[Note: The order of subsenses 3a and 3b has been changed.]
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3 In game play:
a A short stick, usu tapered at one or both ends so that it can be hit to make it bounce into the air, that is used in playing tipcat n and various other batting games. [OED2 cat n.1 10.a 1598→; EDD cat sb.1 8 “A piece of wood used as a ball in various games.”] Also called catty n1 1, kitty n 4, nipsy n, peewee n 3, peggy n1, picky n2 1, pussy n 5, tippy (at tippy-cat n), triggie n
1872 Daily State Gaz. (Trenton NJ) 1 May /4, While some boys in Orange were engaged in playing “cat” on Wednesday, the son of Mr. Henry Matthews came near losing his eyesight by being struck in the eye with the “cat.” 1883Newell Games & Songs 186, The “cat” is a little billet of wood, about four inches long, and pointed at the ends, which is to be struck with a light stick. 1884 Wheeling Sun. Reg. (WV) [19 Oct 4]/2, Two sets of boys were playing “cat” near the Capitol. . . During the progress of the games one the “cats” struck Voltz in the face. 1891 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 4.233 Brooklyn NY, Cat. . . The “cat” is whittled from a piece of wood, and is usually about six inches in length by an inch in diameter, with sharp pointed ends. 1906 Buffalo Courier (NY) 3 June 12/3 NYC, All the boys who live on Manhattan know how to play the game of “cat.” . . The only time the “cat” is let rest is when the streets are covered with snow and it is impossible for lack of solid surface to send it whirling by a well directed bat while it is rising in the air from the initial blow in its tail. 1906 Lovett Old Boston Boys 46, Not content with small soft wood cats, two or three inches in length, we made them of a section of broom handle and about six or eight inches long, using the remainder of the handle for the cat-stick. 1943 Sun (Baltimore MD) 17 Aug 12/7, In Pennsylvania the game was called tip-cat, and the short stick was the cat. 1945 [see 3b below]. 1963 Keystone Folkl. Qrly. 8.119 Pittsburgh PA, In the game of Cat & Dog the short piece of broom-handle was the cat—the longer piece the dog. Ibid 118 Pittsburgh PA, The small piece was the cat and the long stick was the dog. Incidentally the cat was pointed at only one end and the other end was (preferably blunt) or round. 1980 DARE File NYC (as of c1920), In the game of one-a-cat, the stick that was hit [was] called the cat. 1988[see 3b below].
b = tipcat n. [OED2 cat n.1 10.b 1626→, EDD cat sb.1 9] chiefly NEast, esp NY
1813 Weekly Reg. 4.329 sePA, I have been ashamed likewise, in recollecting how much time I wasted when a boy in playing cat and fives and steal-clothes &c. &c. 1872 [see 3a above]. 1883 Newell Games & Songs 186, Cat. . .A player stands at a little distance, and endeavors to throw this missile into a hole or circle previously made. Another stands over the circle, and defends it with his stick. If the cat falls in the circle, the batter is out. If, on the other hand, it falls out of the circle, he has the right of making a stroke. Placing the cat within the circle, he hits it on one end with his bat; and, as it bounds upwards, endeavors to strike it as far away as possible. If the cat is caught, he is out; otherwise, he is entitled to score a number, proportioned to the distance which the cat has been struck, estimated in jumps or foot-lengths. This score, however, is subject to a peculiar negotiation. The pitcher offers the batter a certain number of points. . . If this is not accepted, he raises his bid. . ; but if his final offer is refused, the pitcher measures the distance (in jumps or lengths of the foot), and if he can accomplish this in a less number than that offered, the striker or his side lose that number of points; otherwise, the number measured is scored. 1884 [see 3a above]. 1891 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 4.233 Brooklyn NY, Cat. . . A circle of about four feet in diameter, with a straight line at right angles about twelve feet distant, is drawn upon the sidewalk. [DARE Ed: The description that follows agrees very closely with that in quot 1883 above.] 1896 DN 1.414 seNY, Cat: same as pussy. 1901 DN 2.137 neOH, Cat. . . A game like pickie . . but more elaborate.1906 Buffalo Courier [see 3a above]. 1909 Boston Daily Globe (MA) 23 July 7/4, Young Dunn was playing a game called “cat.” . . In the game a short stick sharpened at both ends is placed upon the ground and one end is struck with another stick in the hands of the batsman, who endeavors to hit the flying spindle again while it is in the air and to knock it as far as possible. The boy who succeeds in knocking the spindle the farthest in a proscribed [sic] number of plays wins the game. 1933 Hanley Disks Boston MA, Cat—Children’s Game. With a sharp stick like a cigar, and you tap one end and then hit it. Peewee type. 1945 Western Folkl. 4.181 cwCA,The game of “Cat” was played rather extensively in Oakland, California, some twenty to twenty-five years ago. . . The batter would place the “cat” on the ground, . . then strike the end of the cat with the bat, making it jump into the air, at which time the batter would attempt to hit it with the bat. . . If the cat could be caught by one of the other players before it fell to the ground, the person who caught it would trade places with the batter, and the game would go on as before. If the cat fell before being caught, the player nearest to the spot where it fell would have to stride off the distance from the place where the cat fell to the point from which the batter had hit it. The number of strides required to cover this distance would then be added to the batter’s score. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. EE10, A game in which a short stick lying on the ground is flipped into the air and then hit with a longer stick) Infs MA52, NY34, 35, 44, 57, Cat. 1988 DARE File NYC, Cat—A street game in NYC played where it was so tight that street ball could not be played. The cat was a piece of broomstick about 4’’ long with one end shaved to a tiny tip. The object was to strike the tip raising it into the air, say two feet, and then “whale” the cat with the longer part of the sawed-[o]ff broomstick. If caught the batter was out; if not caught the batsman laid down the stick on the pavement and the catcher tried to roll the cat so as to hit the bat.
