Curiosity Killed the Cat

In living your life as a practice one of the things that I encourage everyone to take on as a practice is paying attention to what comes out of your mouth. And of course, what you allow into your ears, but that’s for another post.

Words are creative or destructive, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton was right, “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

So consider this familiar proverb that is the title of today’s post. Ever thought about what this means or where it comes from? Really. What is it trying to tell us? I looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently no one really knows where it came from.

Seems the earliest known reference was in either in 1909 or in 1916 and had to do with the reported actual death of an actual cat. Seems cats are inclined to get themselves into dangerous situations and without the local fire department or an alert and determined master, they sometimes die as a result.

I expect that there are other species that do the same, yet vindicating cats is not my agenda. (Though I’m sure the pro-dog movement will be quick to point out that dogs tend to get us out of dangerous situations.)

The question is why has the proverb “curiosity killed the cat” become almost cliche?

I don’t have an answer, yet a good place to start is by pondering the intended meaning of the proverb. The message seems very simple.

Don’t stray too far off of the beaten path.

It’s dangerous and you could come to harm.


Don’t challenge.

I can imagine that it’s popularity was rooted in a society’s concern for the safety of it’s young, but could it’s lazy and frequent application have contributed to the sheeping of society? I cannot directly link any ill effect on our lives to this proverb, but I would bet that it’s casual and repeated use has served to repress our natural urge to explore and challenge. If I’m right you might want to consider when or if at all you use it.

Can you think of other proverbs that we frequently use that have similar effects?

Any thoughts? Contributions/acknowledgments welcome.