"Who is she, the cat's mother?" is used to scold someone for being ambiguous and failing to introduce or identify the person they are referring to properly. It humorously suggests that this unknown "she" could be anyone, even the cat's mother, unless a proper noun is used.
"Who is she, the cat's mother?" emphasizes the importance of addressing someone by their name, rather than a vague pronoun.
This phrase is used when someone is talking about a woman in a way that seems too casual as if they're not giving her the respect she deserves. When someone uses this idiom, they're saying, "You should be more respectful when talking about her. Use her name or title."
Let's explore its core meanings and usage:
The phrase “Who’s ‘she,’ the cat’s mother?” is a somewhat dated idiom, especially directed towards children for having referred to a woman as “she” instead of using her name or an appropriately respectful title. The origin of the phrase is not entirely clear, but it appears to date back to at least the late 19th century.
The earliest recorded use of the phrase is from the late 19th century. Here are a couple of examples:
“Don’t call your mamma ‘she.’ ‘She’ is a cat.”
- The Beth Book, by Frances Macfall, writing as Sarah Grand, 1897
“'Who’s She?’ demanded Nurse. ‘She’s the cat’s mother’”
- Compton Mackenzie’s novel Sinister Street, 1913
To give you a clearer idea about when to use this phrase, here are some examples from different situations:
Although the phrase isn't as widely popular in modern pop culture, it has made its appearances, usually to add humor or stress the importance of clarity and respect.
Let's explore some instances:
The phrase itself is pretty unique, but there are other ways people remind someone to be more specific or respectful.
Here are some of them:
The phrase "Who is she, the cat's mother?" is used to call out someone who refers to a third person simply as "she" without giving proper context or name. It's a way to prompt the speaker to be more specific or respectful in their language.
You can use this phrase when someone refers to a third person as "she" and you want them to be more specific or respectful. For example, if someone says, "She told me to give this to you," you could respond with, "Who is she, the cat's mother?
While it's not super common, the phrase is mostly used in informal settings and typically among people who are familiar with each other. It's less likely to be heard in professional or formal conversations.
The phrase can be seen as cheeky or playful, but it can also be interpreted as rude or sarcastic depending on the context and the relationship between the people involved.
The origin of the phrase is not clearly documented, but it's believed to have originated in British English. It's likely a way to teach manners, specifically the importance of referring to people by their proper names.
Yes, you can use it in text messages. However, be cautious, as the tone might not be easily understood. It could be taken more seriously than intended.
The phrase is more common in English-speaking countries but is not widely used internationally. If you use it with someone not familiar with English idioms, they might not get the meaning.
No, the phrase is not gender-specific. While it specifically addresses the use of "she," the principle behind it—calling for more specific language—can apply to any gender.
Yes, similar phrases that prompt someone to be more specific or respectful include "Who's he, your dad?" or "Name names, please."
The phrase isn't changing much, but like many idioms, its usage might decline as language evolves and younger generations opt for different expressions to convey the same meaning.
Understanding the phrase "Who is she, the cat's mother?" can help you navigate informal conversations, especially those that involve vague or unclear references to third parties. The phrase serves as a prompt for someone to be more specific and is usually used among people who already have some familiarity with each other.
Here's a quick recap: