Kittywampus
Posted: 26 May 2008 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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There’s a story in today’s Star Tribune about two ore boats nearly colliding near the aerial lift bridge in Duluth and the subsequent maneuvering to avoid the collision:
“You could hear the engines banging away,” said Roger Waller, the city’s former police chief. “There was water spraying up in back, and you could see workers running on the deck. People were saying they’d never seen a boat that big go kittywampus before.”

Is this correct usage and what are the origins of kittywampus?

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Posted: 26 May 2008 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The usual spelling is catawampous. Here’s OED with definition, etymology and cites.

catawampous, a.

[A humorous formation, the origin of which is lost: the first part of the word was perhaps suggested by catamount, or by words in Gr. kata]

Fierce, unsparing, destructive. Also, askew, awry. (A high-sounding word with no very definite meaning.)

1840 Spirit of Times 25 Jan. 561/2 Him is done up - used up catawampous - kicked up into eberlasting hoki! 1844 [see CHAW v. 3]. 1856 Househ. Words XIII. 148 It had fallen a victim to the jaws of deadly alligator, or catawampous panther. 1885 ‘C. E. CRADDOCK’ Prophet Gt. Smoky Mts. ix. 153 She got me plumb catawampus. 1889 - Broomsedge Cove iii. 44 But it’s a powerful differ ter please this man an’ not git that one set catawampus. 1917 L. M. MONTGOMERY Anne’s House of Dreams xxxvi. 308 Dear me, everything has gone catawampus with me this week.

Hence catawampus n., a bogy, a fierce imaginary animal; catawampously, catawamptiously adv., ‘fiercely, eagerly. To be catawamptiously chawed up is to be completely demolished, utterly defeated’ (Bartlett Dict. Amer.).

1843 ‘R. CARLTON’ New Purchase I. xxviii. 265 The tother one what got most sker’d is a sort of catawampus (spiteful). 1852 LYTTON My Novel in Blackw. Mag. LXXI. 434 To be catawampously champed up [ed. 1853 chawed up] by a mercenary selfish cormorant of a capitalist. 1857 F. DOUGLASS Speech (Bartlett) To take to our heels before three hundred thousand slaveholders, for fear of being catawamptiously chawed up? 1874 M. COLLINS Frances I. 162 The catawampuses you see about harvest time{em}they fly quite pretty in the air, but, O my gracious, don’t they sting! 1893 YONGE & COLERIDGE Strolling Players xvii. 145 Classes had better..swallow each other, like the crocodile and the catawampus.

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Posted: 26 May 2008 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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And in Roth’s The Great American Novel I mentioned in another post I’m pretty sure an old baseball player refers to a ‘wampus cat’ but I cannot remember the context or meaning exactly. It may have been in the part where old players rail against the new ‘lively ball’ which would conform to aldi’s cites above.

[ Edited: 26 May 2008 09:32 AM by venomousbede ]
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