there is a cartoon about one old lady who swallowed a fly. in one moment the cat says: "And she had a frog on the sly" What does it mean?

  • 1
    Never heard of it. I think it's probably just a bit of alliterative nonsense whimsically added to the nursery rhyme by Simms Taback in what's described by the blurb as a wonderful blending of the traditional and the surreal. Overt meaning: As well as the fly, she ate a (fly-eating) frog while none of the other animals were watching Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 18:26
  • You gotta know the whole song. She swallowed a fly, spider, bird, cat, dog, goat, cow, horse, IIRC. The frog, then, would have been "on the sly", not mentioned in the song.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 2:51
  • Full lyrics (slightly Bowdlerized).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 3:03

2 Answers 2


From The Free Dictionary:

Idiom: on the sly

In a way intended to escape notice: (example) took extra payments on the sly.

Without knowing the context of the rest of the cartoon, this could mean either she possessed a frog without anyone noticing or she ate a frog without anyone noticing.


Assuming you are referring to the story by Simms Taback:

As an idiom, "on the sly" means furtively or without intending to be caught or seen. In the context of this presentation, the horse is accusing the old lady of not only eating the traditional farm-load of animals, but of also having eaten a frog. (A frog is not traditionally in the list of animals eaten by The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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