Have you ever heard the phrase, “Not enough room to swing a cat?” Don’t ask me why, but my mom used to say it a lot. And since it’s a universal truth that as we sound more like our mothers as we age, I muttered it the other day when complaining about how cluttered the basement had become.
My son asked, “What does that mean?”
I explained my childhood interpretation of the phrase, where you grab a cat (I envisioned our seal point Siamese, Punchy) by the tail and swing it around the room, knocking over lamps and pictures and whatever other knickknacks are within the cat’s circumference.
“That’s crazy,” my son said.
So in my effort to prove myself right, I did a Google search. Guess what? (And I’m admitting this publicly here…) I was wrong. And to further my surprise, I learned the phrase had a nautical origin. Additional research showed a lot of common terms have ties to Navy traditions. Here are a few, gleaned from Traditions of the Navy by Cedric W. Windas, copyright 1942: