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11 June 2010 / Liz Johns

Cat Got Your Tongue? These Cats Aren’t Shy

Does anyone say that anymore? I used to hear it a lot as a child because I was shy and didn’t like to say much (awww). I do remember how annoying it was having someone say that to me and my usual reaction was say even less, which generally irked the other person even more. I’m not quite so shy now (we’re all shy in our own way aren’t we?) but I am curious as to where this oddly disturbing phrase came from.(Not so curious as to kill the cat of course).So Internet to the rescue – keywords CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE.

This is what I discovered.

No one knows for sure where ‘Cat got your tongue’ comes from but the following possibilities are given:

Comes from the Middle Ages and the time of witches. If you saw a witch their cat would steal your tongue to prevent you telling anyone who or what you’d seen.

Comes from the Middle East circa 500 BC when one punishment was to have your tongue cut off and fed to cats.

Comes from English sailing ship days where the cat-o-nine-tails was used as punishment. Sailors who were told something in secrecy by a superior kept silent for fear of getting flogged with the ‘cat’.

They all sound a bit dodgy and a bit made-up to me. What about the more contemporary meaning – when someone doesn’t text you back you text them to say ‘Cat Got Your Thumbs’? (That really isn’t funny at all is it?)

So another voyage of discovery for truth on the Internet left me none the wiser, but I did manage to find some amusing cat-tongue pics. Well, they amuse me anyway. Hope they’ve made you smile too.


Leave a Comment
  1. flatland / Jul 3 2010 12:14 am

    Great photos. I can’t imagine that my cats would ever pose with their tongues sticking out . . . so how’d you do it?

    I’m enjoying reading your posts. I have hawk issues as well. Sharp-shinned & red tail. The red tails are pretty big, but I’ve never seen them take out a duck (happily!). They come from a nearby park to take advantage of our bird feeders.


  2. Liz Johns / Jul 3 2010 12:16 am

    Well to be honest, three of the photos aren’t mine (courtesy of other people). Only the tabby is mine – bit of a fluke photo I think. Thanks for your comment and watch out for those hawks.


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