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.