“Curiosity killed the cat” is a phrase that almost got too close to home recently. See, Louise the Cat had a little visitor on the porch. (Check out the video for the details.) But thankfully the glass door was shut and it all ended in just some growling and hissing.
So, again, words being my thing, it got me thinking about that what the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” exactly means. Or more, where did it come from and when did it come into popularity. The internet hunt was on!
According to official internet source Wikipedia, it was first penned as “care will kill a cat” in a play from 1598, Every Man in his Humour, by Ben Jonson. From there, Shakespeare used a similar phrase in Much Ado, “What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.”
And this early iteration of “curiosity killed the cat” was finally documented in the Brewer’s dictionary of Fable and Phrase in 1898:
Care killed the Cat.
It is said that “a cat has nine lives,” yet care would wear them all out.
But when did the modern phrase get brought into our lives? Well, no one can be quite sure, but according to written history, it seems as though it was first recorded in 1873 by James Allan Mair in A handbook of proverbs: English, Scottish, Irish, American, Shakesperean, and scriptural; and family mottoes. On page 34, the letter “I” after the phrase “Curiousity killed the cat. I.” implies that the phrase came from Ireland.
No matter where the phrase came from, to me it means to keep your curiosity under control, lest it get you in more trouble than you can handle. However, a little curiosity is a good thing, and as one retort to this popular phrase says, knowing might just make the cat, or you, OK…
Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back.