[Ads-l] Scaredy Cat - 1904; Fraidy Cat - 1889

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 25 20:35:32 UTC 2021

A recent episode of Jeopardy featured an "answer" about a New Yorker 
contributor who coined the expression, "Scaredy Cat."  The correct 
"question" was "who is Dorothy Parker," who is widely regarded as having 
first used it in 1933.

But "Scaredy Cat" appeared as early as 1904, and frequently afterward, 
and "Fraidy Cat" dates to at least 1889.  There are many earlier 
references to people jumping, running, or looking like a "scared cat" 
"scared tom-cat" or "scared pole-cat".

Pine Bluff Daily Graphic (Pine Bluff, Arkansas), October 11, 1904, page 
[Excerpt] The little boys at school called her 'little Fraid Girl,' and 
when they wanted to teaser hery much they called her 'Scaredy-cat.'   
[End Excerpt]

The same story appeared in Pennsylvania at about the same time, and the 
expression pops up elsewhere in the next few years, so it's not clear 
whether it originated as a localism there or not, although the earliest 
example of "Fraidy Cat" also appeared in Arkansas, so you never know.

Daily Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, May 12, 1889, page 14.
[Excerpt] "Go 'long fraidy-cat; you're a regular baby to let that little 
bird scare you," come from the foot of the tree.   [End Excerpt]

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

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