The meaning of the English Idiom: Has the cat got your tongue?

Cat got your tongue?

This is a shortened way of saying:
Has the cat got your tongue?

This idiom can mean the following:

  • Have you nothing to say?
  • Why are you not talking?
  • Why are you not saying anything?
  • Why don’t you answer me?

The idiom is used to compel someone to speak, say something, or give a response when they are (unusually) quiet.
It is often said by adults to children.

When someone is speechless or without words (sometimes out of surprise) you will say “Cat got your tongue?” to prompt them to react.

This idiom is often accompanied by “What’s the matter” at the beginning of it.

  • What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?

(What’s the matter? = What is the problem?)

This idiom can also be used as a normal sentence and not just as a question.

  • I think the cat has his tongue.

Why do people say Cat got your tongue?

Well, nobody really knows the true origin of this idiom though if you think about it, if a cat has run away with your tongue, you probably wouldn’t be able to say anything. It would be a reason why you are not speaking or quiet.

Examples of Cat got your tongue?

John: What do you think of my new shoes?
Mike: …. (No response) …
John: Well, do you like them or not?
Mike: …. (Still no response) …
John: Cat got your tongue?

Mother: I found my lost wallet in your wardrobe. What was it doing there?
Teenager: … (silence)…
Mother: What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?

Cat got your thumbs?

With the more digital generation that communicates a lot via the internet, they have modified this expression and sometimes say: Cat got your thumbs?

It is used when someone doesn’t respond to a message or text via chat or other forms of instant written communication, especially when they suddenly stop replying in a text-based conversation.



Why do they use the word Thumbs?
You use your tongue to help you communicate orally.
You use your fingers (and sometimes thumbs for the space bar on keyboards) to communicate in written form.
So the word Thumbs, replaces the word Tongue because they sound similar.

The meaning is also similar:
Has the cat got your tongue = Why have you stopped talking? Why don’t you say something?
Has the cat got your thumbs = Why have you stopped writing? Why don’t you write something?

Let us know in the comments if you understood this explanation.
If you don’t, I’ll think that the cat has got your tongue. 🙂

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