of cat-heads and catenaries

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 17 18:03:21 UTC 2010

Sorry... I was following the Wiki mention from the preceding paragraph, and
I didn't realize that "there is a suggestion" was meant to refer to a
different article not explicitly mentioned. The implication was not as clear
to me as it was to you.

Wiki has a picture of a modern CONT with only a single knot in each

"tail", and this is the way that nearly all modern CONTs are made and

have been made for well over 100 years. This does not mean, however,

that the tails always contained a single knot.

> There is a suggestion that the name "cat-head" for the anchor beams

was derived from the German Kattenkopf for the knot with which the

anchor cable was traditionally attached. The knot's shape resembled a

cat's head in a way I previously described. This suggestion also ended

up in Wiki.

m a m

On Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 9:56 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com>wrote:

> My apologies is I left the impression that "cat-o'nine-tails" was
> derived from German--indeed there is no such suggestion. The reference
> was to the derivation of the cathead beam, as the paragraph Mark
> quotes--I thought, clearly--implies.
> Here's the relevant portion of the Wiki article on "cathead"
> > A second "cat head" was associated with a ship's anchor-cable and
> windlass. This was a square pin thrust into one of the handspike holes of a
> ship's windlass. When at anchor, the anchor rope (called a cable) was
> secured to this with a smaller rope tie called a seizing. The English term
> for this pin was 'norman'. In German, however, it was called a Kattenkopf
> (cat-head), and in this case it is a reference to the traditional way the
> top was notched and chamfered off so that in cross section, it resembled the
> ears of a cat.
> I had seen the same explanation with one of the random books that I
> came across, but failed to note it, at the time, and, with thousands
> of hits for "cathead", was not about to go back and search again.
> And, yes, in modern German, it would certainly be Katzenkopf. Take the
> Wiki for what it is.
> VS-)
> On 9/16/10, Mark Mandel <thnidu at gmail.com> wrote:
> > Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> > Poster:       Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
> > Subject:      Re: of cat-heads and catenaries
> >
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > Where in "Wiki" or elsewhere did you see this suggestion? It's not in OED
> or
> > MWOL, nor in the English
> > Wiktionary<http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cat_o%27_nine_tails>*
> > or Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat-o%27-nine-tails>. And in
> any
> > case the modern German form would be "Katzenkopf", with a "tz".
> >
> > m a m

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