Although this subject was discussed couple of month ago, quite unexpectedly I found an interesting information in a book on cats which casts some new light on this term. In "Cat watching" Desmond Morris asks why sheep gut should be perversely referred to as catgut, and suggests that the clue lies in the earliest use of the term. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, one author wrote of fiddlers "tickling the dryed gutts of a mewing cat". Later we hear of a man upset "at every twang of the cat-gut, as if he heard at the moment the wailing of the helpless animal that had been sacrificed to harmony". These references come from a period when domestic cats were all too often the victims of persecution and torture, and the sound of squealing cats was not unfamiliar to human ears. In addition, there was the noise of the caterwauling at times when feral tomcats were arguing over females in heat. Together, these characteristic feline sounds provided the obvious basis for a comparison with the din created by inexpert musicians scraping at their stringed instruments. In the imaginations of the tormented listeners, the inappropriate sheep gut became transformed into the appropriate catgut - a vivid fiction to replace a dull fact (as he suggests). Hmm.......quite interesting...though he didn't enclose any bibliography (pity!).

Best wishes for the coming New Year!

Jaroslaw Lipski

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