keep a cow/have a cow

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun Apr 24 17:06:54 UTC 2005

Wonder if "having a kitten" is like "having a hissy/hissing (fit)"
since an angry cat hisses?


>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.

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic,
        Asian and African Languages
Wells Hall A-740
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office: (517) 353-0740
Fax: (517) 432-2736

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