More than one way to skin a cat

This formerly read-only archive of threads dates back to 1996, but as of March 2007 is open to new postings. For technical reasons, the early dates shown do not accurately reflect the actual date of posting.

Feel free to add new postings to any of the existing threads in the archived forums, but please create any new language-related threads in one of the Language Discussion Forums.
Post Reply

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Oct 12, 2004 2:53 am

I'm looking for where this phrase may have originated.
Submitted by ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Topic imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 3:08 am

Dear nameless, It all started with a conversation among a group of catnappers following a botched catjacking!
___________________________________

MORE WAYS THAN ONE TO SKIN A CAT (or ‘many ways to skin a cat) means there is more than one method to accomplish the same end. It first appeared in John Ray’s collection of English proverbs in 1678. Several sources discuss the expression (Facts on File, Random House, American Heritage), but the most complete job (which does agree with the facts in these references) was found in World Wide Words:

MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CAT: There are several versions of this saying, which suggests that there are always several ways to do something. Charles Kingsley used one old British form in ‘Westward Ho!’ in 1855: “there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream”. Other versions include “there are more ways of killing a dog than hanging him”, “there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter”, and “there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with pudding”. [[also, ‘There are more ways to kill a cat besides choking him to death.’ Note: Killing a cat by choking with cream had an implication of foolishness, which the later expression into which it evolved didn’t share – cat’s like cream and wouldn’t likely choke to death on it.]]

Mark Twain used [the modern] version in ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court’ in 1889: “she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat”, that is, more than one way to get what she wanted. An earlier appearance is in ‘Way down East; or, Portraitures of Yankee Life’ by Seba Smith of about 1854: “This is a money digging world of ours; and, as it is said, ‘there are more ways than one to skin a cat,’ so are there more ways than one of digging for money”. From the way he writes, the author clearly knew this to be a well-known existing proverbial saying. In fact, it is first recorded in John Ray’s collection of English proverbs as far back as 1678. [[And, in fact, it was first recorded in the U.S. in ‘John Smith’s Letters’ (1839)]]

Some writers have pointed to its use in the southern states of the US in reference to catfish, often abbreviated to ‘cat,’ a fish that is indeed usually skinned in preparing it for eating. However, it looks very much from the multiple versions of the saying, their wide distribution and their age, that this is just a local application of the proverb.

The version ‘more than one way to skin a cat’ seems to have nothing directly to do with the American English term ‘to skin a cat,’ which is to perform a type of gymnastic exercise, involving passing the feet and legs between the arms while hanging by the hands from a horizontal bar. However, its name may have been suggested by the action of turning an animal’s skin inside out as part of the process of removing it from the body.
___________________________________________

Finally, Laurence Urdang, noted lexicographer and founder of ‘Vocabula Review’ (see resources page), says in addition to the above: “A more plausible explanation may lie in the literal skinning of a cat. In the past, cat’s fur was used as trim on various articles of wearing apparel; consequently, many cats were raised only for skinning. Presumably the skinning could be accomplished in a variety of ways. A related term, ‘what can you have of a cat but its skin,’ is used figuratively for something that has but one useful purpose, and arose because the fleshy of a skinned cat was considered worthless. ‘Thou canst have no more of the cat but its skin.’ (Thomas Heywood, ‘Royal King,’ 1637).”
___________________________________________

Ken G – November 10, 2003



Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 3:22 am

Tsk tsk tsk. Ken, now didn't you scold me once for answering a nameless, placeless request. G*

Sam 10/11/03
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 3:37 am

Sam, Un-tsk yourself because you are mistaken. What I scolded you for was answering an inane posting entitled ‘word origin’ and giving the definition and etymology of the word ‘smooth,’ which I pointed out to you the questioner should have done on their own. I never scolded anyone for answering a nameless/placeless posting – I don’t think we generally should, and don’t answer them myself, mostly, except when I find the question of interest, which happens not infrequently. How’s that for consistency? (<:)
__________________________________

Ken G – November 10, 2003


Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 3:51 am

An expression that has gained currency in recent time is "road map" which even though sounds a spatial term, yet has acquired a new temporal meaning of "time table".Even if this expression existed earlier, yet the credit must go to the american government for popularising it once again. The US releases the long awaited "road map" towards a Middle East peace settlement with the creation of an indpenedent and viable Palestinian state by 2005.
Down here in India the government and the press have begun using this expression mercylessly to refer to any action plan or the execution of one.
K.L.Khanna, new Delhi , India
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:05 am

I see, but so that I don't break the rules going forward I can only answer interesting nameless/placeless requests, or only the ones that are interesting to Ken? G* :-)

So the topic of skinning cats is one that interests you?

Which is your preferred method for skinning them since there is more than one way?

Sam 11/11/03
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:20 am

I hate when it does that. It placed my post at the top of the page rather than the bottom.

Sam again
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:34 am

segue; skinning a cat and the kama sutra
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:49 am

Or does "skin a cat" refer to the the slang "skin" meaning "drive", as in muleskinner. This makes the phrase one of attempting a difficult task by alternative means and allies it with herding cats....

---Rich
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

More than one way to skin a cat

Post by Archived Reply » Tue Oct 12, 2004 5:03 am

About 8 minutes ago I tied a noose (with only ten loops to be inline with Texas law) walked into the bathroom and humg my wife's cat. Who cares how many ways you can skin it after about a minute and a half when the poor little devil's tounge, mouth and various other parts of his body are purple. Oh yeah, when the cat is dead, his pupils will be dialated.
Reply from ( - )
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply