Cat got your tongue?

Photo of author


Cat got your tongue? is a question asked when someone doesn’t answer a previously posed question or otherwise remains silent. The origins of this phrase are quite murky. The earliest use of the phrase cat got you tongue? is found in an American magazine in 1881, where it is described as a taunt used by children. One origin theory is that cat got your tongue? stems from the medieval fear of witches and their familiars, black cats. Another theory is that the “cat” referenced in cat got your tongue? is the cat-o’-nine-tails, a vicious whip used on early sailors which would render the victim speechless. A third theory is the assertion that ancient kings cut off the tongues of liars and fed the tongues to their cats. All of these stories are apocryphal, there is no evidence that the phrase cat got your tongue? is anything more than odd, childish imagery.


Family members repeated idiotic phrases such as “What’s the matter cat got your tongue,” or “Smile, your face is cracking” in idiotic sing song voices designed to provoke me into Public Displays of Emotion (PDE) — a serious shy girl no no. (The Huffington POst)

What’s wrong Mr. Mulcair, cat got your tongue? (The National Post)

What? Surprised, or is it just that the cat’s got your tongue? (InTouch Weekly Magazine)

Lalu says the devil is dancing on his tongue but Nitishji, why has the cat got your tongue?  (The Economic Times)

“He responded by smiling at me and saying, ‘Cat got your tongue?’ I was appalled about what he was doing to me and did not know what to say.” (The Nation)

“Why is he quiet now that his party has lost decisively in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh despite the malicious campaign led by him? What happened? The cat got your tongue?” asked Ravi Shankar Prasad. (The Hindu Business Line