Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday Trivia: grinning like a Cheshire Cat

Ever wonder where this phrase came from? If you said Alice in Wonderland, well, you'd be...wrong.


image courtesy  Leslie Sigal Javorek, via Creative Commons 3.0

According to language maven Richard Lederer, the phrase predates Lewis Carroll's famous book.

"Charles Ludwidge Dodgson," Lederer writes, "best known to the world as Lewis Carroll, popularized the Cheshire cat in his children-of-all-ages classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865). The Cheshire cat in the story gradually faded from Alice's view, its smile being the last part of the animal to vanish.  

To grin like a Cheshire cat goes back before Carroll, and the source could be Cheshire cheeses, which were at one time molded in the form of a cat.

Another theory contends that the cat grins because the former palatine of Cheshire once had regal privileges in England, paying no taxes to the crown."

(confession: we had to go look up palatine. Wikipedia says it means "a historical territory of the Holy Roman Empire, a palatinate administered by a count palatine." Um. Okay. Faraday's still scratching his head on that last explanation!)

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Sources: Richard Lederer on Jewish World Review and Wikipedia



27 comments:

  1. We just learned something new from you!

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  2. Methinks many of us were grinning like a Cheshire cat after Christmas. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  3. Mom likes to say 'You learn sumfin new efurry day' and today we learned sumfin' new & innerestin frum you furriends :)

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  4. I have GOT to practice my grin! purrs

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  5. Wow! That is a very old saying! Thanks for the trivia and Happy Thursday!

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  6. We kept looking at that cat because it kinda looked like a grinning scorpion!

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  7. Thank´s for learning me and mom where the expression Grinning like a Cheshire Cat maybe come´s from :)

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  8. What's not to love?
    Cheese, Cats, Smiles!

    ...unless of course it's Waffles Too who's smiling. Evil lurks beneath HIS grin.

    ; ) Katie

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    1. Allie: Oh you are SO right. I started growling at Faraday a bit ago, and he looked all innocent - but I KNEW what was lurking in his thoughts! He might have been just sitting there, but *I* knew!

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  9. Fascinating! Especially since the Alice stories were also parodies of the English political system, as so many English stories turn out to be. Btu for once a happy cat story!

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  10. Hmmm how interesting... I think I would love some cheese in the shape of a cat! hehe

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  11. I have always LOVED the Cheshire Cat! I have been told many times that I grin like him hehehe

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  12. Well, we didn't know that!! Now we are eddicated!

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  13. We didn't know that but we do like Cheshire cheese.

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  14. We love the Cheshire cheese, a lovely cheddar. Cats love it too!

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  15. TBT here: The Palatine Hill was where Romulus and Remus (founders of Rome) were nurtured by a she-wolf. Palatine is the Latin origin word of "palace", and a "Palatine" was a high castle official. In later centuries, a Palantine managed an outland area for the castle lord. Much as "sheriff" comes from "shire-reeve", the person who enforced laws in an English Shire.

    Sorry, I get off on this stuff sometimes... Now, back to the cats.

    Cats: We LOVE Cheshire Cat and wish we could do HIS trick of disappearing. We try and try, but it seems we allus leave a tail or paw hanging out!

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    1. Ooh, thanks for telling us! Wikipedia was not much help when we tried researching the whole Palatine thing!

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    2. Oh, and thanks for using both Palatine and Palantine. We got really confused when they seemed to be interchanging those!

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  16. Cheeses molded in the form of a cat? They don't have that in France, only stinky cheeses!
    Purrs

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  17. Cheese? Mmmm. Nommy.

    Darn. Mark's Mews beat us to the Palatine Hill story.

    We like Palatino font ;-) Hello, non sequitur!

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    1. MOL! We try to snoopervise mommy so she avoids those (heee)

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  18. I'm gonna go have a taste of Alfie, cheese is my favourite :) xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

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  19. Grinning is my favorite pass time!
    Kisses
    nellie

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  20. We love trivia! Thank you. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.

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Coolio! A comment? For US?