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

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 25 17:41:57 UTC 2019

There is an interesting mention in a 1978 NSF publication:

"Some years ago, there was a joke going around Moscow University that
described philosophy as looking for a black cat in a dark room."

Of course, the Russians may have read it in Dickens...

On Mon, Mar 25, 2019, 1:30 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>

> 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:
> https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia/mueller-finds-no-trump-russia-conspiracy-but-some-questions-left-unresolved-idUSKCN1R504O
> [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
> https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/02/15/hidden-cat/
> 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
> consumed.
> https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/03/25/chinese-proverb-that-russia-cited-respond-mueller-report-does-not-appear-be-chinese-proverb/
> 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.
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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