a deadly game of cat and mouse

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Sun Jan 24 03:34:13 UTC 2010

Not deadly, but a game of cat and mouse nevertheless, W.H.Auden begins the
"Song Of The Master And Boatswain" in _The Sea and the Mirror_ (1944) thus:

        At Dirty Dick's and Sloppy Joe's
        We drank our liquor straight,
        Some went upstairs with Margery,
        And some, alas, with Kate;
        And two by two like cat and mouse
        The homeless played at keeping house.

Interestingly, Auden writes in the cat and mouse game as an extension of his
source, _The Tempest_, II, ii:

        The Master, the Swabber, the Boatswain, and I,
        The Gunner and his Mate,
        Lov'd Mall [sic], Meg, and Marina and Margery,
        But none of us care'd for Kate,
        For she has a tongue with a tang,
        Would cry to a Saylor go hang,
        She lov'd not the savor of Tar, nor of Pitch,
        Yet a Saylor might scratch her where e're she did itch,
        Then to Sea boys, and let her go hang.

[Above version reprinted without attribution to WS as "Song 110" in _The New
Academy of Complements_ (1669).]


> Hearing this cliche' on TV for the nth and final time I can stand it just
> now, I decided to look into the problem.
> The earliest I could come up with was in Michael O'Malley & Ralph Lane's
> "Vic Flint"  strip in the _Clovis (N.M.) News-Journal_ of July 11, 1948
> (via
> Newspaper Archive): "Inside the Crystal Lake Amusement Park a deadly game
> of
> cat and mouse was in progress."
> It seems to have taken off almost instantly, though high-class periodicals
> like the N.Y. Times were slow on the uptake.
> JL

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

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