Posted by Claudia Moser on 8:20 PM in , ,
When reading this week's theme under the GBE2 group challenge, the first thing coming into my mind was the old saying 'curiosity killed the cat' and inquisitive as I am :) I thought it would be worth in searching its origin.

The meaning is clear, inquisitiveness can lead one into dangerous situations. I hope my research will not damage me at all :)

Now to the saying's origin :)

The 'killed the cat' proverb originated as 'care killed the cat'. By 'care' the coiner of the expression meant 'worry/sorrow' rather than our more usual contemporary 'look after/provide for' meaning.

That form of the expression is first recorded in the English playwright Ben Jonson's play Every Man in His Humour, 1598:

"Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care'll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman."

The play was one of the Tudor humours comedies, in which each major character is assigned a particular 'humour' or trait. The play is thought to have been performed in 1598 by The Lord Chamberlain's Men, a troupe of actors including William Shakespeare and William Kempe. Shakespeare was no slouch when it came to appropriating a memorable line and it crops up the following year in Much Ado About Nothing:

"What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care."

The proverbial expression 'curiosity killed the cat', which is usually used when attempting to stop someone asking unwanted questions, is much more recent. The earlier form was still in use in 1898, when it was defined in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:

"Care killed the Cat. It is said that a cat has nine lives, but care would wear them all out."

Curiosity hasn't received a good press over the centuries. Saint Augustine wrote in Confessions, AD 397, that, in the eons before creating heaven and earth, God "fashioned hell for the inquisitive". John Clarke, in Paroemiologia, 1639 suggested that "He that pryeth into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt". In Don Juan, Lord Byron called curiosity "that low vice". That bad opinion, and the fact that cats are notoriously inquisitive, lead to the source of their demise being changed from 'care' to 'curiosity'.

The earliest version form of the proverb in print is from The Galveston Daily News, 1898:

It is said that once "curiosity killed a Thomas cat."

And to finish a song!

Inspired from here



Very interesting post today Claudia. I think we've all heard that saying, "curiosity killed the cat", but I certainly didn't know how it originated, so you've taught me something today. Really clever of you to finish with that song by the group of the same name! Do hope that your cold will feel better soon. Keep warm!

I absolutely love learning the origin of words or sayings. This was so interesting. I must be going to hell as I am very inquisitive!

And once again, Claudia, you have taught this old dog a new trick! Good job.

I, too, have heard the saying all my life (probably because I've always been very curious about almost everything), but didn't have a clue about its origin. Enjoyed reading about it.

I love to find out about the etymology of phrases and words! What fun this was to explore :-)

Anonymous says:

Thank you for your hard work. I've always heard this phrase but had no clue where it came from.

Oh yes, it would seem that, inquisitive as I am, I'm going to the hot place!

Anonymous says:

I love the story behind the sayings. Great post.

@Diane - thank you, it was interesting to find the meaning :) Keeping warm and calm.
@Belle - I know that we both like words!
@Jo - did I? I was curious :)
@Angela - thank you for dropping by!
@KAT - same reason behind my research!
@Sarah - who knows? I actually think that curiosity brought mankind ahead!
@Gene Pool Diva - thank you!

YOU SO CRACK ME UP! well first of all never knew the beginnings of the saying either! Have to re read this! awesome, and the ending..LOL that video cracked me up..never heard of that song or group before..

very entertaining and informative as always

@Brenda - you are so funny :) thank you for your kind feedback!

Very informative post. Curiosity probably did kill a few cats and kats!

@Kiwi - so true!

I always find it fascinating to see how phrases started. Thanks.


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