Aminal Expressions – Part III

More animal expressions?? YES! You all keep sending more animal expressions (thank you to Teresa and Billy B), plus I keep seeing more, so . . . Part III 😊

I understand the “when pigs fly” (not going to happen, yes?) or when something “bugs” me (annoying, like those Florida mosquitoes), but here are some other animal expressions I had to research because they are . . . well . . .

“Catty corner” (or is it “kitty corner”?) – when something is adjacent to another at the diagonal or corner. Here is what Merriam Webster says:

  • “In the French of the 14th-16th centuries, quatre, the word for “four,” could also be spelled catre. English speakers said “ooh, that’s handy” and snapped the term right up, but spelled it cater. They already had a perfectly good word for “four,” of course (it being four), but they liked that cater word for playing games and used it to refer to the four of cards or dice. The four spots on dice, or four symbols on cards, can be seen as making an X, and it’s suspected that this is how cater came to develop extended senses of “diagonal” or “diagonally.” English then made cater into a verb meaning “to place, move, or cut (across) diagonally,” as in “cater the pieces on the board,” but that never grew beyond some dialectal use. Also largely destined to flourish in dialects were a number of compound words that used cater to mean “diagonal” or “askew,” such as catawampus. Catercornered (and later catercorner) caught on more broadly. Eventually the dice and cards were forgotten and that first syllable settled very cat-like into a sunny spot in the lexicon and spread itself out: catty-corner and kitty-corner (and their -ed variants) were the inevitable outcome.” So, catty corner wins over kitty corner, and neither have anything to do with CATS!

“Hogwash” – what? Who wants to wash a hog? And don’t hogs spend most of their time in the mud? Ah, it turns out that this expression has nothing to do with washing a hog. Today, this word is used to mean something that is nonsense. The origin is the literal meaning – “wash” or “kitchen slops, etc” fed to hogs. Apparently, this word was then used to refer to cheap or inferior liquor or writing (not this blog, I hope??). And how about these other “hog” references, from

  • Road hog is attested from 1886, hence hog “rude person heedless of the convenience or safety of others” (1906). To go hog-wild is American English from 1904. Hog in armor “awkward or clumsy person in ill-fitting attire” is from 1650s (later used of the armadillo). Phrase go the whole hog (1828, American English) is sometimes said to be from the butcher shop option of buying the whole slaughtered animal (at a discount) rather than just the choice bits. But it is perhaps rather from the allegorical story (recorded in English from 1779) of Muslim sophists, forbidden by their faith from eating a certain unnamed part of the hog, who debated which part was intended and in the end managed to exempt the whole of it from the prohibition.”

“Oxbow” – have you ever heard of this word? It was the answer to a crossword puzzle clue. The clue? An “omega-shaped curve in a river; a bend in a river.” I don’t mind saying that I had NO idea of the answer – lol. Those of you who are into boating on rivers – here is a fun word for you to mention while cruising along – very erudite of you 🤓.

“Loose as a goose” / “Loosey goosey” – Since when are geese “loose”? According to some Internet sites, maybe it’s not about the goose, but about the loose. The meaning of “loose as a goose” is to be calm or relaxed. “Stay loose” is another common expression to indicate to stay calm. I’m not sure that geese are known for being super chill, so, adding the “goose” could be a result of our quest to rhyme everything ☺.

Speaking of geese, what about this expression – “take (or have) a gander”? Meaning to take or have a look at something. This reasoning I found actually makes sense to me – apparently, it comes from imitating the way that geese stretch their necks to look at something. (Are you also thinking about the expression that we “crane” our necks to look at something?).

“Bait and switch” – hmmm . . . sounds like the “letting the cat out of the bag” expression when people try to fool others. Is that where the expression originated? Yes, it is. This expression relates to advertising one thing which is a good deal, and then not following through with that good deal, using various excuses.

“Like shooting fish in a barrel” – meaning when something is easy. But when do fish end up in a barrel? Apparently, fish used to be packed into barrels filled with ice to be sold. Ah hah!

“Straight from the horse’s mouth” – similar to “looking a gift horse in the mouth,” the origin is when you look into the horse’s mouth and see the tattoo of the real owner – the truth.

4 thoughts on “Aminal Expressions – Part III”

  1. Keep them coming! These are just too good not to share!

    PS: I’ll start making notes. I had a few goods ones but didn’t write them down 😉

    • Great question, Debbie!
      I had to look up the meaning of this expression. Here is what I found: “used to describe someone who is in a state of extreme nervous worry.” That’s what I would be if I were on a hot tin roof!! The U.K. says “like a cat on hot bricks.” Synonyms include worried, anxious, and wound up. Jumpy, I would say! 😮

  2. One of my favorite bumper stickers my dad once saw and pointed out was “I brake for unicorns.” This is a useful explanation for our fellow drivers who decide to violently dip below the speed limit in a fast-moving body of traffic: they are simply slowing down for something that is invisible to the average human being: “Ah, I see he’s decided to brake for unicorns.”

    I don’t know if your animal list only applies to real life fauna, but I’ll submit that one anyway 🙂


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