Posted: 21 August 2009 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3090
Joined  2007-01-30

I didn’t realize that this had a sense in the US akin to wolf whistle, although it also includes suggestive remarks, etc addressed to passing females (or usually females). It isn’t used this way in the UK, it simply has its traditional sense of loud disapprobatory whistles or calls in theatres, etc.

The original catcall was an instrument which made a loud squeaking noise, reminiscent of the “nocturnal cry, or waul, of the cat” (OED).  The meaning then developed to include the sound of the instrument, the imitation of the sound by a human voice, or a shrill, screaming whistle.

The American usage seems to be of comparatively recent (ie 20th century) origin, 1956 being the earliest cite in OED.

1956 Charleroi (Pa.) Mail 4 Apr. 7/1 The catcalls and approving whistles brought her back to the present and she stood in the center aisle and gave them a gay smile.

First cite for the word in its initial sense is 1659-60, from the diary of that most constant of theatre-goers, Pepys, who undoubtedly put it to good use!

1659-60 PEPYS Diary (1879) I. 67, I..called on Adam Chard, and bought a cat-call there, it cost me two groats.

Posted: 21 August 2009 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  1627
Joined  2007-03-21

I’m guessing that the “wolf whistle” is the more common expression for this sort of insult.  But “cat call” is also recognized by most.

Posted: 22 August 2009 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  1427
Joined  2007-04-28

This may have been discussed before