fun with phrases

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 28 19:50:28 UTC 2011

The point is that the phrase itself first appears in GB in 1948 in a more or
less literal sense, which is then linked with cats in 1962.  The cat
business is meant literally: as a superstition, it may lie behind the 1948
ex., which appears to have superstitious or ghostly overtones.

In 1985 the phrase is used fig. to describe a person who impresses everyone.
Leaves them breathless, perhaps?

It achieved cliche' status only after 1996. This morning I heard it used of
Gov. Christie - as
a compliment.


On Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 3:11 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: fun with phrases
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at> wrote:
> > cats […] suck the breath from babies, killing them
> FWIW, that's the version that I'm familiar with, though I didn't
> encounter it till some time after 1962, when it was given to me as the
> speaker's reason for disliking cats.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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