A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Words with Webster: Caterwaul, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun features for you this Friday. First up is Words with Webster, in which he tells us about a noisy cat word. This is followed by Friendly Fill-Ins.

Words with Webster

 Hi, everybody! I’m Webster, and this is Words with Me. This week’s word is caterwaul. It means “of a cat: to make a harsh cry at rutting time” or “to quarrel noisily like cats.” That’s from my favorite dictionary, Webster’s. This word has been around for a really long time—since at least 1386 or thereabouts, according to the Oxford English Dictionary:
If the cattes skyn be slyk and gay, forth she wil, er eny day be dawet, To schewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwrawet (Chaucer, Wife of Bath’s Prology, ca. 1386).
I should mention that there were, like, a hundred different spellings. Or maybe about a dozen, which is still a lot. Also, Mommy is being reminded of why she hated having to read Chaucer in high school.

Let’s take this word apart. The first part, “cater” is obviously related to “cat” and possibly to Dutch and German “kater,” which refers to a male cat. But the OED says that “the form is not certainly explained,” meaning no one is really sure how “cat” became “cater.” Some people think the “er” part was just added on to connect “cat” with “waul.”

“Waul” was first spelled “wrawe” and seems to be related to a whole bunch of Danish, Bavarian, Norwegian, and Swiss words that mean “to roar,” “to cry as a cat” (Nor. “råla”), and “howl, whine” (Swiss “räulen,” used especially in reference to the cry of a cat in heat). There is also a Low German word “katterwaulen,” which appears in 1858, but the OED says that its history is uncertain. Wherever it came from, we think the second part is supposed to mimic the sound made by a cat who’s looking for love.

Of course, “caterwaul” and “caterwauling” can also be used for people’s activities, like “to be lecherous” or “any hideous, discordant howling noise.” The noisy meaning is what is meant in this quote from Shakespeare, which I think we’ll end with:
Why, what a catterwalling dost thou keepe! (William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus IV.ii.57, 1594)

A rock star cat playing guitar and singing
Lovely music ... or caterwauling?
Image via Adobe Stock.

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-Ins badgeAnd now it’s time for Friendly Fill-Ins, from 15andmeowing and McGuffy’s Reader. They are a fun way to learn a little bit about the authors of the blogs you read. The first two questions, answered by old SoLT,  are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by Real Cat Paisley, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Old SoLT’s answers:
1. As a child, my favorite playground activity was climbing the monkey bars.

2. For breakfast, I have yogurt with a little granola mixed in. I dream of having pancakes, but there never seems to be enough time, plus I need something I can eat at my desk.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers
3. An instrument I would like to play is drums. I bet I would be really good at banging on them.

4. I always try to look pretty, because I never know when Mommy is going to pop up with the flashy box and take my picture.

Real Cat Paisley in her thinking bowl


  1. My grandmother hated rock music. Whenever I listened to my albums, she complained. She said it was all caterwauling.
    I love yogurt and granola. Sometimes I have it for lunch or a snack.
    You look adorable in that bowl! HUGS!

  2. What a great explanation of caterwaul! And Paisley, I bet you look pretty all the time, regardless of if there's a flashy box around!

  3. Hi Webster & Paisley! Mom asks if the term is used also for the meows of fixed male kitties when they sing? Paisley, you are the rose in that rose bowl. Mew Mew!

  4. Phoebe likes to caterwaul at 2 AM :) Thank you both for these great answers. I bet Paisley would be a great drummer. And you always look camera ready. Have a nice weekend!

  5. Oh, Paisley! You are one stunningly exquisite tortie ... and I'm the expert on torties! ~Bear Cat
    I never knew what it meant to caterwaul until I adopted Bear. He used to howl half the night when other cats came by outside. I don't remember even learning the word ... yet it was the first thing to come to mind after listening to him for a couple hours!

  6. Caterwaul is a fun word to say too, don't you think? Paisley, you are stunning in that picture! You sure fit that bowl purrfectly :)

  7. I love caterwauling the songs of my people in the car. Have you ever tried playing the vertical blinds xylophone?

  8. I remember having to read Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in high school, 12th grade, along with MacBeth and Beowulf. Boy, was I glad to get through that class!

    Why can't you eat pancakes at your desk? I'm able to, but then, I don't have kitties around anymore to try to help me eat them.

    I bet you'd be great at the drums, too, Real Cat Paisley. :)

    Have a blessed weekend.

  9. Drums would be nice. Your neighbors might not think so, though. Have a great week.

  10. You really do your research thoroughly, Webster. Ugh, Chaucer...I'm with your Mom on that one!