plausibility check

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Aug 20 18:45:14 UTC 2010

Victor Steinbok wrote
> Another query--and I've been curious about this one for some time:
> "There is more than one way to skin a cat."

Michael Quinion has a valuable discussion of this phrase at World Wide
Words here:

begin excerpt:
An earlier appearance is in ’Way down East; or, Portraitures of Yankee
Life  by Seba Smith of about 1854: “This is a money digging world of
ours; and, as it is said, ‘there are more ways than one to skin a
cat,’ so are there more ways than one of digging for money”.
end excerpt

The web page also mentions an appearance in a "collection of English
proverbs as far back as 1678."

> There is an explosion of GB hits in 1970-72, close to 100 and none
> prior. Some are spurious or unlikely, some are likely mistagged, but
> some appear authentic. Pre-1980 there are about 450 GB hits (including
> the ones above).
> The slightly less robust "There are many ways to skin a cat" gets
> considerably fewer hits, but also dates back to 1970.
> But there is an earlier variant:
> "[S]he was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat--or
> a nation..."
> This time the attribution really is Mark Twain (Connecticut Yankee...
> -- confirmed, Chapter VIII) and it refers to the Church. Some of the
> early 70s cites also use the form "knew more than one..."
> Bob Devaney (math professor at BU; originally from Massachusetts North
> Shore area) used a variant "There is more than one way to peel a
> banana", which also gets a couple of GB hits (1975).
> VS-)
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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