Cat’s pajamas

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5 comments on this post.
  1. sayling:

    I always thought that this line of phrases stemmed from “the bee’s knees”, which was a humorous corruption of “the business”, i.e. “with his new suit, Dave looked the bee’s knees”.

    As with many such plays on words, once it captures the imagination of the people, they string together derivations and similar phrases…

    … but I’m no detective ;)

  2. sayling:

    In fact, now I’ve read the whole column, isn’t this almost a classic case of a mondegreen?

    :)

  3. cud:

    The tendency of young women to abscond with my sleep apparel after spending the night, tends to indicate (to me any way) that the “cat” here is of the sense “cool cat” or “dude” and the pajamas are actual pajamas.

    This is positive in a similar sense as wearing a necklace of your enemy’s teeth.

    Or; is it possible that the use of “cat” to refer to a person, and the associated pajama stealing could have both arisen from this phrase which originally was a non-sequitur as you suggest?

  4. Flappette:

    Every generation thinks they’re the first to discover sex. The flappers of the 1920s were no different. Much like the youth of any generation, jargon and code words are used to distinguish the “in crowd,” as well as slip things by the older generational “out crowd.” So rather than nonsense phrases, you might consider how some jargon could come to mean “excellent,” “great,” or “wonderful” within genders.

    So yes, “the sardine’s whiskers” can refer to a particular anatomy. No different than a cat’s whiskers, with the cat being a feline, or a particular anatomy of a female. Thus the “cat’s pajamas” are referring to a particular item of female underwear. We can also see the definition of “the cat’s meow.” When a flapper’s hemline was above the top of the stocking (think Betty Boop), the thin line of visible skin was known as “the cat’s meow.” The flirtatous presence of a cat via a “meow” without the cat actually being seen.

    Of course it wasn’t just about women. The “snake’s hips,” or “eel’s ankles” (why plural) have their own meaning as well.

  5. Colin Boyd:

    A friend of ours was deceived by a similar mondegreen. She thought that, in the same way that a group of sheep is called a flock, and a group of fish is called a school, that a group of kittens is called a caboodle.

    She had always misunderstood the meaning of “the whole kit and caboodle.”

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