a deadly game of cat and mouse

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 24 16:15:48 UTC 2010

Nice work, John. I had no idea.

Despite the primordial treatment of mice by cats, I can't help wondering if
the social  game really is the effective (or co-effective) source of the
cliche'. The relatively late, sequential appearance of both might not have
been predicted.

On Sun, Jan 24, 2010 at 9:31 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: a deadly game of cat and mouse
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1/24/2010 01:29 AM, Baker, John wrote:
> >"Game of cat and mouse," without "deadly," is older, of course; OED
> >has it back to 1887 (under the entry for "cat"), and Wilkie Collins
> >used it in his contribution to The Haunted House (1859).
> >
> >But I never previously realized that this was a literal game.  From
> >the March 1878 issue of Golden Hours, via Google Books:
> I have an unspecific memory of playing this myself as a child!
> And of course it is a literal game to literal cats, who are known to
> bat a live literal mouse around a bit before dispatching it.
> Joel
> >
> >
> ><<The Game of Cat and Mouse.
> >
> >Al.L the players but two join hands in a ring. One is inside, and is
> >called the Mouse, another is outside and is called the Cat.
> >
> >The players begin the game by turning round ihe circle rapidly,
> >raising their arms. The Cat springs in at one side of the ring, and
> >the Mouse jumps out at the other. The players then suddenly lower
> >their arms, so as to keep Ihe Cat in. The Cat goes round and round,
> >trying to get out; and as the circle of players is in motion all the
> >lime, she is sure to find a place to break through at, if she is a
> >sharpsighted Cat. As soon as she gets through, she chases the Mouse,
> >who tries to save herself by getting inside the circle again.
> >
> >To let her in, the players raise their arms. If she gets in without
> >the Cat being able to get in after her, the Cat must pay a forfeit,
> >and try again. Then the players name the other players for the next
> >game,-the new ones fall into a circle, and the game goes on as before.
> >
> >The Cat should be one of the elder children of the party, and the
> >Mouse a younger boy or girl.>>
> >
> >
> >
> >John Baker
>  >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >________________________________
> >
> >From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Jonathan Lighter
> >Sent: Sat 1/23/2010 9:04 PM
> >Subject: a deadly game of cat and mouse
> >
> >
> >
> >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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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