[Ads-l] "drown [like] kittens/puppies"

Joel Berson berson at ATT.NET
Fri Oct 14 17:01:19 EDT 2016

My thanks to Garson O'Toole and John Sullivan.  They too did not find anything in English predating Shakespeare.  Both found Beaumont and Fletcher's "The Double Marriage. A Tragedy", performed circa  > 1619-22 and perhaps first published 1647.  So not earlier than Shakespeare, but near.

Garson suggests that Cervantes used a similar expression in "Don Quixote", which was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615, and that I might expand my search to (earlier) Spanish sources.  (WorldCat lists publications of unknown date and then 1601 as its earliest dated, but of course WorldCat knows only books extant and reported to it.)  

If I do write anything about Shakespeare's use being the earliest, I will be sure to say "in English".


      From: ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
 Sent: Friday, October 14, 2016 12:24 PM
 Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "drown [like] kittens/puppies"
Here is information about another citation using figurative language
and referencing drowned creatures circa the beginning of the 17th
century. The phrase "let me die the death of ten thousand drown'd
Kittens" occurs in an English translation of "Don Quixote". The
sometimes reliable Wikipedia states that "Don Quixote" was published
in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615. Hence you may wish to broaden your
search to look for interesting earlier citations in Spanish.

EEBO has a match for "drown'd Kittens" in a 1657 English translation
of "Don Quixote". I cannot see the details. Google Books has a match
in a 1687 English translation of "Don Quixote". Here is the
surrounding text:


[Begin excerpt]
. . . I swear upon the Faith of a true and loyal Squire, and let me
die the death of ten thousand drown'd Kittens, if I don't shut my self
up along with ye, and live or starve with your Worship, as the Devil
of an Inchanter shall think fit to dispose of our Bodies.
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 9:52 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> Searches in EEBO and GB suggest that "drown like whelps" is in a play
> titled "The Double Marriage. A Tragedy" which was performed circa
> 1619-22. This is later than the desired target date, but it is useful
> to have multiple examples showing precise phrases and vocabulary, I
> think.
> The EEBO match occurs in the Beaumont/Fletcher First Folio, 1647, but
> the details in EEBO are not visible to me (as a non-subscriber).
> Searches in GB and Internet Archive reveal the following lines:
> https://archive.org/stream/fiftycomediestra00beau#page/100/mode/2up/search/drown
> [Begin excerpt]
> It were the meritorious death I wish for,
> But we must hang or drown like Whelps.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 8:35 AM, Joel Berson <berson at att.net> wrote:
>> Cross-posted.
>> I am interested in how far back one can find the expression "drown [like] kittens/puppies", especially as a simile (with "like" or some similar construction) but also literally (referring to the actual drowning of unwanted, newly-born animals).  Other animals than cats or dogs might serve.
>> I see it earliest in _Othello_ and _Merry Wives of Windsor_ (which were published 1602/3).  My searches in EEBO haven't found anything earlier.
>> Thanks in advance,Joel
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list