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Swing a cot

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 24, 2008 at 17:45

In Reply to: Swing a cot posted by Tom Anderson on May 24, 2008 at 16:19:

: I was wondering if the expression "swing a cat" might be an amusing turn of phrase derived from "swing a cot", which was used to express a similar meaning (cramped space) in a similar, nautical, context.

: A google search shows the expression used, e.g., by Elizabeth Simcoe in her diary "Sailing for the Canada" (Sept. 26, 1791: "I became giddy (seasick) as soon as I entered the ship and went to my cabin, an apartment just large enough to swing a cot, which I immediately got into."

: And the 1825 East India Guide has this: "Should a passenger's circumstances enable him to hire a cabin, his comfort will be very greatly increased, even with barely room enough to swing a cot, or to put up a standing bed."

: I realize that these aren't as early as some of the listed examples of "swing a cat". And my apologies if this is already a familiar (and long rejected) notion.

No, I think it's quite new; congratulations! However, as you say, "swing a cat" appears to be the earlier version. "Swing a cot" might be a pun on a well-known saying, or even possibly a rationalisation of it; once swinging cats in bottles as targets ceased to be a popular activity, no doubt it puzzled people. (VSD)