A cat biting its tail

< Previous | Next >

danielxu85

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese
I met with my PhD advisor the other day, and she said that if I want to focus on studying the correlation between the improvement of language processing skills and interpreting expertise, it is like a cat trying to bite its tail. Then, she laughed.

It is a very vivid metaphor, but the problem is that I don't know what it means. Any advice would be appreciated.
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    There's a common metaphor about a dog chasing its tail. Dogs chase their tails for seemingly no reason as if it were a squirrel they might catch but they can't do it - an impossible or pointless activity.

    I've never heard anyone speak about a cat biting its tail.
     

    danielxu85

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    Thank you Myridon! My advisor is bilingual, American English and German. She might be using a mixed metaphor.
    Is she saying that what I plan to study is a pointless endeavor?
     

    teksch

    Senior Member
    English - American
    Thank you Myridon! My advisor is bilingual, American English and German. She might be using a mixed metaphor.
    Is she saying that what I plan to study is a pointless endeavor?
    I believe what she is saying is that you will end up going in circles. Imagine a cat trying to bite it's tail - the faster the cat goes, the faster the tail goes.
     

    mangoman

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think she means rather that it's a circular question: like the dog running round in small circles trying to catch its tail.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    ...the correlation between the improvement of language processing skills and interpreting expertise...
    She was probably suggesting that (1) the improvement of language processing skills, and (2) interpreting expertise are so closely related that they are, to mix another metaphor into the mix, two sides of the same coin. In other words, they are so closely related that it would be difficult to demonstrate causality in the improvement of one as a result of progress in the other.
     
    I think she's mixing her metaphors.

    Dogs often run round in circles chasing their tails.

    Cats aren't that stupid.

    They know that by sitting or standing still they can easily reach their tail with their tongue in order to wash it.

    I can't think why a cat should ever want to bite its tail.

    Rover
     

    ><FISH'>

    Senior Member
    British English
    ^ If you make a cat so excited that it wants to bite and scratch everything you put near it, you can grab its tail and put it near its mouth, and it will most likely start biting and scratching its own tail out of sheer excitement.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Cats have no difficulty whatever in biting their tails. My cats routinely bit their tails, for fun, or because that's where the fleas were congregating.
    This metaphor has no meaning.

    Dogs, on the other hand, are stupid.

    See also Rover's comments, above.
     

    moosabi7

    New Member
    french
    It isn't a mixed metaphor, it's a FRENCH expression <<--->>, which means essentially that it's an impossible endeavor. (The cat biting its tail.. the tail moves further and further away from it) - like the dog I guess.

    Sorry!

    I assume you're doing a PhD in linguistics or interpretation however, you should have been able to figure this one out. :p
     
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Many dogs can remove fleas from any part of their tail by biting them.
    Some dogs have been bred to chase things, unfortunately including cars, bicycles, and their own tails.
     

    jonmaz

    Senior Member
    English-Australia
    Dogs, on the other hand, are stupid.

    See also Rover's comments, above.

    There is a certain irony in those remarks.





    It is sometimes asked why dogs chase trams. What will they do in the event of actually catching one?

    <<---->>
     
    Last edited by a moderator:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top