keep a cow/have a cow

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIO.EDU
Sun Apr 24 16:53:45 UTC 2005

At 12:10 PM 4/24/2005 -0400, you wrote:
>On Sun, 24 Apr 2005 08:47:27 -0700, Jan Kammert <write at SCN.ORG> wrote:
> >On Sat, 23 Apr 2005, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
> >
> >> My father (b. 1900, Minnesota) said the same thing (chase, that is).
> >> heard "keep a cow," but might there be some connection with the Simpsons'
> >> "Don't have a cow"?  I never watched the show, so I don't really know what
> >> the phrase means.
> >>
> >In the mid-1960s around Chicago, we said have a cow to mean have a fit.
>HDAS has a 1966 cite for "have a cow" from the Indiana University Folklore
>Archives.  And the similar "have kittens" goes all the back to 1900
>(Dialect Notes).
>It's been suggested on alt.usage.english that "have kittens" might have
>originated as a mishearing/eggcornification of "have conniptions".  Any
>evidence for this theory?
>--Ben Zimmer

Speaking of eggcorns (since Ben brought them up again), I saw in print
today for the first time "one in the same."  In a column on MJ possibly
going to prison, the author suggested it would be like bunny rabbits in a
kennel full of pit bulls: "It's all one in the same."

And in the '50s we did say "he/she had kittens" when in a rage.

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