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, September 1, 2017

Words with Webster: Tabby, Plus Friendly Fill-Ins

We have two fun Friday features for you today. First up is Real Cat Webster, who has a … stripey cat word to share. After that, it’s on to Friendly Fill-Ins!

Words with Webster

Words with Webster badge
Hi, all! It’s me, Real Cat Webster. Welcome to Words with Me. Our word this week is “tabby.” This is a real cat word if ever there was one, right? I mean, just look at all the cats with blogs, and you’ll see a whole bunch of tabbies. So I was really surprised when I looked up the word in my favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s. The first definition doesn’t have anything to do with cats! It’s about fabric: “(a): a plain silk taffeta especially with a moiré finish; (b): Plain Weave.”

Turns out the second definition is the cat one: “(a): a domestic cat having a gray or tawny coat striped and mottled with black and with the individual hairs variously banded and barred. (b): a domestic cat; esp. a female cat.” And then there is a third definition: “a prying woman.” I thought this was all kind of confusing, because the definition doesn’t say anything about orange tabbies or boy tabbies. (Hello … I’m right here! Orange [well, cream, but close enough]. Boy. Tabby. Waves paw.)

Orange tabby cat reaching over white board_Adobe Stock
This is a tabby cat....
(We were going to write something on the sign, but
we couldn't think of what to put, and then we ran
out of time.)
Photo via Adobe Stock.

Anyway, next Mommy helped me go to the Oxford English Dictionary, where again, the first entry for the noun was for silk taffeta, “apparently originally striped” (ca. 1641). A little ways down is the definition “short for tabby cat” (first used in print in 1774), and farther down still (in the definition for the adjective) we come to the definition we’re more familiar with, “Of a brownish, tawny, or grey colour, marked with darker parallel stripes or streaks: … esp. in tabby cat, a cat of this coloration, or (by extension) of other colour similarly marked.” Now we’re getting somewhere. This use first shows up in 1665:
Cats…very large they are and tabby-coloured, streakt like those of Cyprus. (Thomas Herbert, Some Years Travels into Divers Parts of Africa and Asia the Great, new ed., 304)
Tabby cat over white sign_Adobe Stock
And so is this.
Photo via Adobe Stock
It’s also pretty interesting to see how this word came to us. It seems to have started with the Arabic attabiy, which was the name of the part of Baghdad where tabby cloth was made. A 12th-century Arab writer said,
Here are made the stuffs, called ʿAttābīya, which are silks and cottons of divers colours.
The word entered English through medieval Latin and then the French atabis, later tabis. People apparently used “tabby” to describe certain cats because of those cats’ coat patterns.

But … “tabby” can also mean “old maid” or “she-cat.” These uses of the word may have come from the name Tabitha being shortened to Tabby. Showing again that human language doesn’t always make a lot of sense!

For more on tabbies, read my earlier post on Mackerel and Blotched.

Friendly Fill-Ins

Friendly Fill-Ins badge
And 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 Real Cat Paisley this week, are from Ellen of 15andmeowing, and the next two, answered by old SoLT, are from Annie of McGuffy’s Reader.

Real Cat Paisley’s answers:
1. My favorite fictional characters are the gang from the comic strip Breaking Cat News. Those guys are so funny, and way better than the people news Mommy watches. They’re based on real cats, but I think the comic strip ones still count as fictional, right?

2.  A new tv show or film I am looking forward to this Fall is … I don’t watch TV. It's boring. I am looking forward to watching the leaves fall off the big tree outside the sunroom. That’s always fun.

Old SoLT’s answers:
3. One of my very favourite books is Watership Down. Everyone says, “But it’s about rabbits!” and I say, “Yeah, what’s your point?” But seriously, I have read this book probably 30 times and have never gotten tired of it. It is not just about rabbits.

Watership Down cover

4. The best time to be kind is always. And the best, best time is when you feel like doing the exact opposite, like dumping a cup of urine on a bus driver (this really happened on a bus in Washington, DC, this week).


  1. Very interesting definitions for tabby cat. Thank you for participating in the fill-ins, great answers, as always. I love Watership Down, it is a great book. I need to check out this Breaking Cat News. I agree with #4, I feel bad for the bus driver. Have a nice weekend! XO

  2. Gosh! My Mommy is as amateur Etymologist and was fascinated with all the information about Tabby! Being a Tabby and finding out the word is Persian and me being a Persian was even more interesting!
    Also we loved your Friday fillins!

  3. All definitions should have the cat-related ones first.

    I'm bookmarking that strip.

  4. One thing I love about cats ... their coats are unique. Of course a definition in a dictionary would fail to describe them ... other than maybe saying stripes of any color. I'm fascinated by coat genetics and combinations ... I have to remind myself that coat pattern and breed are two totally different things :)

  5. My goodness, who knew the word tabby had so many meanings? And how is this the first I'm hearing about Breaking Cat News??? It looks adorable!

  6. Oh my gosh! I love Watership Down!It is one of my favourite books. Excellent. Thank you for sharing that! Hugs.

  7. Thanks for the Tabby Tutorial! I am with you, why the heck were the orange kitties omitted? catchatwithcarenandcody

  8. Oh you made us laugh.

    We can SOOO relate to not having enough time to add words ;-)

  9. We had tabby cats in the past, but at the time I didn't know that's what they were called (I always called them tiger cats, because of their stripes).

  10. I like tabby cats, well all cats really. Enjoyed your answers to the fill-ins. You should try watching The Cat From Hell show, it's quite something to see how misbehaving kitties learn to be sweeter.

  11. Whoa! I never heard of Breaking Cat News. I'll have to ax Mr. Google. I have some tabby stripes. The dictionary also doesn't mention the telltake M on the tabbies forehead.