Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cattails

Learn something new everyday, they say. I try to do this. I did today. I drive by these cattails in the Stroudwater Marsh most days when I enter the city. I grew up knowing them as cat o' nine tails. That's what Mom always called them things growing along the marshes and swamps near our house. Now, I find that the cat o' nine tails' was something altogether different. It was a type of whipping device, used throughout history in Great Britain. Flogging has quite a history throughout the world. In the song "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor", there's a line "Give 'em a taste of the Captain's daughter" where the 'captain'r daughter' is the cat or a whip. Ever hear the expression, "not enough room to swing a dead cat in"? Right, the cat refers to the 'cat o' nine tails'... a whip if you will. I love the twists and turns language takes. And I do really wonder if Mom knew what the heck she was saying? You say potato; I say 'patattah'. You say cattails; I say cat o' nine tails... let's call the whole thing off.



13 comments:

  1. Brilliant post, Birdman. Language and words, two exciting aspects of life as I live it. One new thing for me is that out here the weather people use "scour out" and "scour down" during winter forecasts. I find its usage so confusing that I cannot even remember the context. Next time I hear it, I'm going to make an effort to write it down.

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  2. j'aime bien cette photo, avec la lumiere qui tombe sur ce champs de ble

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  3. I agree that language, its use and evolution is endlessly fascinating.

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  4. ooooo.... quoting a Fred Astaire song....what next, Birdman??

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  5. 'don't let the cat out of the bag' is also part of this collection of cat-o-nine-tales.

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  6. Love to learn something from *you* every day, Birdman.

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  7. I love learning these little origins of words and expressions.

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  8. um, yeah. i'll take cat tails over cat o' nine tails anyday!

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  9. Excellent, this post made me happy !

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  10. We all learned a few things today!

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  11. Oh yeah the cat o nine tails was pretty brutal.

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  12. Your mind works in mysterious ways, Birdman.

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  13. My mom used to pick these and then spray them with hairspray so they wouldn't fall apart. Crazy

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