Tag Archives: cats
to grin like a Cheshire cat

to grin like a Cheshire cat

  Alice speaks to Cheshire Cat – illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)     The Cheshire cat is now largely identified with the character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), by the English writer Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – 1832-98): “Please would you tell me,” said Alice, a […]

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to smell a rat

    MEANING   to detect something suspicious     ORIGIN   The first known use of this phrase is in The Image of Ipocrysy, an anonymous poem written around 1540, denouncing “the cruell clergy”: (published in 1843) Suche be owr [= our] primates, Our bisshopps and prelates, Our parsons and curates, With other like […]

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caterpillar

    MEANING   the larva of a butterfly or moth     ORIGIN   First attested in the mid-15th century, the noun caterpillar is probably from catepeluse and variants, which were the Anglo-Norman forms of the Old French feminine noun chatepelose and variants, meaning literally hairy she-cat. In his textbook Lesclarcissement de la langue […]

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a pig in a poke

    In this expression, the noun poke denotes a bag, a small sack. It is from Anglo-Norman and Old Northern French forms such as poke and pouque, variants of the Old French forms poche and pouche — the last of which is the origin of English pouch. (Incidentally, English pocket is from Anglo-Norman poket, […]

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to let the cat out of the bag

    MEANING   to disclose a secret     ORIGIN   Although it is possible that to let the cat out of the bag originally referred to some specific allusion, such as a line in a play, that has now been lost, it is probable that this phrase is simply based on the comparison […]

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to rain cats and dogs (2)

    According to B. A. Phythian in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), the phrase to rain cats and dogs, or at least the metaphor, was in use for a long period before it was first recorded, and was originally referring to a disaster. He explains that a clue as to the origin of this phrase is to be found in […]

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to rain cats and dogs (1)

to rain cats and dogs (1)

    MEANING   to rain very hard     ORIGIN   Although B. A. Phythian made an interesting hypothesis as to the origin of this phrase in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), to rain cats and dogs is probably based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or […]

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ailurophile

ailurophile

      An ailurophile is a cat lover, and an ailurophobe is a person who has an intense fear of, or aversion to, cats. These words are based on ancient Greek ἀίλουρος (ailouros)*, also αἰέλουρος (aielouros), meaning cat, perhaps, as reported by ancient grammarians, composed of αἰόλος (aiolos), swift, and οὐρά (oura), tail**, the […]

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February

February

      February is from classical Latin Februārius, a noun use of the adjective in mēnsis Februārius (mēnsis = month). This adjective is from the plural noun februa (singular februum), meaning means of purification, expiatory offerings. The Roman festival of purification and expiation was held on the 15th of this month. The origin of […]

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whipping boy

whipping boy

  Las Meninas (The young ladies-in-waiting) – 1656 – Diego Velázquez         MEANING   A whipping boy is a person who is blamed or punished for the faults or incompetence of others. This meaning is first recorded in Essays written in the Intervals of Business (1841) by the public servant and writer […]

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