It’s no wonder it took me so long to warm up to cats. When I was young, cats were the source of a great deal of the sarcasm that came my way.
“Cats are like that,” I hear you say. But it isn’t cats who were sarcastic with me; it was adults, using cats as their vehicles.
If I was told, “Children should be seen and not heard,” so often that I fell silent, some adult was sure to say, “What’s wrong with you? Cat got your tongue?” Now, having browsed the internet, you may imagine the grim and ghastly explanations for the origin of this phrase I’ve come across, but I prefer the one on The Phrase Finder: Nobody knows. It has the dual qualities of being intriguing and irritating, like Louie Louie but shorter.
If I was instructed to do something and I had the audacity to ask, “What for?” (Being a child of the Midwest, I naturally pronounced it, “Whut fur?”), I was told, “Cat fur, to make a pair of kitten britches. Want a pair?” The Maven’s Word of the Day says that the phrase dates back to the 19th Century. It is probably why so many people in the 1800s ran off and became pirates.
Look, people. THESE are kitten britches:
Are we clear?
What were some stock phrases used to you when you were a child? “For God’s sake, stop it!” doesn’t count.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Think of a phrase used to children and have it irritate your main character as a child.