‘Cat Got Your Tongue?’

Definition: Used to ask someone why he or she is not saying anything. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Today, we use the phrase ‘cat got your tongue’ in a very lighthearted context. However, the theories behind where the idiom comes from are rather grim.

One speculation is the phrase originated from the Egyptian times. In those days, liars would be punished by having their tongues cut out and fed to the cats.

The idiom may also come from the Middle Ages. It was thought that if one ran into a witch, her black cat would steal his tongue, thus leaving him silent, unable to tell the story of seeing a witch.

The final theory is that it stems from when the English Navy used a special whip called the “Cat-o’-nine-tails” as punishment. The pain is said to have been so horrific that it left the wrongdoer silent for some time.

Such dark origins for a phrase that we use in our everyday life.