Etymology (Meaning of Words)/Dead Cat

Advertisement


Zorba wrote at 2012-11-06 04:12:06
Swinging a dead cat is part of a folk remedy for warts albeit with local variations. In the classic novel Tom Sawyer the process is described in detail and involves dipping the afflicted area in "spunkwater" (rainwater pooled in a rotten tree stump) and chanting an incantation. Most folks have turned to pharmacies for wart cures in recent years, and tend to shun superstitious rituals that seem like obvious attempts at witchcraft. I would prefer Compound W rather than handling dead pets and stagnant water.


Zorba wrote at 2012-11-06 16:29:28
Swinging a dead cat is part of a folk remedy for warts albeit with local variations. In the classic novel Tom Sawyer the process is described in detail and involves dipping the afflicted area in "spunkwater" (rainwater pooled in a rotten tree stump) and chanting an incantation. Most folks have turned to pharmacies for wart cures in recent years, and tend to shun superstitious rituals that seem like obvious attempts at witchcraft. I would prefer Compound W rather than handling dead pets and stagnant water.


Zorba wrote at 2012-11-07 17:41:30
Swinging a dead cat is part of a folk remedy for warts albeit with local variations. In the classic novel Tom Sawyer the process is described in detail and involves dipping the afflicted area in "spunkwater" (rainwater pooled in a rotten tree stump) and chanting an incantation. Most folks have turned to pharmacies for wart cures in recent years, and tend to shun superstitious rituals that seem like obvious attempts at witchcraft. I would prefer Compound W rather than handling dead pets and stagnant water.


Glenbode wrote at 2012-12-22 02:24:33
Other sites attribute the saying to as far back as the 1700s, with the phrase originating in describing a space (e.g., on a ship) not big enough to swing a cat o' nine tails, as in to punish a sailor.  I'm sure I heard the phrase prior to the '70s...


Brett wrote at 2013-03-21 05:40:46
"Swing a dead cat" FAR predates '20 years ago'. First literary reference that I can find in a brief search is in Tom Sawyer, which was published in 1876. But from the usage there it appeared to already be a trope and a well-known phrase to the point that it appeared to need no elaboration. The original phrase appears to have referred to typical superstition of the time that involved either dead cats, stump water, doing things at midnight, etc. It is certainly not a fallout of dead cat jokes, it may have given people the idea for dead cat jokes.  


Etymology (Meaning of Words)

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Carol Pozefsky

Expertise

Etymology: The origins of English words and phrases. Anchor/Reporter NBC and CBS Networks. News Director 3 Regional Radio Stations.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.