On expressions I will never use again

I’m on the phone with a friend of mine who lives in New York, and she mentions that she ran into a novelist she knows who lives down the street from her—“It’s New York, after all”—and I say, “Yeah, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a writer.”

Jessica is listening to me and suddenly her whole body freezes.  

What did you just say?” she demands. She often participates in my phone conversations, so I hold the phone aside and say to her, “It’s just an expression.”

She insists: “Did you say swing a cat? 

“I said, ‘You can’t swing a cat,’ which you can’t. It just means—”

But she has already burst into tears. Yes, tears: big, huge, sobbing tears about my cruelty to cats.

“I think I’d better go,” I say to my friend, and hang up the phone. I turn to Jessica. “Sweetie . . . .”

But by now she has moved onto hiccupping sobs. “I cannot believe you would swing a cat!”

“It’s just an expression,” I try to explain. “It just means—”

“Do not swing cats anymore!” she says, near hysteria, and so I say, “Yes. I promise. I will never say that expression again. Ever.”

“Because there is no swinging of cats in this house,” she says firmly, still sniffling a little. 

“Yes. I mean, no. No swinging of cats. Got it.”

“You promise.” 

This is one promise that is easy to make. “Yes,” I say. “I will never swing a cat. Or even mention the swinging of cats.”


I hug her. “Is it okay if it rains cats and dogs?”

“That is ridiculous,” she says.


  1. Yes. Anyone knows that raining cats and dogs is ridiculous whereas swinging a cat…what were you thinking?!
    What a lovely story…again. Thank you for sharing the unerring wisdom of Jessica. It's just beautiful and funny and lovely all rolled into one.

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