Kittywampus vs. Cattywampus

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Kittywampus vs. Cattywampus

Postby Damien_82 » Wed Jul 23, 2003 8:04 pm

I had never heard the word "cattywampus" before this website, but I have heard kittywampus. Can someone please explain this to me?
Last edited by Damien_82 on Thu Jul 24, 2003 8:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby longtimecoming » Wed Jul 23, 2003 8:42 pm

it is a term where john used to visit sean tied up in my basement, me and john ate icecream and played hackey sack as sean lookedf on, constantly repeating "hey you freakin cattywampus, check it out" then he started rapping to himself . horrified, me and john took off in a camero and went to disneyland. we got mickey mouse hats and kicked donald duck. we forced sean to watch a video of it, once again playing hackey sac. allegedly it was just a fantom of sean, but we all know from that i jokingly have sean up in my basement.

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Postby grant » Thu Jul 24, 2003 7:12 am

It seems likely that the word has its origins in the French quatre, meaning four, and the Scottish wampish, meaning to wiggle, twist or flop about.

The French element, it is generally agreed, came via "quatre-corner," colloquialized as "catty-corner" and then "kitty-corner," meaning diagonally across from. Thus, the essential meaning is "to wriggle or twist in a slanted or indirect fashion."

However, in the dialect of the Deep South, a "catawampus" was also used to describe a kind of goblin or fearsome wildcat... a semi-supernatural creature of the woods. Chances are, this came from the resemblance of the word to "catamount," an archaic term for a cougar or mountain lion.

In fact, one older use of the word has it meaning "fierce" or "fearsome" -- often with the connotation of being fiercely enthusiastic. There are some lexicographers and etymologists who believe that the "wampus" element came via the Massachusett Indian muggumquomp, meaning "war chief" or "lietenant," from whence comes our more familiar "mugwump" -- a petty official, often one who cannot make up his or her mind concerning an issue.

It appears in the "uncanny creature" context in Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit (as "catawampous") in the 1840s, possibly its earliest recorded use:

"Snakes more," says he; "rattle-snakes. You're right to a certain extent, stranger. There air some catawampous chawers in the small way too, as graze upon a human pretty strong; but don't mind THEM--they're company. It's snakes," he says, "as you'll object to; and whenever you wake and see one in a upright poster on your bed," he says, "like a corkscrew with the handle off a-sittin' on its bottom ring, cut him down, for he means wenom."'

The word also, in something closer to its later meaning, served as the name (as "katawampus") of a series of Edwin Abbot novels in the 1890s.

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Postby Damien_82 » Thu Jul 24, 2003 8:31 am

I thought "kittywampus" was merely when you managed (usually by sitting for a long time) to get your pants to be all twisted and crooked around your body. Like when your zipper makes it over by your hip. "You're kittywampus." That would make sense considering the Scottish wampish.

Longtimecoming, I guess I didn't realize that you and John were working together there, though I do remember it coming up on Will you guys teach me how to play hackey sack? I don't know why Sean doesn't just breath fire and burn your house down...or use his laser beam eyes to break out. I hear he's twelve feet tall and can bring forth lightning from his fingertips. That's what I hear.

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Postby Unremarkable » Thu Jul 24, 2003 11:37 am

I've never heard "kittywampus", but have heard of "Cattywampus" before this board. I thought it meant something that is out of place, or askew.

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Cittywampus Definition

Postby Copria » Sat Aug 20, 2005 6:10 pm

This hasn't happened often but my mom sometimes says kittywampus when something is really messed up. Example: "The bed is all kittywampus."

I have one question where did kitty wampus come from?

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Postby dear_prudence » Sun Aug 21, 2005 7:42 am

i'm going w/ unremarkable on this one for the definition of our dear cattywampus
and i would also like it noted that my dad has been known to say cattywampus on occasions when he's red in the face and trying to fix something that is (usually) mechanical
however in this case it is used in the spot of the obscenity and spit out among growling and muttering
in fact, this forum was immediately endeared to me because it made me smile and picture my dad

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