In other words, when the boss isn’t around, the workers will play hooky!
Now there's a concept a cat would have a hard time understanding. No cat ever altered his behavior around a supervisor, that's for sure!
So where does this phrase originate?
|Mouse, meet cat!|
In the book, “Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words,” author Wolfgang Mieder states the phrase can be traced back to medieval Latin – Dum felis dormit, mus gaudet et exsi litantro, 'When the cat falls asleep, the mouse rejoices and leaps from the hole'.
From there, it was translated into the vernacular language of most European countries. Its earliest written form dates back to the early 14th century with this French iteration: Ou chat na rat regne, 'Where there is no cat, the rat is king'.
But its most famous historical usage is by the Bard himself, in the play Henry the Fifth:
Westmoreland, speaking with King Henry V,
Gloucester, Bedford, Exeter and Warwick
"But there's a saying very old and true,
'If that you will France win,
Then with Scotland first begin:'
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot
Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,
Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,
To tear and havoc more than she can eat. "
What we found most fun about this particular phrase was to see how its exact translation varies from country to country:
French: Quand le chat n'est pas là, les souris dansent.
(word for word: When the cat isn't there, the mice dance)
Finnish: Kun kissa on poissa, hiiret hyppivät pöydällä
(When the cat is away, the mice are jumping on the table)
Russian: Без кота мышам раздолье. [bez kata mysham razdolje]
(Without a cat there is freedom/spaciousness for mice)
Portuguese: quando o gato sai, os ratos fazem a festa
(literally, when the cat goes out, the mice/rats make a party
Turkish: Kedi olmayınca fareler cirit atar
(literally, when the cat doesn't exist, the mice throw javelins)
We like the Turkish version best, how about you?
|Allie: "I never met a mouse I didn't like." (of course, pink ones are even better!)|
No matter what language you use, one thing is abundantly clear.
Without the cat, chaos reigns!
“Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words,” Wolfgang Mieder, Jul 23, 2008, page 125. Phrases.org
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