We’ve all heard and probably used, animal idioms – or proverbs – in conversation. For instance, “crying over spilt milk” refers to complaining about a loss from the past; focusing precious time on something that cannot be changed. Have you ever stopped to ponder animal idioms and their meaning? No? Well, let’s have a little bit of fun!
“Curiosity killed the cat.”
It’s a commonly used idiom, but do you know where its meaning derived? This popular version of the phrase is condensed from its previous content, which states “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” The latter part changes its meaning – for the better – because now the cat gets to live! Maybe that’s how the expression “A cat has nine lives” came to be (we’ll dive into that one next!). However, the first chronicled use of the phrase was a bit different. In 1598 a British p
laywright wrote “…Helter Skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails and all…” The word “care” was used to express worry or sorrow. Today’s more modern version of the idiom is used as a warning, announcing excessive curiosity may lead to harm or even death.
“A cat has nine lives.”
In fact, if you’ve ever had a feline companion, you’ve probably noted several demonstrations from your fur buddy where you’ve thought to yourself, “Wow. I’m surprised Buddy isn’t dead!” And there you have it – the simple meaning of the proverb – cats can survive accidents that are severe enough to result in death. Want proof? Google “cat raises from the dead Florida” and you’ll see what I mean!
“Dog days of summer”
Comparatively, our canine companions have their own animal idioms as well. And sure, you’ve heard references to this, but do you know what it means and how the saying came to be? The term dates back to ancient Romans, who, when studying the “Big Dog’ constellation, noticed the star Sirius – known as the “dog star,” and the brightest star in the nighttime sky – rose with the sun from April 3rd to August 11th. The Romans believed the sun and the dog star were teaming together to produce great days of heat. Hence, the current “dog days of summer” was born!
“Let sleeping dogs lie?”
So, is this something that you have you ever said? Well if you have, you’ve probably recognized a situation that should be left alone, as interfering may result in greater problems; particularly if it is something from the past that should not be resurrected. Geoffrey Chaucer, a great English poet from the Middle Ages, used a similar phrase in a story he published way back in 1374 – “It is nought good a sleeping hound to wake.” Boy, was he right!
There you have it – a few interesting examples of animal idioms. How many can you think of?