[Ads-l] Expression in the news: Looking for a black cat in a dark room

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 25 17:29:56 UTC 2019

A Washington Post journalist tried to contact me regarding an
expression used by Dmitry Peskov who is a spokesman for the Russian
government. Here is an excerpt from a Reuters report which presents
the expression:


[Begin excerpt]
". . . It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if
there is no cat," Peskov said.
[End excerpt]

Here is a link to the pertinent QI article:

A Blind Man in a Dark Room Looking for a Black Cat That Is Not There

I was not able to respond quickly to the journalist's inquiry because
I was not online and did not see inquiry for a few hours. Now, the
Washington Post has an article on the topic, and the Quote
Investigator website is mentioned. I cannot see the full article
because my complimentary quota of Washington Post articles has been


The QI article noted that in 1894 a newspaper report stated that
English judge Charles Bowen (Lord Bowen) attributed the "black hat
("black cat") expression to the Chinese sage Confucius. During my
research (back in 2015) I did not find any substantive citations
supporting the ascription to Confucius. The reporter was interested in
learning more about that topic.

If a list member can find evidence of an earlier connection to
Confucius please share it.


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

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