Word Origins from Left Field (WOLF)

Wednesday WOLF

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.

6 thoughts on “Wednesday WOLF

  1. Snickerdoodle. I know it's a cookie, but where does the name come from? It's such a lovely word… but seriously… was someone smoking crack (or opium) when they came up with this word?

  2. Ha! Thanks everyone for checking out the Wednesday WOLF.

    Eli – I like your question, I will look into it, although off the top of my head I'm saying it's a German thing (thanks roots! Why, that's alright BBC, that's what we're here for.)

  3. I don't know. I hear more allusions to thieves as “dogs” than as “cats” so I would think it would make more sense to feed their fingers to dogs?

    Obviously we should both run for positions in the judicial system.

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