Have a cow and have kittens are two idioms that mean the same thing. We’ll look at the definition of these two strange terms, where these terms are used, when they originated, and look at a few examples used in sentences.
Have a cow is an idiom that describes growing extremely agitated with anger, becoming enraged. The phrase don’t have a cow is often used when someone is becoming enraged, as an admonishment that their anger is out of proportion to the inciting incident. “Don’t have a cow, man,” became a catchphrase in the 1990s as a result of the popular cartoon television show, The Simpsons. However, the term was popular among American teenagers before that time, beginning in the 1950s. Have a cow is primarily an American idiom and is usually considered a bit sassy or slightly disrespectful, sometimes in a humorous manner. Related phrases are has a cow, had a cow, having a cow.
Have kittens is the British equivalent of have a cow, it describes when someone is becoming enraged. While have kittens is now primarily a British idiom, the evidence at this time shows that it originated in the United States. Related phrases are don’t have kittens, has kittens, had kittens, having kittens. Both have a cow and have kittens seem to have been coined around the same time, the early 1900s. The connection between anger and giving birth to a cow or a litter of kittens is obscure, to say the least.
Why did France and Germany just have a cow over encryption? (Fortune Magazine)
A vegan cafe is having a cow after meat-loving fascists allegedly hurled chunks of animal flesh onto patrons’ plates over the weekend. (The New York Post)
The broadcaster added: “Our health safety representative is having kittens over there.” (The Daily Express)