Cat got your tongue?

salai

Senior Member
Russian
Hello,
This is an explanation one American gave for the phrase 'Cat got your tongue?'
"Cat got your tongue?" is quite abrupt, and I usually think of it being used by old ladies in the movies 50 years ago or more. It can be said in a joking, affectionate way, but it is generally rude and used by a bitter older person to a child.

What is a modern way of asking the same question without offending the other person?

Thank you for the time and help.


 
  • Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    It is not a polite comment. It is a sarcastic, brusque, rude way of telling someone to say something, of insisting on a reply. I suppose "speak up!" could be used in a similar way.
     

    salai

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hello,

    I do understand that it might sound impolite; we have a similar expression in Russian, and I would not use it in a normal conversation.
    What I am trying to find out is if there is a set expression or an idiom apart from 'speak up' which can mean the same as 'Cat got your tongue?'
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    You are looking for another rude expression? :confused: No, I can't think of one. Maybe someone else will, though.
     

    ekbatana

    Senior Member
    German Austria
    Hello once more; Nunty. I've looked up "lost your tongue?" in my hard copy dictionaries which I could not do yesterday as my cat was sleeping on my lap and the dictionaries were therefore out of my reach.

    Lost your tongue? is listed in my Macmillan Dictionary (2007):

    "spoken used for asking someone why they are not saying anything, especially when they usually say what they think".
     

    salai

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You are looking for another rude expression? :confused: No, I can't think of one. Maybe someone else will, though.
    Hi Nunty,
    Actually, I am not looking for another rude expression. I am a university teacher. The thing is I am hard pressed to change 'Cat got your tongue", which somehow got on task sheets of my students for another, more suitable and modern expression. Being a non-native speaker, I find it sometimes a bit difficult. That is why I posted my request on this forum.
     

    Nunty

    Modified
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I don't think of it as an out-dated expression - just one that is rarely used. Maybe someone else will think of something.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Whether or not it's still in use, I do think of "Cat got your tongue?" as rather silly and old-fashioned, as well as something an adult would say to a child rather than to another adult. If, as a university teacher, you've asked a student something and you're rather impatiently expecting a reply and receiving only silence, I think you might appropriately say: "Well?" or "I'm waiting!" or "Do you have an answer, or not?"
     

    catlady60

    Senior Member
    English-US (New York City)
    "Cat got your tongue?" is old-fashioned, generally used by English speakers over 50. Younger people are known to say, "Spit it out."
     

    ekbatana

    Senior Member
    German Austria
    Hi Salai. I've just stumbled accross a 2007 thread in this forum where someone was also looking for a different way of saying "cat got your tongue?". You may want to sneak a peak at it.

    I think however you phrase it, it will always be slightly rude to the ears of native English speakers. Firstly because English is a polite language (compared to many other European languages anyway). Secondly, the English culture (including all English speaking countries) does not have the same soft stance on impatience (and to urge someone to answer when they are spoken to always has an element of impatience in it) like continental European cultures, just think of jumping the queue which is really bad in the English speaking world but no big deal in continental Europe, or driving habits.
     

    salai

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hello everyone,

    The situation with the idiom 'Cat got your tongue?' is more or less clear to me.
    Ekbatana, I would like very much to take a look at a 2007 thread in this forum where someone was also looking for a different way of saying "cat got your tongue?"
    The other day, reading a book called The Runaway by Martina Cole published in 1997 in the UK, I came across 'Cat got your tongue?' again:
    Looking up, she saw a big man with a heavy beard. He wore a heavy overcoat and a white scarf, looked smart but somehow menacing.
    "Hello, young lady."
    His voice was deep and definitely a London one. Cathy tried to walk around him.
    'Com on, young lady, what's the matter? Cat got your tongue?'

    I will leave the idiom 'Cat got your tongue?' on the list of the idioms we study, but explain what I have learnt.
    There are three example sentences attached to this idiom on the list, and I think they will do:
    1. Why don't you speak up? Cat got your tongue?
    2. Answer me! What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?
    3. I'm in a big trouble. Will you help me? Why don't you answer? Cat got your tongue?

    Thank you for the time and help.
     
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