I have owned dogs, and I have friends who have cats, and seldom is that boundary crossed. But as I’ve matured (or at least grown older and not necessarily wiser) and have spent time in the enemy’s camps on both sides. I’ve learned to appreciate both of these creatures, their foibles and habits, which are often hilarious and startlingly honest (why else are there 53 million cat videos on You Tube – not so many for dogs who may not be as smart but have more dignity).
This morning the weather forecaster said it was going to be raining cats and dogs. Where did this phrase we use, every (rainy) day, originate? In the bygone days when roofs were thatched with branches and other stuff, the cats and dogs would find cozy places in the ceilings of the cottages (heat rises – these beasts weren’t so dumb). But if the rain was intense enough, water would work through the thatch and cause the dogs and cats to seek shelter elsewhere, thus with the downfall of rain, would come downfalls of cats, dogs, and vermin of all sorts. But only the cats and dogs get mentioned on the marquee.
Now, if you’ve ever been presented with a gift by your proud cat or dog, you will understand that there is a vast difference in values at play. After all, out of love, they searched, stalked and captured (or dug up) this thing and brought it all the way for your pleasure, perhaps just a bit chewed up, but hey, they only have jaws and paws, not fingers, and it’s far more valuable than some bobble from the dollar store!
So it’s just a matter of perspective when you refer to someone in a disheveled state as looking like something the cat dragged in, from the pet’s perspective it’s the highest of compliments. For the rest of us, well……..
Letting the cat out of the bag is a wonderfully graphic way of describing the uncontrollable, irretrievable release of important information. And, if you’ve ever been stupid enough to put a cat in a bag (if you can put a cat in a bag), you know that ‘one in the bag’ leads to shredded bags, skin, upholstery, and destroyed chandeliers, so best they’re out. Have you ever visited a friend who has rescued some woebegone pussycat, only to accidently open the bedroom door to reveal the feral cat demon from hell? That is truly, euphemistically, letting the cat out of the bag. Don’t!
That catastrophe can only lead to one thing – a dog and pony show which now refers to a “highly promoted, often over-staged performance, presentation, or event designed to convince or sway opinion” Wikiedia. In historic terms traveling entertainers with inferior shows would try to compete with the circus, as one source put it, by using the cart-horse and the guard dog to do tricks. It thus became a pejorative term.
So keep the horse before the cart and the dog (and cat) out of the bag and all will be well.
And how do I know this to be true you ask? Well, I heard it – direct from the horse’s mouth.