Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why the cat wants your tongue

Because cats are carnivores. But seriously, now, where did the phrase “cat got your tongue” come from? There are many theories, but no real answers.

It might be a phrase that was used by parents questioning their children when they refused to speak. In some cases, the child was shy; in other cases he was refusing to answer to avoid punishment for something.

The “cat” part of the phrase may be referring to the way cats drag in (look what the cat drug in!) small rodents and animals. The human tongue is roughly the same size as some of these lovely little tidbits.

Another theory is that it refers to a cat o’ nine tails. If the captain of a ship told something to one of the shipmates in secrecy, he would be threatened with a good whipping if he spoke about it. Hence, the other shipmates would ask him, “has the cat got your tongue?”

One source reports that the phrase originates from the Middle East, where a liar’s tongue would be cut out and fed to the king’s cats. Or better yet, that it came from the Middle Ages when a witch’s cat would “control” your tongue so you could not speak and bear witness against her witchcraft.

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