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While watching the excellent 1972 picture "Cabaret", I came across an interesting quote using the expression "to make a pounce". The context it is used in can be found on subzin.com.

While I have never heard the expression, its meaning becomes somewhat clear from the context to mean "to make advances to/at someone". When googling it, however, it seems the expression is used very rarely and there is hardly any mentioning other than the quote from the movie itself.

"Cabaret" plays in 1931 and I was therefore wondering whether the expression is just outdated or if it really is not used at all. How does it sound to a native speaker? Would you use it in an every-day conversation?


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Hello sfeuz, and welcome to EL&U. – medica Dec 28 '13 at 21:42
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Here's the evidence to support OP's suggestion that make a pounce was more common in the past...

enter image description here

But here's the evidence to show that relatively speaking it was never actually "common"...

enter image description here

It's also worth noting this from etymonline.com...

pounce (v.) 1680s, originally "to seize with the pounces," from Middle English pownse (n.) "hawk's claw" (see pounce (n.)).
pounce (n.) "claw of a bird of prey," late 15c., pownse, probably from Old French ponchon "lance, javelin; spine, quill". Meaning "an act of jumping or falling upon" is from 1825.

That's to say the relevant verb usage predates the relevant noun usage by well over a century. In short, there never was a time when any significant proportion of Anglophones would have used the noun-based form to make a pounce rather than the simple verb to pounce.

But the Cabaret scriptwriters didn't necessarily know or care about that level of detail. They just wanted an easily-understood version that would sound strange/exotic/"other" to the modern ear.

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+1 - well researched, good support for your assertion. – medica Dec 28 '13 at 21:36

The Oxford English Dictionary has a citation for make a pounce from 1806, and the most recent is from 1995. This suggests that it is both well-established and fairly current. As a native speaker, I find nothing unusual about it, and its use is not limted to the making of sexual advances.

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I just checked a subtitle file to discover that pounce is in fact only used as a noun once in the movie, but there are at least 4 instances where it's used as a verb. Sure - it's easy to understand. But I think it's stretching a point to say the noun usage is "current", by comparison with the far more common verb usage. – FumbleFingers Dec 28 '13 at 17:32
-1 - truly? You hear "make a pounce" with relative frequency? Relative to what, "make a nounce" perhaps? – medica Dec 28 '13 at 21:38
I don’t, and I didn’t say that I did. My use of the term ‘fairly current’ was prompted by the fact that a popular newspaper, the ‘Daily Mail’, used it as recently as 1995. – Barrie England Dec 28 '13 at 22:17

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