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Idiom: what the cat's dragged in?



 
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ESL Forums | English Vocabulary, Grammar and Idioms
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Idiom: what the cat's dragged in? #1 (permalink) Sun Feb 12, 2006 22:49 pm   Idiom: what the cat's dragged in?
 

Hi, I know that the idiom Look what the cat's dragged in is used to describe a situation when a person has arrived that is considered ugly. My question is what is the origin of this expression? Is it because a cat is likely to drag something into the house that its owner probably doesn't want like some dirt for example?
Thank you for shedding some light on this question.
Nicole
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Cat dragged in #2 (permalink) Mon Feb 13, 2006 9:52 am   Cat dragged in
 

Hi Nicole,

Good to hear from you again. As far as I know this comes from the habit that cats have of bringing things into the house like for example a dead mouse or rat that they've caught. One of my sons went on holiday recently leaving the cat on its own for a few days. It can come and go into the house via a small catflap (a small catsized door) and when they came back they found a dead mouse in their sitting room, apparently the cat's idea of showing its appreciation for the care and attention they show it.

Alan
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Cat idiom #3 (permalink) Mon Feb 13, 2006 17:14 pm   Cat idiom
 

Hello Alan. Thank you very much for your speedy reply. You have described the origin of this cat expression very vividly. Still, my question is why we use this idiom to talk about an ugly person?
Best regards
Nicole
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Ugly #4 (permalink) Mon Feb 13, 2006 18:12 pm   Ugly
 

Hi Nicole,

I can only imagine that ugly is associated with something unpleasant like the dead mouse or rat that the cat brought in. It's an expression that suggests that you find the newcomer a very unpleasant person - I'm not so sure that it is always to do wth looking ugly.

The idea of drag suggests another expression associated with somebody looking unpleasant: You look as though you've just been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Alan
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Drag vs. bring #5 (permalink) Mon Feb 13, 2006 21:44 pm   Drag vs. bring
 

Alan, thanks again for clarifying the ugly/unpleasant issue. What about this version: Look what the cat's brought in.
Does the meaning change if you replace drag with bring?
Nicole
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Cat's brought in #6 (permalink) Mon Feb 13, 2006 22:46 pm   Cat's brought in
 

Hi Nicole,

Yes, it's the same. Very often in a slightly jocular way you could say when someone walks into a room: Just look what the cat's brought in! It has a nasty edge to it, though.

Alan
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Cat idiom #7 (permalink) Sat Feb 25, 2006 15:12 pm   Cat idiom
 

Nicole wrote:
Still, my question is why we use this idiom to talk about an ugly person?


The person doesn't have to be ugly, but sometimes just undesirable or unreliable in some way.

Let's say you have a rather bohemian cousin who never keeps a reliable schedule. If your friends and family invite him to a gathering, they can never be sure whether he'll come or at what time. So, you're all sitting around, and 45 minutes before everyone is supposed to go home, or maybe when everyone is almost finished with dinner, in walks your cousin looking like he's just rolled out of bed. This is one situation where we might say, affectionately or angrily, "Look what the cat dragged in!" Another thing we might say then is, "Look what the wind just blew in!"

Alan is right, though. Cats have a tendency to bring us home ugly, dead, smelly "gifts", and "Look what the cat dragged in," can indicate that some ugly or undesirable person has just walked in, and we have to figure out what to do.
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look what the cat dragged in #8 (permalink) Mon May 25, 2009 15:53 pm   look what the cat dragged in
 

Hi Guys

The origin of the expression “look what the cat dragged in” is not fully known
However it is rumoured that in 1984 A 6 year old school boy from Dublin, Eire
Used this expression when a fellow student walked in to the class late. The teacher laughed so much that he later told his friends and colleagues, about this funny incident, hence how the expression spread.

Hope this helps

Bobby
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Joined: 25 May 2009
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