What Does It Mean to 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons'?

Imagine the flurry and flutter if a cat were to leap among a flock of pigeons. That's the vivid scenario this British idiom conjures up. To 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons' means to cause a disturbance, usually by doing or saying something that causes alarm, panic, or controversy among a group of people. 🚀

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The Story Behind 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons'

The idiom's origins are not definitively traced, but it's thought to date back to the early 20th century. It plays on the natural chaos that would ensue if a predator (the cat) entered a peaceful gathering of prey (the pigeons), symbolizing a sudden uproar in a previously tranquil environment.

Curious Facts About 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons'

The expression is often used in politics and media to describe someone who, intentionally or not, reveals information or an opinion that shakes up the status quo. It can also be found in literature and film as a metaphor for a plot twist that dramatically changes the course of events.

'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons' in Everyday Use

The idiom is versatile and can be applied to many social situations, from family gatherings where an unexpected truth is revealed, to business meetings where a new idea disrupts the established order of things.

Examples of 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons'

Here's how 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons' might be used:

  • Announcing the merger put the cat among the pigeons in both companies.
  • His blunt comments at the dinner party really put the cat among the pigeons.
  • The whistleblower's report was sure to put the cat among the pigeons.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is 'Put the Cat Among the Pigeons' a negative idiom?

It can be perceived negatively, as it often implies causing trouble or disturbance. However, sometimes the upheaval can lead to positive change or open dialogue.

How can ESL learners remember this idiom?

Visualize the literal image of a cat disrupting a group of pigeons—it's such a striking picture that it's hard to forget!

Can I use this idiom in formal writing?

It's best suited to informal or creative writing, as it's quite colloquial and vividly descriptive.

Does this idiom exist in other languages?

Many languages have their own idioms to describe causing a stir or disruption, though they may use different imagery.

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This piece reflects the expertise of Metkagram's team of linguists. Explore our language learning innovations on our LinkedIn page.

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