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Jeff Atwood writes:

Vote For This Question or The Kitten Gets It ... every time you forget to vote a great question up, or a bad question down — a kitten gets it!

The kitten looks awfully sad, but why would it be sad for getting a question?

kitten

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15  
Many kittens have been proven to be severely allergic to questions. This is why you will notice that when cats are asked questions such as "Who's a good boy then?" or "Would you like to snuggle with mummy-wummy my little schnookums?", they will frequently vacate the room, often with a disdainful look on their face. This is actually the beginning of a cat sneeze, and they don't wish to be rude by sneezing on you. –  Andy F May 8 '11 at 9:28

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Andy F is right - I think you misunderstand what to get it refers to here. This is not entirely your fault, since it is deictic and the actual referent here is not explicitly mentioned (as is usual for this particular use of the phrase).

In this case, get it is being used in this way:

(v) get it (receive punishment) "You are going to get it!" - Source

It here refers to some unnamed but presumably terrible punishment to be meted out to the party in question.

...Put in context, he was joking, really.

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+1 for finding a decent source and the reference to deixis, which I should have put in. –  Andy F May 8 '11 at 9:53
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"...Put in context, he was joking, really." -you hope. –  Sam May 8 '11 at 13:26
    
I would say that here "it" is the opposite of deictic, being not even referential. –  Colin Fine May 8 '11 at 23:09
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@Colin I see what you're trying to say, but in this case it does seem to refer to something that, while non-explicit, is somewhat specific; its use here seems to me very different from non-deictic 'it'. I could be wrong about this since I've only studied linguistics formally for about a year or so, but I think this could simply be a case of exophora. *Edited to fix formatting –  demi May 9 '11 at 5:40
    
@demi. Hmm. You may be right. It's a tricky one, because we're talking about an idiom: it can't be analysed semantically, but it conforms to normal syntax. I was going to say that whether "it" is referential or not should be a syntactic question, but actually it is not even semantic strictu senso, but pragmatic: "it" in "It hurts" might be referential or not, depending on context. –  Colin Fine May 9 '11 at 12:16

It means the kitten will be killed, and it is a humorous (i.e. not intended to be taken literally) threat similar to (and perhaps derived from) this cover of the National Lampoon from January, 1973:

National Lampoon cover from 1973

Although the threats in both cases are mock threats, Jeff Atwood still wants you to upvote questions just as the Lampoon wanted you to buy magazines.

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+1 for the very image I had in mind when I saw the question title. (In this case, the noun that "it" refers to is clear: a bullet.) –  Stuart P. Bentley May 24 '11 at 20:55
    
You can't compare dogs with cats! Seriously! –  user unknown Jan 5 '13 at 4:28

Here, “to get it” is an idiom that means “to be punished”. In addition, I'll note that there are other related phrases (or variations) with the same meaning:

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For the record, I'll also provide a serious answer.

The phrase "gets it" in this instance is a term in its own right and is a euphemistic phrase meaning that the kitten will be killed, injured, or have some other form of unpleasantness visited upon him.

Simlar to the phrase "let him have it", which when used in a certain context, means to unleash violence upon someone, the phrase "do (something) or the kitten gets it" is a threat of violence upon the kitten.

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Far as I know, the phrase dates from captions to this photo, some 10 years' back. The "it" in question is self explanatory.

Here's the classic image.

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No reference, no quote… come on! –  F'x May 8 '11 at 12:16
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F'x, I am aware of all Internet traditions. Those with interest in this photo can Google image search it and go from there. If there's anything older, then I stand corrected. –  The Raven May 8 '11 at 13:40
    
Couldn't you shoot a dog instead, please? –  user unknown Jan 5 '13 at 4:30

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