c also cat-a-hole, cat bat, cat-in, cat-o’-nine-tails, cat-out: = cat-ball n. [This game was also at one time played with a cat n 3a 3a in place of a ball; cf EDD cat sb.1 10 “A game played with a bat and ‘cat,’ somewhat resembling cricket.” US evidence for this intermediate sense is lacking, but many references to cat as a game give no further information about its nature.] chiefly Sth, S Midl
1837 IN Democrat (Indianapolis) [10 May 2]/7, Any person who shall, on the Sabbath day play at cricket[,] bandy, cat, town ball, corner ball, or any other game of ball within the limits of the corporation, . . shall . . pay the sum of one dollar for every such offence. 1882 Weekly KS Chief (Troy) 5 Jan /2, Mr. Eggleston supposes that “cat” ball was an early form of the present game of base ball. There he is mistaken again. He has “cat” mixed up with that grandest of all games, “town ball.” a1883 (1911) Bagby VA Gentleman 49, He must now learn to cut jackets, play hard-ball, choose partners for cat and chermany. 1890 DN 1.63, Cat: a game at ball. In two-cornered cat, a boy with bat stands at each corner; there is a catcher behind each boy. If a batter is ‘caught out,’ or ‘crossed out,’ he gives up his bat. 1903 Times–Dispatch (Richmond VA) 6 Dec mag sec 2/5, Sir,—Will you please publish in your query column the rules for playing chermany or town ball . . ? [Resp:] This name is also pronounced “chumley.” It was the old-time base-ball in the South. In another form it was called “cat.” 1948 Ardmoreite (Ardmore OK) 6 July 8/4 (DA), ‘Cat’ could be played with as few as three players; pitcher, catcher and batter. There were but two bases. The player hit the ball at home plate and attempted to get to the other base and back. If he made it he kept on batting until he made an out. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. EE11, Bat-and-ball games for just a few players) Infs NC7, 9, 23, 26, 82, TN16, Cat; TN35, Cat bat; SC54, Cat-a-hole; NC7, Cat-in; OH5, Cat-o’-nine-tails; AL39, Cat-out; VA69, Straight cat. 1969 DARE Tape FL8, Cat. [FW:] And how did you play that? . . [Inf:] Well, you usually had one that would bat and one would catch back of the batter, and the others would be out on the front, and one would pitch. And as you knocked the ball, whoever caught the ball on the fly would then become the batter; NC60, Gittin’ out and playin’ cat, we’d call it cat ball. 1994 NC Lang. & Life Project Harkers Is. Vocab. 3 eNC, Cat. . . An island version of baseball in which fielders may throw batters out by throwing the ball at them, as in dodge ball. Sticks and local version of balls (for example, crumpled aluminum foil) were typically used in playing this game.
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7 in phrr let the (old) cat die: To allow a swing to come to a gradual stop. [EDD (at cat sb. 4.(20)); see also quot 1890 below]
1863 Independent 2 July 6/3, At last Nelly exerted her aching arms to give one grand final push, and then turned away with a laughing “there, let the old cat die now.” 1884 Vicksburg Eve. Post (MS) 29 May /3, He found . . the young America with shouts of glee, enjoying themselves in a John Gilpin ride on the “flying horses” or “letting the cat die” in the numerous swings. 1890 DN 1.25, Strange, uncommon, or antiquated words . . [include] let the old cat die, used of letting a swing come to rest gradually instead of stopping it. [1890 DN 1.77, Let the old cat die. . . “‘Let the cat die’ is general amongst English children.” (R. M. Middleton, Jr.)] 1892 DN 1.212 cwMA, I was familiar in my boyhood with. . . let the old cat die. Ibid 214 eMA, Let the old cat die. . . Common in Boston in my youth. 1905 DN 3.86 nwAR, Let the cat die. . . Universal. 1909 DN 3.345 eAL, wGA, Let the (old) cat die. 1912 DN 3.581 wIN, Let the old cat die. 1916 DN4.277 NE, Let the old cat die. [1929 Ellis Ordinary Woman 61 CO (as of early 1900s), We . . made a swing in the barn, fighting to see who would swing the longest, it taking such a time for the cat to die.] 1944 ADD cNY (as of c1910), Let the old cat die. . . Usual among children. 1949 PADS 11.8 wTX (as of 1911–29), Let the cat die. 1959 Longview Daily News (TX) 14 Aug 1/4, After swinging high, then “letting the cat die” (as the old saying goes) she twisted her arm, breaking it between the elbow and the wrist. 1981 DARE File cMA (as of c1915), “Let the old cat die” was learned from my father. 2013 Greenwood Commonwealth (MS) 4 June 3/3 cnAL, He’d push us until we were breathless. Then we had to “let the cat die.” I’m not sure where he got the expression, but that meant you got one last push. Then as soon as the swing stopped moving, your turn was over.
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