What connection is there between cats and porridge?
Well in Swedish, att gå som katten kring het gröt (“to walk like the cat around hot porridge”) means that you are not getting to the point, beating around the bush, stalling, avoiding talking directly about something sensitive or unpleasant, approaching something indirectly and cautiously, walking on egg shells, pussyfooting around, or wasting time.
Some examples of how this phrase is used:
- Låt oss inte gå som katten kring het gröt
Let us not beat around the bush
- Vi går som katten kring het gröt, både politiskt och diplomatiskt sett.
We tread on eggshells, both politically and diplomatically.
- Vi har tassat likt katten kring het gröt i den frågan alltför länge.
We have pussyfooted on that issue for far too long.
- Vi här har varit rädda och gått som katten kring het gröt.
We here have been fearful and have beaten around the bush.
Similar idioms involving cats and porridge are found in a number of other languages:
- Czech: chodit kolem horké kaše = to walk around hot porridge
- German: wie die Katze um den heißen Brei herumschleichen = as the cat sneaks around the hot porridge
- Finnish: kiertää kuin kissa kuumaa puuroa = to pace around hot porridge like a cat
- Norwegian: å gå som katta rundt den varme grauten = to walk like a cat around hot porridge
These are all equivalents of to beat around the bush.
The English idiom to beat around the bush was first used in writing in 1572, and referred to the practise of beating bushes in order to flush out game animals [source].
Some other cat-related idioms
- It’s rain cats and dogs = It’s raining heavily
- To let the cat out of the bag = to reveal a secret
- Curiosity killed the cat
- When the cat’s away the mice will play
- French: Avoir d’autres chats à fouetter = To have other cats to whip = To have other fish to fry / other things to do.
- French: Avoir un chat dans la gorge = To have a cat in the throat = To have a frog in one’s throat
- French: appeler un chat un chat = to call a cat a cat = to call a spade a spade = say it like it is
- French: Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide = Scalded cat fears cold water = Once bitten, twice shy
- Spanish: El gato escaldado del agua fria huye = The cat that has been scalded runs away from cold water = Once bitten, twice shy
- German: meine Arbeit war für die Katz = my work was for the cat = my work was a waste of time
- German: das hat die Katze gefressen = the cat ate it = the fairies took it
- German: wenn die Katze aus dem Haus ist, tanzen die Mäuse (auf dem Tisch) = when the cat is out of the house, the mice dance (on the table) = when the cat’s away the mice will play
Sources: Idioms of the world, Reverso
Do you know other cat- or porridge-related idioms?
2 thoughts on “Cats and Porridge”
The expression “das hat die Katze gefressen = the cat ate it = the fairies took it” sounds a lot like “the dog ate my homework”.
Has the cat got your tongue? is found in several languages as well.
In Finnish, we have
Konstit on monet, sanoi akka, kun kissalla pöytää pyyhki = There are many ways to do things, said the old woman while wiping the table with a cat.
Kuka kissan hännän nostaa ellei kissa itse = Who will lift the cat’s tail if not the cat itself = it’s not bad to praise yourself
nostaa kissa pöydälle = to put the cat on the table = to start discussing a difficult or controversial topic
ei ehdi edes kissaa sanoa = don’t have time to even say the word cat = don’t have time to react to something
kissankokoisilla kirjaimilla = with letters the size of a cat = something is written so that you can’t possibly miss it
etsiä kissojen ja koirien kanssa = to search with cats and dogs = to thoroughly search for something
kissanristiäiset = the christening of a cat = a pointless celebration or other social event
kissanpäivät = the days of a cat = having a carefree life