August 23, 2007

Taking On Cat Cliches

Last week, as I was making a Diet Pepsi purchase at a local convenience store, another patron remarked to the cashier: “It’s like you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting floodwater.”

Now, I’m a guy who thinks about stupid stuff way more than is probably healthy, and as stupid stuff goes, swinging a dead cat into a puddle ranks pretty high, so I thought about that lousy convenience store patron and his sentence for the better part of a day. Of course, I understand “swinging a dead cat” is just a saying, kind of like “keeping your eyes peeled,” or “she thinks you’re cute.”

Even though I know it’s just a saying, I couldn’t help but think about the phrase “swinging a dead cat” because, honestly, as with most sayings, it occurred to me it could quite possibly trace its origins to an actual event. As a cat owner myself, I naturally found myself wondering if I could bring myself to swing either of my cats should I find them dead, just to see what I couldn’t avoid hitting.

Even as I tried to think about other things, my mind kept wandering back to a mental image of a frontiersman in a horse-drawn buggy, frantically swinging a dead cat over his head, lasso-style, in an attempt to keep a group of angry bears away. Later on, after a harrowing escape, he related to his friends how he “couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a bear!” Thus a morbid, yet hilarious, saying was born!

Then again, maybe the saying has different origins entirely. I suppose it could have arose from a more sweet, yet morose chapter in a little girl’s life. Perhaps an 8-year-old girl, Susie, had a pet cat that really enjoyed, for whatever reason, being pushed on a swing in the backyard. Oh, how Little Susie enjoyed swinging her cat, which she named “Chairman Meow.” Then, one day, little Susie found the Chairman dead from unknown causes, perhaps after falling short during a great leap forward. Crestfallen and sick with grief, she took the carcass to the backyard, loaded it onto the swing set, and started absentmindedly giving her beloved feline one last, mournful swing ride, only to have her mother admonish her from the kitchen window: “Susie! You can’t swing a dead cat! What will the neighbors think?”

But, those are just two possibilities for the origins of the saying. As my ponderer continued ponderating throughout the day, toggling from one cat swinging scenario to another, a horrifying thought came to mind: what if the origins of the saying “you can’t swing a dead cat” were somehow tied to the origins of the saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat?” How twisted would that be?

I started to imagine some sort of evil veterinarian or scientist, with a long, curled moustache and a monocle, wearing a bloodied lab coat, skinning cat after cat, meticulously documenting (CATaloging?) his various skinning methods in loose-leaf notebooks. Finally, after definitively proving his theory that there’s more than one way to skin a cat (oh, how his colleagues mocked him for such thoughts!), he triumphantly started swinging his last cat cadaver (CAT-aver?), cackling maniacally and accidentally knocking over and breaking several test tubes and beakers, thus leading him to the conclusion you can’t swing a dead cat in a laboratory.

Then again, I suppose all these theories could be wildly inaccurate. Perhaps the term “Dead Cat” was a way of referring to an un-cool or un-hip person back in the 1950s. Bored teens with slicked back hair, hanging out in the parking lot of the local Soda Shoppe, would remark as a middle-aged family man walks by “Man, that cat’s so dead.” Of course, with swing dancing being popular at the time, teens couldn’t possibly imagine a “Dead Cat” swing dancing. So, obviously, you can’t swing a dead cat.

And the moral of this particular post is: be careful what you say in a convenience store, lest I overhear you and think wayyyyyyy too much about for the rest of the day.

Jody says: Why is it always Little Susie? Not Hefty Martha or something else?

Ryan says: Would you feel as bad for a Hefty Martha?

Jody says: yeah...probably worse considering her chances in life are reduced by being portly

Ryan says: Fat girl's cat died? HA! HA! < - Nelson Muntz.

Jody says: I mean...who doesn't feel sorry for a fat kid

Ryan says: Depends on how fat they are.

Ryan says: Because a really fat kid wearing a Navy hat and eating an oversize lollipop = hilarious.

Jody says: How about so fat that is the reason wny she swings the cat is cuz she can't fit in the swing?

Ryan says: So fat she has to swing vicariously through her cat?

Jody says: yep

Ryan says: That would be pretty fat.

Jody says: Now that's funny.

Posted by Ryan at August 23, 2007 03:10 PM | TrackBack
StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!