Letting the cat out of the bag

We’re trying something slightly different here – a cartoon by Trevor Bryden illustrating the origin of the English phrase let the cat out of the bag. Let us know what you think!

11 thoughts on “Letting the cat out of the bag

  1. Harry

    The cartoon makes the point, but it’s a bit didactic. I wish you had used the occasion to clarify a closely related expression, “buy a pig in a poke.” Perhaps your cartoonist could tackle the origins of “glamour” in his next. contribution.

    1. I actually did a cartoon illustration of ‘a pig in a poke’ which also provides an insight into the origin of the word ‘pocket’ but too few people use the expression. The intention was to segue from ‘pig in the poke’ into ‘letting the cat out of the bag’. It intrigues me that expressions that had survived a few hundred years have suddenly, in this modern age, gone out of fashion.
      I will be doing ‘glamour’ but its original meaning is so far off its current definition I doubt that the Cambridge Dictionary will use it. I recognize that this dictionary is intended to be a teaching aid for people who are learning English and it would not be so instructive to find out that people were once in awe with scholars who knew their ‘grammar’ and could frame magic spells with good sentence construction.

  2. Alfieri José

    That’s nice, but after having looked at the cartoon I looked it up in the Cambridge dictionary and the idea I had got from the picture was different from the definition in the dictionary. It is really a nifty idea, but it could be understood differently by people whose mother tongue is not English. I suggest depicting something related with the example given in the entry of your dictionary.

    1. The nature of the beast in word and phrase origins is that the modern definition is most often quite different from that of previous times. The object is not to illustrate the meaning but to illustrate how we got to use the expression in the first place. For someone whose native tongue isn’t English they could rightly wonder how ‘cats in bags’ would somehow have something to do with unintentionally revealing a secret. This illustration gives them an explanation in a lighthearted way.
      Online definitions tend to be sparse in details and various uses of a word are often left off. This is particularly true when so many expressions and definitions have gone so quickly out of fashion. I expect to be at variance fairly often.

  3. André Felipe

    I liked the idea about using a cartoon to show the meaning of the expression.For foreign students like me It’s easier to undestand very creative by the way

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