In my first article of my first book, I talk about dogs in our language. When we think of the very strong human-animal bond, we often think of dogs. But it is not just dogs that comfort us, protect us and live for us. Seems we have quite a few cat metaphors throughout our language. Cats creep in our laps and our language. A cat is a small animal related to lions and tigers, but a cool cat is a man. A fat cat may have won the lottery because a black cat didn’t cross his path. Regardless, you cats are crazy!
I’d like to be a cat sleeping in a sunbeam, but not as mad as a wet cat. You may own a dog, but a cat has no master. Cats have servants. Actually, cats have never forgotten they were worshipped in ancient Egypt. That might be because cats have nine lives. If you are special, you might be the cat’s meow, the cat’s pajamas or in Britain, the cat’s whiskers. In the world of jazz, you might be a hepcat if you are stylish or fashionable. If you are proud, you may look like you got in the cream or ate the canary. If you were out catting, tomcatting or pussy-catting around, you might look like something the cat drug in. But “look what the cat drug in” might just be an announcement. A cat-o-nine tails would leave parallel wounds like claw marks. Used for punishment on British ships, it is as old as Egyptian times. Punished with it you might have nothing to say for a while or the cat’s got your tongue. Or in ancient Egypt, a liar’s tongue was cut out and fed to the cat. Which is better than letting the cat out of the bag. By the way, this dates back to the market days when a pig in a poke [sack] might be let out when checking to see if it was really a cat. There is a book Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The wife in the story said sometimes she feels like a cat on a hot tin roof. Brick then calls her Maggie the Cat. Maggie is very sensual and aggressively sexual, which is like a cat in heat. (Cat’s in heat are in pain unless they have sex and the resultant hormone release.) Tennessee Williams uses the image in a time the words wouldn’t have been allowed. I haven’t read the book, but perhaps they fought like cats and dogs in a house with no room to swing a cat in. Or acted like a black cat had run between them. Occasionally, they might play like a cat and mouse. Sure enough, when the cat is away, the mice will play. Regardless, a leopard can’t change his spots. Don’t put your whiskers where they don’t belong, because a scalded cat fears cold water and curiosity killed the cat. Or was Schrödinger’s cat really dead. Beware of deceit because the cat bites its own tail and there’s a cat lying in wait around here somewhere. But you don’t want to be a scaredy or even a fraidy cat! Not too much cattitude though!
Perhaps since cats were used as furs in the latter 1800’s, it was noted that fresh dead cats were easier to skin than ones that had been dead a while. So, there is more than one way to skin a cat, but to skin a cat alive would be near impossible. Or maybe like herding cats. If you are really funny, you might make a cat laugh. But bring your umbrella, because it might rain cats and dogs. Common as mud, you might ask “who’s she – the cat’s mother?” Be sure to call a cat a cat a cat, there are other cats to skin, but not a cat in hell’s chance. You want to have a catlike appearance and catlike movements. They are cool and conniving. Indeed these most popular words to precede cat is beloved, fluffy and crazy. (According to Joanna Rubery and the Oxford English Corpus. http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/07/call-a-cat-a-cat/)More cats are owned than dogs in the US, but more houses have dogs. If you get too many cats and you are the crazy cat lady. Whatever, cats very much a part of our hearts and in our language. In fact, they are like cat fur, everywhere. In short, they are the cat’s meow, but they don’t really have nine lives.
(What do you call the cat’s sofa? Fur-niture!)