Wednesday WOLF - Cat Got Your Tongue?

I'm a nerd. Yes, I'm in fact such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Today I thought we'd figure out why people ask those who don't wish to speak if the "cat's got your tongue?"

It's not something that's asked of me much, I'll admit.

It doesn't look like there is a dead-on answer for this one, as is the case with most idioms. However, there are some great, horrific possibilities.

The cat-o-nine tails was a nasty, nine-fingered whip with broken glass braided into it, or hooks attached to the ends. It was typically used on board ships to keep mouthy sailors in line. I suppose if my captain asked me if I had anything to say and he was holding on of those, I'd keep my mouth shut too.

Another reference I found was an ancient Middle Eastern practice of removing the tongues of liars and thieves and feeding them to cats.

Wednesday WOLF - Varieties of Cats

I’m such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF. Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

The word cat has undergone some serious transformation over time, and I see it popping back up in my teens these days as they (unknowingly) are exhibiting Beat identity.

Obviously we're aware of cat in the feline sense, and probably quite a few of you associate it with jazz slang, but did you know it was first used as a derogatory term for migrant workers and hobos? It was a not so nice allusion to the homelessness of both populations.

Only after that did the jazz culture pick up the term, originally only using it to refer to jazz musicians themselves. Louis Armstrong referred to himself and other musicians as "cats" as early as 1922. By the early 1940's, cat had shifted towards a general term for anyone who liked jazz, swing or jive music. The hipsters, Beats, and New Bohemians of the 1950's adopted the term and used it to describe an average, run-of-the-mill person.

How do I know all this? This is not off the top of my head, believe it or not. My own curiosity from overhearing teen-speak drove me to this little gem of a book: Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang by Tom Dalzell. Check it out, or you're in danger of being a square cat, instead of a hep cat.

Scott, The Female Cat

And because I'm blogging from the seat of my pants this week, today you get a random story from my life.

Because I have cats people tend to think I want more. So they leave furry gifts on my doorstep in the middle of the night. And while I'm acerbic about people, other mammals have my heart. One such special delivery came in the form of a big, healthy tabby who was of course, female. Which meant that I had to get the female de-femaled before she started taking sex walks.

My niece was two at the time, and I gave her the option of naming the new arrival. At that moment in her life everyone was Scott.

Me: Look at the deer in the field, aren't they pretty?
Her: Dat deer name is Scott.
Me: What about the one behind Scott, what's his name?
Her: Scott.

I tried to explain that our new kitty was a girl, and so Scott wasn't an appropriate name, but my daughter just shook her head and said, "Dat cat Scott." So I took to calling her Scott The Female Cat.

So when I took Scott to the Humane Society to get spayed there was some minor confusion at the desk.

Me: Hi, I'm bringing my cat in to be spayed today.
Receptionist: *filing through papers* And what is your cat's name?
Me: Scott
Receptionist: *blank look* You said to be spayed, right?
Me: Yeah, this is Scott The Female Cat. 
Receptionist: *bright smile* Okay then, pick Scott back up at four.

I go home, do some things, point out more denizens of the animal world that my daughter promptly names Scott, and return at four.

Me: Hi, I'm here to pick up my cat Scott, she was spayed.
Different Receptionist: You mean neutered?
Me: No, Scott's a girl.
Different Receptionist: *looks at papers* Um, no Scott's a boy.
Me: *trying not to sound defensive* Uh, I grew up on a farm, pretty sure Scott's a girl.
Different Receptionist: No really, Scott was a boy all along, his testicles never descended.

Niece: See, dat cat Scott.