Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Cat and Mouse

Okay, this might seem a bit obvious. Cats have chased mice from time immemorial, right? So it would follow that the phrase ‘cat and mouse’ was as old as, well, our humans (and everycat knows humans are, like, elebenty zillion years old and stuff).

Three cats, one mouse. Unfair odds?
But we found it interesting that its first known use only dates back to 1675, as an English-language idiom.

That form of the phrase can only be traced back that far in published literature, according to Merriam-Webster and Omnilexica.

What we found even more interesting is its definition. There’s its traditional meaning, of course:
  • ‘the act of toying with or tormenting something before destroying it’ (Merriam-Webster)
  • ‘to engage in a gamelike relationship in which evasion and pursuit are used: They played cat and mouse for a while before she consented to go out with him.’ (Dictionary Reference)

But then we found out that Cat and Mouse is a children’s game dating back to 1910-1915. And it may sound familiar!

The game begins with the group of children standing in a circle with hands on each others’ shoulders. Two are selected out – one as the cat, one as the mouse.

The mouse tells the cat, “you can’t catch me!” and the game is afoot. The mouse runs in and out of the circle and the cat must mimic it exactly or he loses.

If the cat manages to catch the mouse, he becomes the mouse and gets to choose a new cat.

A variant of this in Costa Rica has the circle as active participants, helping the mouse out by trying to block the cat by raising and lowering their joined arms.

Sounds a bit like an elaborate game of tag, doesn’t it? 



Nebraska History
Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online
Encyclopedia of Play in Today’s Society, Volume 1, Rodney P. Carlisle, page 119, Sage Publications, Inc, April 2, 2009


  1. We have never heard of the tag game. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Mama's senile brain thinks she may have played a game like that as a child. Hey, I played REAL cat and mouse recently! Now Dad has set mouse traps and is dedding them all.

  3. Mommy remembers playing a similar game when she was little. She remembers that bit about "you can't catch meeeeee". MOL.

  4. So THAT's what Katie & Waffles have been playing!
    ; ) GG

  5. That sounds very similar to a game children play here in Canada in kindergarten.

    Some things do stay the same :)

    the critters in the cottage xo

  6. We love a good game of mousey. Too bad we haven't seen any real ones around here in quite sometime. We must be content with the nippy ones, not that we're complaining. Purrs and hugs from the kitties at The Cat on My Head, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

  7. thank God they didn't have that game when I was a kid. I would have lost lol

  8. Tom and Jerry..BOL that last photo is priceless xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  9. Now that sounds like s really fun game!!

  10. The only game I know about here is Keep Away, as in keep my toys away from Binga!


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