CATAWAMPUS

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Dr. Goodword
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CATAWAMPUS

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Oct 25, 2008 9:45 pm

• catawampus •

Pronunciation: kæ-dê-wahm-pês • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Awry, askew, crooked, antigoglin (for you New Englanders). 2. Out of kilter, out of whack. 3. A fierce imaginary creature thought to inhabit forests.

Notes: Today we have another of those US concoctions with vague meanings and even vaguer spellings: cattywampus, kattywampus, catywampus, and cattywumpus have all been used. The Oxford English Dictionary even suggests the rather Frenchfied ending -ous on this word: catawampous.

In Play: The basic meaning of this word is "crooked, awry", as in: "Mr. Gildersleeve, your tie is catawampus; let me straighten it for you." However, when things go awry, we may also have cause to use this word: "William and Marian's romance was moving along swimmingly until Marian announced that, when they married, she wanted a house without a kitchen. After that, things went catawampus."

Word History: Since the meaning of today's word is so close to catercornered, it is probably the case that cata- is a pronunciation variant of that word. In fact, catercornered is itself often pronounced catacornered. Cater is an English adjustment of French quatre "four" and began its life referring to the dots on the "four" side of a die (plural dice). It was quickly picked up by catercap, a four-cornered hat usually worn with a corner in front and another in back, rather than squarely across the face. Something like this lent itself to a shift in meaning to "diagonal, not straight". Along the way to catercornered several variations were used, including caterways, caterwise, catercross, and catercheckered. (Things would really be catawampus if we forgot to thank Robert Fitzgerald for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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Perry Lassiter
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catawampus

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:59 pm

I've also heard a few people use "kitty" instead of "cata" or "cater" in these words. Probably originally intended as a humorous variant from "cat" to "kitty." I'm in Louisiana, so I don't know how widespread this is.
pl

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Kittywampus

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Oct 26, 2008 9:42 pm

I'm not surprised: kitty-corner(ed) is used widely in the US.[/i]
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Re: catawampus

Postby sluggo » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:04 am

Perry Lassiter wrote:I've also heard a few people use "kitty" instead of "cata" or "cater" in these words. Probably originally intended as a humorous variant from "cat" to "kitty." I'm in Louisiana, so I don't know how widespread this is.
I just heard the word for the first time, as kittywampus. This use came from Minnesota.
Stop! Murder us not, tonsured rumpots! Knife no one, fink!

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 2:30 pm

My grandmother had a friend on the opposite side of
the street, diagonal from her house, and she always
referred to it as "kittywampus", hence I do too.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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Postby sluggo » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:07 pm

LukeJavan8 wrote:My grandmother had a friend on the opposite side of
the street, diagonal from her house, and she always
referred to it as "kittywampus", hence I do too.
Apparently confusing kittywampus with kittycorner...

Or did she mean the house itself was actually askew?

Or both?
Stop! Murder us not, tonsured rumpots! Knife no one, fink!

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 3:09 pm

I think she meant kittycorner. But she was old, I was too
young, and did not know the difference.
The house was not 'askew' , but my opinion of the
occupant, my grandmother's friend, was definitely askew.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----

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Postby skinem » Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:57 pm

I always heard it kittycorner and cattywumpus....

...

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Postby LukeJavan8 » Fri Feb 05, 2010 1:00 pm

Both applied to the mental state of her friend, from my
point of view.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----


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