There is a T.S. Eliot title, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. As the Wiki entry says:

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems by T. S. Eliot about feline psychology and sociology, published by Faber and Faber. It is the basis for the musical Cats.

  • I've never read the work nor seen the play, but I suspect that word is added in an effort to personify the cats, and make them seem more human-like.
    – J.R.
    Jun 22 '13 at 9:22
  • 2
    It means "level-headed, efficient, and unspeculative" as in the dictionary definition, and is an example of pathetic fallacy used for humorous effect.
    – Robusto
    Jun 22 '13 at 9:52
  • Interesting factoid on Cat's and the question piqued my curiosity. Authors being creative as they are (Silverstein, Seuss, Burgess, Friedman, etc.) can leave one wondering how they come up with some of the titles they do, even after reading the book. Jun 22 '13 at 10:02

The title is a spoof of title-types common in 18th- and 19th-century popular literature, as if to suggest, very much tongue in cheek, what genre of work the collection should be read as.

Old X's ..., for instance, suggests compendia of popular and esoteric wisdom: enter image description here

And Book of Practical X is the standard 19th-century title for how-to books:

enter image description here

Note that possum is Latin for I can.

It is quite possible that if Eliot had written this two generations later he would have called it Cat-lore For Dummies.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.