kitty-corner , cater-corner

Discussion in 'French-English Vocabulary / Vocabulaire Français-Anglais' started by vittel, Feb 24, 2007.

  1. vittel

    vittel Senior Member

    french, France
    I just learned this new word:
    kitty-corner(ed), cater-corner(ed), catty-corner(ed) (to/across sth) = diagonally (across from) = en diagonale (de qqch).

    And I would like to know how it's used. Is it very common, is it colloquial, is there a spelling preferred over another?

    My oxford dictionary only knows "cater-*" and "catty-*", but not "kitty-*", whereas on Googlefight it seems to be the one that is the most used. So I'm a bit confused.
  2. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    Yes, in AE I only ever hear 'kitty-cornered' which I suppose grew out of the mistaken notion that 'cater' had something to do with cats, instead of with the number four and the figure of a square, admittedly rather etymologically obscured.

    Is it then simply an AE/BE difference?
  3. Indeed, you hear both kitty-corner(ed) and catty-corner(ed) in the southeast. I do not know cater-cornered, but have heard another variant that is "katy-corner(ed).

    It's colloquial, I'd say, but is a legitimate way to express the idea of two things in opposite corners of a block-shaped space.
  4. The MightyQ Senior Member

    English, Canada
    As an example of usage, I would say for example
    "The grocery store is kitty corner from the bank".
    I use it to tell someone how to find something in relation to a place they already know. So in this example I assume they know where the bank is, but not maybe the grocery store, which is diagonally opposite at the intersection.
    I have heard "kitty corner to..." as well.
  5. RuK Senior Member

    Outside Paris
    English/lives France
    Kitty-corner is totally American. It will get no understanding whatsoever on the street in the UK. "I live kitty-corner to the grocery store" - pure US.
  6. fleury Senior Member

    St. Louis, MO, USA
    English (US)
    I sometimes learn American English, my native language, from this forum. Both my wife (born in Oklahoma) and I (born in Louisiana) have always used only cater-corner, we do find that the current American Merriam-Webster dictionary lists cater-corner as the variant and kitty-corner as the standard. A revelation to me!
  7. wildan1

    wildan1 Moderando ma non troppo

    A vote for "catty corner" here. I've heard kitty but mostly hear catty (Mid-Atlantic area of E. US) Does that mean I am being catty?!

    Indeed, it's primarily used to describe relationality, particularly about the placement of houses or buildings. It's useful in the US since most cities here are built on a grid pattern, making diagonality a frequent dimension to describe...
  8. vittel

    vittel Senior Member

    french, France
    Thank you again people, it helps a lot! Alright, so we have:
    Kitty-corner: 4
    Catty-Corner: 2
    Cater-corner: 1

    That's funny... because kitty-corner doesn't mean anything etymologically speaking. In this case, the distortion of the original expression (cater-corner) has become the standard.
    I found this on the word detective, about the origin of the expression: (scroll down to the 3rd definition).
  9. multae gentes Senior Member

    French (France)
    This post is a question for club and tournament chess players only : in king and pawn endgames, we use the concept of 'diagonal opposition'. Is it ever referred to in clubs as "cater-cornered opposition" or "catty-cornered opposition" ? I never met this phrase, but most books in English language I use are British, so I have really no clue.
  10. mignardise Senior Member

    US & Canada, English
    A US midwesterner, I've always used "kitty corner" and have always heard it used, never having heard of any of the other variants... Those were all new to me!
  11. Mme Machin Senior Member

    Midwest USA
    USA English
    So in French, you have to say, "L'épicerie est en diagonale de la banque" for "The grocery store is kitty corner from the bank"?
  12. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I note that [this] discussion ended with a question mark: So in French, you have to say, "L'épicerie est en diagonale de la banque" for "The grocery store is kitty corner from the bank"?

    I would have said ...diagonalement opposé(e) à....

    (Also, in the highly unlikely event of me using the phrase, I would certainly opt for the cater-... variant which has existed in BE since 1519 meaning four.)

    Mod note: threads merged.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2015
  13. Victorian63 New Member

    English - Canadian
    I'm Canadian (west coast) and have always heard kitty corner. I just had a conversation with an Englishman (immigrant) who did understand the directions I was giving him and thought "kitty corner" was the name of a street. Totally forgot the English do not know this expression. I've never heard a Canadian say "catty corner" or the original French (though this may be in use in Quebec?).
  14. moonpeeler Junior Member

    France, French
    Moi je dirais plutôt : "L'épicerie est à l'opposé de la banque", ou "L'épicerie est de l'autre côté du carrefour, par rapport à la banque".
    "Diagonale" is used for mathematics, seldom in everyday talking.
  15. Pierre-Ange New Member

    Français (plusieurs variétés) (Québec)
    In fact, I do not know if there is such an expression in the English-speaking Quebeckers usage, but there is no literal translation as far as I know, whether it be here in Quebec or elsewhere in French-speaking countries. J'ai remarqué que parmi ceux qui sont intervenus plus haut, on propose ''en diagonale de la banque''. Je dirais plutôt ''de biais'' si j'ai bien compris. Ce me semble beaucoup plus courant. ''À l'opposé de '' me paraît aussi un peu curieux, car on pourrait entendre (comprendre) ''en face de...'', ''de l'autre côté de...'' Quant au vieux français, ''catre'', il faut vérifier. Chose certaine, ce mot n'est pas en usage au Québec et ne l'a probablement jamais été.

    As for ''kitty-corner'' I have heard people in English Canada use this expression, in the West and in the East. It seems indeed more typical of a North-Eastern American usage of the expression.

    Voici, si vous me le permettez, un extrait du vieux Littré sur l'étymologie du mot ''chat'':

    ''Wallon, chet ; bourguig. chai ; picard, ca, co ; provenç. cat ; catal. gat ; espagn. et portug. gato ; ital. gatto ; du latin catus ou cattus, qui ne se trouve que dans des auteurs relativement récents, Palladius, Isidore, et qui était un mot du vulgaire. Il appartient au celtique et à l'allemand : irl. cat ; kymri, kâth ; angl. sax. cat ; ancien scandin. köttr ; allem. mod. Katze. D'après Isidore, cattus vient de cattare, voir, et cet animal est dit ainsi parce qu'il voit, guette ; catar, regarder, est dans le provençal et dans l'ancien français chater (Roncisv. p. 97.) Mais on ne sait à quoi se rattachent ni cattus ni catar ; la tardive apparition qu'ils font dans le latin portent à croire qu'ils sont d'origine celtico-germanique. Il y a dans l'arabe qittoun, chat mâle, mais Freitag doute que ce mot appartienne à l'arabe.''
  16. moustic Senior Member

    near Limoges
    British English
    This expression is not limited to the US.
    Catie corner(ed) is a Yorkshire dialect variant.
    For example:
    Cross a field in a catie cornered fashion -> traverser un champ d'un coin à l'autre en diagonale
    Hold a cloth catie corner wise -> tenir un tissus par deux coins opposés
  17. Pierre-Ange New Member

    Français (plusieurs variétés) (Québec)

    Merci. ''Piquer à travers champ'', diraient certaines gens au Québec. ''En travers'', mais il est vrai qu'il n'y a pas toujours là de ''diagonalité''.

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