29 April 2015

So Why Did Curiosity Kill the Cat?

Image from http://animalia-life.com/.

Back in the early nineties, one of my former players was asking me far too many questions about something that I cannot even recall now. What I do recall was that I was tired from playing and was quickly running out of patience answering the incessant stream of questions.

It was like trying to explain something to a child. Finally running out of patience, to put an end to the unwanted interrogation, I told him, “Listen! Curiosity killed the cat!”

The damn fool was far from done. After the briefest of pauses, he shot back, “So what happened?”

“I don’t really know and I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” I replied.

“No,” he said impatiently, “what I meant was what happened to the cat.”

So I gave him this you-have-gotta-be-kidding-me look and refused to be drawn into another spate of questions. Frankly, it was one of those moments in my life when if I am being honest I really had no answers.

I did not know what happened to the cat and why curiosity killed it.

Now of course, this was way before the Internet became ubiquitous as a tool for everybody so I was bothered enough to actually go and see this American brother and see if he knew any better about the cat than I did.

Since he was a native English speaker, I figured he would know more about the proverb that I would. He did not. He scraped his pate with a finger, apologised and promised to get back to me if he found out more about the proverb.

He never did; and he is dead now.

These days, of course, there is Wikipedia. The free encyclopaedia tells us that the proverb is used to “warn of the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation.”

Implicit to the proverb, I suppose, is that one may discover information that may be detrimental or unfavourable to one’s self. It may also be an alternative and polite way of telling somebody to “shut the eff up I’m tired of answering your questions.”

Originally, the proverb was “care killed the cat.” In this context, care meant “worry” or “sorrow.” In other words, the expression tried to convey the thought that worrying or being sorrowful about something was not good for anybody.

It is not really known how the proverb became “curiosity killed the cat,” but the original version first appeared in print as early as 1598 when the playwright Ben Johnson used it in his play “Every Man in His Humour.”
“Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat, up-tails all, and a pox on the hangman.”
“Curiosity killed the cat” first appeared in print in the book “A Handbook of Proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakespearean, and Scriptural; and Family Mottoes.” The proverb was listed as of Irish origin.

What is not as well known is that there is actually standard response to the proverb: “satisfaction brought it (the cat) back.”

Seems like the sort of expression first used by a gossip. Smiley.


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