Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Who’s She?

It would be something of a surprise to anyone who knows us if I said “I hate my brother”. Apart from trying not to ‘hate’ anything I actually love my brother most dearly. However, I do HATE it when he asks questions I cannot answer. In his blog on Cold Comfort Farm he asked, in passing, if Mum had read it and, if so, was that the origin of her saying “Who’s she? The cat’s mother?” when one was impolite enough to refer to a female who was present as ‘she’ rather than by name.

An hour later... and Eric Partridge gave me the answer. The saying dates back to at least the 19th century so that let’s out Stella Gibbons as the originator. “Who’s she? The cat’s grandmother?” was an alternative. The phrase was considered to be dying out by the 1960s.

That still left me trying to find out its origin. I have had no success. But at least I’ve found out where the cat comes in. A male cat, as we all know, is a ‘Tom’. A female cat, as I certainly didn’t know, is a ‘She’. Hence a ‘She’ would be a cat not a person...

Dear GB,
Please leave it at least another 24 hours before asking a question to which I don’t know the answer.
Your ever-loving brother,

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