Last night’s show was, well…interesting to say the least.

At one point I was describing Groovehouse‘s eagerness to answer and screen calls as we were inviting listeners to call in. I used the idiom “chafing at the bit” as in “Groovehouse is chafing at the bit to take your call.”

At this point I noticed someone on IRC and Phliktid having a good laugh I asked them to share what was so funny.

Apparently someone in IRC found great humor in my application of the word “chafing” and pointed out that it should be “chomping” or possibly “champing”, suggesting that “chafing” was incorrect and intimating that the connotations of “chafing” was strictly an inside the pants situation.

Basically he called me out on a mixed metaphor. I was horrified. Could I really have been using an incorrect figure of speech so egregiously all my life? That’s unpossible!

I struggled vainly to explain that it could totally be “chafing” when one considers that a horse straining against the bit of the bridle might chafe the inside of the horse’s mouth but he would have none of it.

For the sake of good radio I conceded my lifelong error and moved on. Until this morning when I did some research. As it turns out “chafing at the bit” is completely interchangeable with “chomping/champing at the bit” and is a widely accepted version of the idiom.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C


Another incident involved the idiom “Curiosity killed the cat” used by a caller to describe his efforts to diagnose his own problem and perhaps going a bit too far and ending up doing more damage.

When the caller said that, I responded with a quick quip along the lines of “we like dead cats.” at which point one of our guests looked like he’d been hit by a truck. Oh yea, he’s a huge cat person. I should not have been surprised.

It certainly was not my intention to offend any cat lovers (although they are such easy targets). What I meant was that if curiosity kills cats then those who appreciate or participate in curious behavior (something that describes most nerds) must like dead cats.

Not literally! I was being idiomatic!

It’s not like we had a real bridle on Groovehouse chomping, chafing or otherwise. Of course no-one seemed to take issue with the idea when the idiom was used. No one rallyed to Groove’s cause when it might be suggested that, even if only idiomatically, he might be strapped into some type of riding harness. But use the word “dead” and the word “cat” in a sentence and watch out!

Anyway, I stand by my free lance idiom “I like dead cats” to describe my curiosity and offer it up unto the every-growing lexicon of language. In fact, upon further reflection and refinement of thought I would add “I’m killing a cat” and “I’m committing cat suicide” as ways to describe indulging in one’s curiosity.

For the record, I do like cats and I am in no way an advocate of killing them.


7 thoughts on “Idiomatic/Idiotic

  • March 30, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Killing cats is not the same as, say, killing kittens (ala Fark).

  • March 30, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    Curiosity killed the cat
    Satisfaction brought him back

  • March 30, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    “completely interchangeable”

    not quite,
    linguists often use Google counts to quantitatively compare modern usages:

    “chomping at the bit”: 501,000
    “chafing at the bit”: 16,000

    that’s a 100:3 ratio of usage,

    and i don’t think “dead cats” is an idiom; the caller was being idiomatic with “curiousity killed the cat”

    A dead cat in every pot, and a hummer in every garage! Viva la revolución.

  • March 30, 2006 at 5:42 pm

    …and all this I missed cause I had one ear in the phone and one ear trying to hear the show. Thank goodness for the archives!

  • August 1, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    “As it turns out “chafing at the bit” is completely interchangeable with “chomping/champing at the bit” and is a widely accepted version of the idiom.”

    When a horse “chafes at the bit,” it literally means the bit is uncomfortable in the horses mouth. Figuritively, it means that the horse doesn’t want to be ridden.

    When a horse “chomps at the bit,” it literally means the horse is chewing on its bit. Figuratively, it means the horse is impatient to be ridden.

    You can use both expressions, but the have opposite meanings.

  • December 12, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    1. The original expression (and still the best): bare-faced liar (i.e., showing no embarrassment at the lie).

    2. Champing at the bit (worrying or chewing at it, not chomping down)

    3. Chafing under the harness or yoke.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, English is fluid and everchanging, and idiom even more so.

    Puke’s pique or bust!

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