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Curiosity killed the cat

  • Curiosity killed the cat is a proverb that dates back to the 1500s. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. These common sayings are language tools that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, haste makes waste, blood is thicker than water, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression curiosity killed the cat, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    Curiosity killed the cat is an expression used when someone is being too inquisitive. If someone is being nosy or is following a trail of information that may be dangerous or get him into trouble, he may be admonished that curiosity killed the cat. The phrase curiosity killed the cat became popular in the 1800s, but it is a later variation of the phrase care killed the cat;, the earliest known use is in Ben Jonson’s play 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour: “Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care’ll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman.” The expression also appears in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, 1599: “What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.” In these instances, the word care is used to mean worry. It is unclear when the word curiosity was substituted for the word care in this proverb.

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    Examples

    The expression “Curiosity killed the cat” is one you likely heard on the elementary school playground. (Forbes)

    And we seem to have accepted the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” as an axiom. (The Hindu)

    “We don’t have the saying ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ for no reason,” notes Coit, who founded the popular Facebook group Asheville Cat Weirdos. (The Mountain Xpress)

    “Curiosity killed the cat, curiosity actually burned me,” he said, adding, “Would’ve been smarter to Google, I thought about that in the ambulance ride after.” (The International Business Times)


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