Cats and so many other animals  have been in the centre of attention of every learner of English idioms; Russians equally laud and condemn these fantastic creatures in set expressions, which we call фразеологизмы. It’s not always an easy task to pick out the most frequently used and most appropriate expressions as the choice is vast. Understanding their intricate nature could also appear to be a struggle. While a lot of idiomatic expressions carry a figurative meaning, some of them can be quite literal and synonymous with the way we perceive animals based on tales, myths and anecdotes…

I will be sharing my most favourite idioms now and again. I encourage you to visualise and personalise them as much as you can and before you know it – they’ll stick in your mind!

Curiosity killed the cat

In its original form ‘Care killed the cat’ (where ‘care’ is defined as ‘worry’ or ‘sorrow’) this idiom has changed since it’s first appearance in an English playwright Ben Jonson’s play in the late 16th century. The fact that cats are notoriously curious, have led to the source of their demise being changed from ‘care’ to ‘curiosity’.

We have got an almost identical expression in Russian that sounds like this:

От любопытства кошка сдохла.

От – preposition ‘from’ (requires the Genitive case)
Любопытство – curiousity
Кошка – a female cat
Сдохнуть – a slang informal way of the verb ‘to die’

Perhaps cats have been brutally punished for their inquisitive nature; however, inquisitive minds in language learning can come quite handy. A lot of my students have demonstrated strong interest in the cultural aspect as well as orthology of the language. Trying to figure out how a native speaker would act in a certain situation and what they would say is a great way of acquiring a foreign language rather than translating everything into your own. This ties in with one of my previous posts where I encourage every language learner to ‘forget their mother tongue’.

Thinking ‘outside the books’ is what makes learning experience more fruitful. Textbooks lay great foundation, but they certainly lack authenticity, real-life examples and often focus on just one way of saying things. Though there are always other options that would either make more sense to you or are just easier to remember and relate to!

Here’s an example! From killing a cat to speedy aging – another way of mocking curious people.

Много будешь знать – скоро состаришься!

Много – a lot, many
Будешь знать – (you) will know (2nd person singular form, imperfective verb)
Скоро – soon, quickly
Состаришься – (you) will age/get old (2nd person singular form, perfective verb)

«О — От кого же это письмо? — проговорила Настенька и хотела было взять со стола пакет, но Пётр Михайлыч не дал.— Та, та, та! Очень любопытна! Много будешь знать, скоро состаришься,— сказал он» (А. Писемский, Тысяча душ).

And there is also this option, for those who are good with rhymes!

Много будешь знать – плохо будешь спать.

Много – a lot, many
Будешь знать – (you) will know (2nd person singular conjugation)
Плохо – badly
Будешь спать – (you) will sleep (2nd person singular conjugation)

Ну, что? Какое выражение Вам больше по душе?

Take your pick! And remember, there is always more than one way to skin a cat!