In Reply to: Walk the cat back posted by Laurie Miller on April 05, 2010 at 13:06:
: Columnist Maureen Dowd, in the current New York Times, uses the phrase "to walk the cat back," apparently to suggest that a certain attempt to reverse a course of events is unlikely to succeed. I don't believe I've seen this one before, even though a simple Google search turns up many other instances of its use. It seems to imply a more structured approach to undoing perceived damage than would, say, "to put the cat back into the bag." Is this, indeed, what it means? Or is there a standard meaning for "to walk the cat back" of which I am not aware?
[Robert Littell wrote a spy thriller called _Walking Back the Cat_, first published in 1997. That was my first time meeting the phrase. I seem to recall the author included a note on the title, giving his version of its meaning and provenance. It was current, if memory serves me, among government operators, who used it to mean attempting to retrace a process to its origin, when that process had been tentative and indirect in the first place. So, yes, unlikely to succeed. -Baceseras.]