keep a cow/have a cow

James C Stalker stalker at MSU.EDU
Mon Apr 25 00:48:02 UTC 2005



Laurence Horn writes:

> At 12:53 PM -0400 4/24/05, Beverly Flanigan wrote:
>> 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).
>>> Never
>>>>> 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.
> Ah, but did anyone advise you "Don't have kittens, man" to ward one off?
> Larry

James C. Stalker
Department of English
Michigan State University

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