Walking the cat

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Jun 1 02:10:59 UTC 2010

At 10:02 PM -0400 5/31/10, George Thompson wrote:
>Larry cites an item from The Daily Kos, 2006, in which the writer
>uses the phrase without explaining it, which suggests that he
>expects his readers to be familiar with it, that it has a history
>previous to this passage.
>The meaning which the expression has in this 2006 passage is
>something like "refute" or "expose the dastardly motives of those
>who are propagating a false story".

Not just 'get to the bottom of'?  That seems to be common thread for
the expression in the 1987 Safire column and the Daily Kos cite 20
years later.  Granted, David Carr's use does seem to be a bit
different; maybe (given the opacity--and, as you point out, the
syntactic awkwardness--of cat-back-walking) there's been some
reinterpretation along the way.


>  David Carr is writing about Newsweek, which has been put up for
>sale, and is speculating about who might want to buy it, and why,
>and also why it may work out that no one will want it.  He supposes
>that "nascent Web news sites" will not be interested in acquiring
>the name-recognition or mystique of Newsweek, because ". . . it is
>much less cost-intensive to build out a new brand than to try to
>walk back the cat on a legacy business" -- so whatever David Carr
>thinks "walking back the cat" means, it's something quite different
>from what the writer on The Daily Kos had in mind.  I'm not clear
>whether Carr is supposing that Newsweek could be pushed at one of
>these Web news sites as a print-on-paper incarnation of their web
>activities, or as a source of reputation or readership that can be
>transferred to their web site
>-- but in any case, "revive" or "repurpose" would come close.
>Finally: isn't "walk back the cat" an odd sequence of words?  I
>myself would be unlikely ever to talk of cat-walking, my experience
>being that cats walk when and where they will, but if I were to do
>so, I would say "walk the cat back".

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