Curiosity Killed the Cat(ta): Part Two

In Part One, I looked at the mainly visual evidence for cats and mustelids, but for Part Two, it is time to concentrate on the words themselves, both by diving into their etymologies, as well as by looking at some pertinent examples of ancient and medieval literary descriptions. So without further ado, let’s look at the etymologies of the modern words for the mustelids. What will be apparent very quickly, is just how much these animals overlap conceptually and semantically across cultures. Continue reading “Curiosity Killed the Cat(ta): Part Two”

Curiosity Killed The Cat(ta): Part One

My own curiosity was piqued recently when I found out that the OED entry for the Modern English cat is listed as a common Indo-European word of unknown origin, with the oldest cited example being an uncommon Latin word – catta. So uncommon, that I had to go to my Lewis and Short to see what it said, since the only Latin word for cat with which I was familiar was feles. My suspicions were confirmed: this dictionary defined the word catta as “an unknown species of animal.” Moreover, the OED provides both catta and cattus as interchangeable nouns, which struck me as somewhat odd. Yet when we look to most modern European languages, some variant of ‘cat’ appears in very many of them – but not all. Continue reading “Curiosity Killed The Cat(ta): Part One”