March 2017
Southern Translation

Southern Translation

SENTENCE USAGE: "Ol’ Tom really liked the new girl who moved to town and started at his school. He sat cattycornered behind her in homeroom and showed his affection for her by hitting her in the back of the head with spitballs."

What is a cattycorner?

The word was originally catercorner or catercornered. The cater is an Anglicization of the French quatre, or four, and catercornered originally just meant four-cornered. To specify that something is catercorner across from something else is to stress the diagonal axis of an imaginary box, as opposed to saying "directly across" or just "across."

According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, catercorner first appeared around 1883 in the South, and originally meant askew or out of line. The "diagonally across" meaning soon took over, however, as did the transition from cater to catty. Linguists call this process "folk etymology" – people replacing an unfamiliar element in a word or phrase (cater) with a familiar one (catty or kitty). Cattycorner has remained purely an Americanism.

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