This old saying does seem kind of odd at first glance, and yet it is an expression most of us say very often. But what does it mean? It would appear to be a bit out of context, as cats love to get into bags, as we all know. Not only that, they love to hide in bags even though it is hardly a secret that they are there, as usually their tails, backsides and or paws are hanging out from the open side. Where did this expression come from?
To “let the cat out of the bag” or give away as a secret as it has come in mean in modern language, possibly has its roots in a country folk tradition that dates back about two hundred years. A common deception was to substitute a cat for a suckling pig in a bag for sale at the local markets. If the bag was opened, obviously the trick was revealed. Another possible source of the expression may have been reinforced by the maritime use of the cat-o-nine tails, which was a type of whip used for punishment. As the story goes, this whip was always kept in a large velvet bag on board ship and was only brought out when it was time to inflict “understanding” one some poor unfortunate someone.
Whatever its roots, cats today couldn’t care less. The modern feline is just as happy with bags (particularly paper bags) as they have always been. Just put one down in a room and leave your pets alone with it for a while. Soon they will be running into it and trying to fit inside.
To let the cat out of the bag may be a common expression but it also, my friends and lovers of cats everywhere, a very effective, and I might add free, toy for your bored cats to play with.
What do YOU think?
“The Cat In Proverb And In Thought”