by R. Berg on January 03, 2007
: : : : cat whisker, how the same is used in day to day langusge, its meaning
: : : In everyday language, it refers to the whisker of a cat, which would be one of the stiff, protruding hairs next to a cat's nostrils and abeam of its mouth to some extent. A cat may also have a few such stiff and protruding hairs above his eyes but below his ears. They are used as antennae by the cat, sometimes to test whether an opening is large enough for them to pass through.
: : : The term cat's whisker is sometimes used for the wire or pin that touches a crystal in a home-made radio tuner, although not many people make their own radio in that way these days.
: : : SS
: : The expression "by a whisker" means by a very small amount e.g. "He won the election by a whisker" means he just got enough votes to win. I looked on google and people are using the expression "by a cat's whisker" in the same way e.g. "I passed my CSE by a cats' whisker with a grade 4." meaning that she barely passed her exam. (http://www.angelfire.com/biz6/Psyteric/bio.html). Mice have whiskers as well and "by a mouse's whisker" came up with one hit "These people don't want to just win by a mouse's whisker, they want to tromp the opposition into paste. They want all or nothing - and people who want it ..." http://www.plastic.com/article.html;sid=05/05/19/11014692. Are there any other animals with whiskers? I don't know -cats and mice are the only two which spring to my mind although I'm sure there are others. But "by a whisker" (i.e. withour the "cat's") is the only one I've heard used myself. Pamela
: Other animals with whiskers? Yes, rabbits, at least. ~rb
I was curious as to why S. Bhatnagar thought there might be a "day to day meaning" of cat whisker other than just cat whisker. I still don't know, but I did find a curious item in today's news.
'According to the OED, "the cat's whiskers" and the "bee's knees" have both referred to the acme of excellence since 1923 but the coarser "dog's bollocks" does not appear until 1989 when it was used in the British adult comic Viz to introduce its "best of issues 26 to 31".'
I knew about the cat's meow, and about the cat's pajamas, in slang of the 1920s, but I did not know that cat's whiskers was part of that company. It still doesn't count as a day-to-day meaning, since it belongs to the part of '20s slang that is now dead as a doornail.