“cat for to make kitten britches”

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 13 01:20:13 UTC 2012

Someone wrote:
> I should have wrote "The Mavens' Word of the Day" (not Maven's).

Umm. I wrote "should have wrote" instead of "should have written" to
express solidarity with individuals who have been oppressed by the
invidiously class-based strictures of prescriptivists which were
highlighted recently in the ill-posed battle between descriptivism and

> The
> webpage suggests that the expression dates to the "nineteenth
> century":
> http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19960823
> [Begin excerpt]
> Although hard evidence is lacking, the expression cat's fur to make
> kitten britches seems to date back to the nineteenth century. It isn't
> specifically associated with any region of the country.
> [End excerpt]
> In a quick search I found a citation on the edge of the century. Typos
> are likely in this dialect-heavy excerpt:
> Cite: 1900 September 23, Rockford Morning Star [Morning Star],
> "Crankisms": Some Thoughts on Equal Suffrage by J.K.B., Page 2,
> Rockford, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)
> [Begin excerpt]
> "Lookee here, Jing," said Ole Pete, helping himself to a sheepnose
> apple from an open barrel, and gumming it while he talked: "I'm a
> thinkin' on movin' to ,Jarsey; wanter buy that kaliker hoss o' mine?"
> "Wat fur?"
> "W'y cat fur, ter make kitten britches. Wa't dy'e spose?" Shying his
> apple core at the grocery cat who was licking the kerosene can.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 8:13 PM, Garson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      =?windows-1252?Q?Re=3A_=93cat_for_to_make_kitten_britches=94?=
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Michael Sheehan said:
>>> Any idea where “cat for to make kitten britches” came from and how to
>>> parse it?
>> The Maven's Word of the Day examined a version of this phrase in 1996:
>> cat's fur to make kitten britches
>> http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19960823
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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