23 May

The Cat’s Ass

In my creative writing class, today, we went over a story by Eric Puchner called “Essay #3: Leda and the Swan.” In it, the narrator uses the phrase “the bee’s knees.” One of my students misunderstood the phrase as meaning nervous, a good guess but not quite right. This particular student even rephrased the expression a little, saying, “she said she had bee’s knees.”

Another student clarified, “no, that’s an expression. It’s like the cat’s pajamas.”

“Yeah,” I added, “or the cat’s ass.” I was met with 27 blank stares. “What? Nobody’s heard of the cat’s ass?”

The entire class burst into a mixed chorus of no’s and laughter. “What’s it mean?” the nervous bees knees girl asked.

“It’s just like the cat’s pajamas only a little harder, I guess.” And then just for the hell of it, I added, “tough guys say it.”

They just plain didn’t believe me. Minutes later the bell rang, and my fellow teacher walked into the room to set up for her class, which was gathering in my room for the next hour. One of my exiting students said, “Ms. Hyzer, you’re the cat’s ass,” to which an offended Ms. Hyzer said, “Well thanks a lot.”

“You’ve never heard that expression?” I asked. Indeed she hadn’t. In fact, she was just as skeptical of its existence as my students. Later in the day, Ms. Hyzer took the issue to another colleague of ours, whom she dubbed “the source.” He wasn’t familiar with the cat’s ass either.

At this moment, I might have said to myself, “Jeez. First Ambesol, now this. What’s going on?” But let me be clear on the following: I do not doubt the cat’s ass.

Still, I was curious about its origins, so I looked it up. I should note that at this point, my cat Winnie jumped up on the computer desk and started pacing back and forth in front of me. I kept looking around her and occasionally pushing her ass out of my face. As I was doing so, I typed “cat’s ass” into google, which immediately responded with, “Did you mean: cat’s pajamas?” Just kidding. In fact, there were over 1.4 million hits for “cat’s ass,” the first of which is a link to a forum in which some humorless Canadian tells of a very humorous situation:

I have currently heard the use of “The Cat’s Ass” on American television. I was very surprised since I thought I originated the phrase. I was doing my Ph.D. research in Scotland (late 1980’s) when I was introduced to the phrase “the dog’s bullocks”. I though it was somewhat amusing to reinvent the phrase in an attempt to make a boring Canadian seem more exotic. I came out with the phrase “The Cat’s Ass”. I have done some research on Network theory and Small world theory and know it would be very quick to propagate a new phrase throughout social circles. Any thoughts.

Despite this guy’s lifeless writing, I found this really funny. Actually, I nearly choked on the Gatorade I was drinking and sprayed some of it on the cat’s ass. Good thing she was there or I would have destroyed my keyboard.

An aside: you know when a kid in the cafeteria drops a tray and all the other kids start going, “oooh”? Or when a principal walks into a classroom and requests a private conference with one kid and everyone else starts lowing “ooooooh” like cattle? I’m pretty sure I know the kid who invented that.

Anyway, most of the results on the first few pages of the google search have to do with the phrase “the cat’s ass.” One even gives this incongruous example: “Have you tried these stuffed mushrooms? They’re the cat’s ass!” I mean c’mon. That’s like saying, “this swiss chard strudel is tits!”

Several of the sites had names like “urbandictionary.com” or “pseudo dictionary”; like their names suggest, they were sites dedicated to phrase origins and slang. Though there was one site titled “my cat can kick your cat’s ass,” and a later entry that boasted “Poop Stuck to Cat’s Butt advice by Janet Choi, Kenny Hamshaw.” Ironically, poop stuck to your cat’s butt is not the cat’s ass.

The fact that I have enough time this week to write about the cat’s ass, however, is.

7 thoughts on “The Cat’s Ass

  1. Okay admit it, you are a much better writer then I am. Hope you don’t mind but I am going to pass along your work to my sister. She is a highschool english teacher and could probably out funny you. She has writen many a editorial that have pissed people off, made them cry, laugh and run to their mommies. I will say that I still don’t know where the dang phrase “cat’s ass” came from. Take care, Rachel

  2. Listen, I’ve been trying to find the origin of this phrase, and I just can’t. I can tell you, however, that I also read the same post, and that guy most certainly did not come up with the phrase “cat’s ass”. I know this if only because the 1978 English dub of the movie “Drunken Master” uses the phrase near the beginning, which got me on a Google-trail looking for this stupid phrase. That’s how I ended up here, too. It sure is the stupid things that keep you up at night…

  3. I’m not sure I said “phrase” enough in that paragraph there, so I’d like to add “Phrase”. Oh and “phrase phrase”. And um… well you know… “phrase”. I think sleepiness is making things sound funnier to me than they are, so it’s mighty good that your blog here is moderated.

    phrase.

  4. I think I figured it out! This is just a theory, but there is a similar phrase, high as a cat’s ass (or high as a cat’s back). The back one probably refers to when a scared cat arches its back, and perhaps the ass one is just a hardening of that phrase. It could also refer to the many moments I’m sure any cat owner can relate to when the cat half-lays-down and sticks its ass in the air, but it’s more likely a variation on the back one.
    That phrase could then have been shortened to “The cat’s ass,” acting more like a metaphor. The pajamas one, could also be a softening of the ass version after the back one did not seem to be the same. I find it weird that none of them were familiar with the phrase, but they all knew the pajamas phrase. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that one used, but I’ve definitely heard “The cat’s ass” many times.

  5. My grandmother was from Alabama and she would see something expensive and her saying was “That’s higher than a Cats Ass ” ?

  6. here’s a use for everyone, I was going out with a guy I thought the world of and during move he was strutting around instructing the movers where to put my belongings in storage. I said ‘you just think you’re the cats ass don’t you’!, meaning to me cats pajamas but in a bigger way and I was so appreciative of him being there, but he got angry at the comment and walked off and out of my life. PS I have 2 cats and grew up with them.

  7. I’ve heard the phrase my entire life and know what it means but had absolutely no idea as to how it originated. The internet is a great thing.

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