Why Do We Say That Someone “Let The Cat Out Of The Bag”?Posted: January 16, 2015 | |
A wise old man once told me that two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead. He didn’t live that long after that. Because of that, I’m a little on edge letting you in on his secret for keeping a confidence. I’d be more concerned about it if I wasn’t pretty sure that smoking had a lot more to do with his demise than telling secrets.
If two living people have a secret and one of them reveals the secret we often say that person “let the cat out of the bag”. Let’s explore why we might say that.
Don’t Get Caught Holding That Bag
Unless the secret is “I have a cat in this bag, don’t tell anyone”, we can say with confidence that the bag and cat situation is a metaphor for telling a secret. It is an unfortunate metaphor that, I imagine, came from someone who’d been involved in such a despicable act.
Putting a cat in a bag is cruel and wrong. I’d suppose that getting the cat’s co-operation isn’t easy; someone who’d do such a thing deserves whatever damage their cat might inflict while they’re putting it in to a bag. But the image of a frustrated and confused feline rocketing out of that bag pretty accurately represents the energy of being shocked by a big secret being told.
I Have A Cat. Imagine That.
My wife and I adopted a big orange and white cat from a rescue organization last weekend. We changed his name to Boog for two reasons. First, the legal process wasn’t that difficult. But the real reason was to honor one of my favorite Baltimore Orioles players, first baseman John Wesley (Boog) Powell.
Powell, part of the 1966 and 1970 World Series championship Orioles teams, was (and still is) a pretty big dude, as is our new cat. Our big cat is a lousy first baseman but is orange and white, the Orioles colors.
It took a few days for us get approval to adopt Boog the cat; my wife wasn’t with me when I returned to the shelter to pick him up. Boog seemed a little put out with having to be in a carrier box and riding in a car. I tried talking to him to calm him down. That helped a bit, but he really settled down when I let him listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run album.
A cat that likes Bruce. We’ll get along fine.
I Use A Science Word – Hypothesis
While I drove, I thought about the cat in the bag metaphor. It occurred to me that the cat in the box on the passenger seat next to me provided a completely ethical opportunity to see if there was something to the bagged cat legend. If ever I was going to learn if letting a cat out of the bag was the explosion of energy that I’d been lead to believe it is, that was going to be my day.
I think that scientists like me call this a hypothesis.
Boog and I pulled up at home and I turned off the car. He meowed. He was right in the middle of listening to Thunder Road when the music stopped.
Science Word Two – Experimentation
I set the portable kennel box down and closed the front door. I could see the cat moving around inside the box. “This is going to be great” I thought, “here he goes”. I unlatched the door and stood back.
Finally, Boog poked his head out, looked around and tentatively walked out. He looked around a little more, circled the box and then went back in. He must have realized he left something in there, because he only stayed a moment and then strolled back out to carefully explored his new home.
He didn’t shoot out of the box. There was no kinetic burst. Boog just strolled around. I’m glad he felt comfortable, but I have to admit his entrance disappointed me.
Science Word Three – Conclusion
So, it is my duty to inform you that the “letting the cat out of the bag” metaphor is not supported by the facts exposed by my research. In 100% of my one simulated cat/bag release situations, Boog the cat simply walked out. To be fair, I do have to include that cats may find bags more objectionable that boxes* and that results may vary according to your cat transportation method.
I’m sure that some of you will be disappointed in the results that I’m reporting. I’m sorry to be the one letting the cat out of the bag on this inaccurate metaphor. It’s better that you hear it from me than on the street, right?
*putting a cat in a bag will always be wrong, even in scientific metaphor research.