August 2007 Issue

Your Cat's Whiskers

He can use them to hunt, to navigate his environment and even to convey his moods. Here's how they work.

The old-fashioned term "the catís whiskers" means "the height of perfection" or "first-rate." Popular in the 1920s, this expression, along with "the catís meow," referred to the daring flappers described as "impossible to shock." While the term is American in origin, people have disagreed over who deserves credit for coining it. The lexicographers William and Mary Morris believe both "cat" expressions originated in girlsí schools. Other sources say American sportswriter and cartoonist Thomas Dorgan (1877-1929) invented the expression at the turn of the 20th century.

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