I called one of my friends "copycat" the other day, and suddenly thought about it.
Why is it a "cat"? Where did this expression come from?
Does anyone have any information regarding how this phrase came about? Is there a story behind this?
The cat in copy-cat means person.
The OED says at copy-cat n.:
the referenced sense being:
This is a slang term and was likely used in speech for a long time before being committed to the page, but the first print copy can still give us a rough idea of origin. Etymonline.com tells us:
This Ngram tends to agree, with some instances before 1900, fairly constant use for most of the 20th century, but then a huge increase in the 1980s.
The OED's earliest citation is Jewett's 1896, so I've sent them the Harrison 1887 and Jewett 1890 antedatings from the Slate article.
An article in Slate Magazine tells us the term came from nineteenth-century Maine.
The OED's earliest citation is Jewett's 1896, so I've sent them the Harrison 1887 and Jewett 1890 antedatings from Slate Magazine.