Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Trivia: The Cat that ate the Canary

Depending on where you're from, this phrase either means that you're smug and pretty darned self-satisfied ... or it means that you may look a bit guilty (yet pretty pleased with yourself).

It's been around for ages, or has it?

The earliest published version of the phrase seems to date back to the late 1800's. Several newspapers in Australia, the UK and America made reference to the cat and the canary in a joke that was popular in humor columns at the time:

"Father: That cat made an awful noise in the back garden last night.
 Son: Yes, sir. I guess that since he ate the canary, he thinks he can sing."

Nope, no canaries here.
But you have to move forward to 1910 to see the phrase used as it is today, in a New York Times article published on April 30th entitled, "Cotton Bulls Stand Shock of Deliveries."

In this op-ed piece, the author made mention of a man who "talked freely and carried the smile of the cat that swallowed the canary."

"Smug? Why yes, that's my default expression!"
And there you have it!

Word Reference Forum


Gilded Japanese bird cage, edo period. Courtesy Claire H, via Creative Commons 2.0
Cat Hunting, courtesy Jennifer Barnard, via Creative Commons 2.0
Canaries courtesy Wikimedia user 3628zauber, via GNU Free Documentation License
Abyssinian courtesy Wikimedia user Lilliinda, via GNU Free Documentation License

Please join us in remembering those without homes


  1. Wez dumb, we have never heard of that..MOL we will light a candle tonight :) xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  2. Love the phrase but we'd rewrite it to the dog that got the squirrel LOL. Have a tremendous thankful Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. We always learn so much when we read your postings!!!

  4. I've never eaten a canary. Friskies doesn't make that variety.


  5. Oh we are very familiar with the phrase that the cat ate the canary. But don't know if it is real or not. Lighting the candles is such a good idea. Take care.

  6. It's usually the cat that ate the cream! Now canary? Hmmm! That could make a tasty hors d'oeuvres! ;)

  7. We know the saying, but we haven't ever been allowed to eat any canaries to see what it's like. Is that fair? We don't think so.

  8. We haven't had time to comment as much lately but wanted to stop by and say hi!

  9. We know that phrase! Canary pie sounds purrrfect :)

    the critters in the cottage xo

  10. We'd like the chance to swallow a canary and see how smug we feel!

    We are hoping for a time when there are no pets to remember. Such a terrible waste of life!

  11. That's furry interesting! Isn't it amazing how the humans have to identify to kitties?

  12. does canary taste like chik-hen? just wonderin'...and I am never smug...heh...heh

  13. Enjoyed your informative post and especially the quote about the cat thinking it could sing. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  14. Very cool! I enjoyed learning about how that phrase came about... the canary... probably not as much...

    Purrs from the Zee and Zoey Gang and blessings to all those pets whom a candle was lit...


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