News & Events

“To have kittens…”

Last week we talked about the idiom “to have a soft spot for someone or something” which means that we really like them. I’ve met a lot of people in Rome who have a soft spot for cats and having two cats myself, I also feel the same way.

A kitten in English is specifically a baby cat and you can see that the sleepy mother cat in the photo above has five kittens – cute, aren’t they? The origin of to have kittens however does not come from anything cute (“carino / amabile”), but from an era when people were very superstitious, believing in witches and the mysterious powers of cats. If a woman had a difficult pregnancy or painful childbirth, she was sometimes told by these “witches” that she was not carrying a child but kittens!!! You can imagine how terrified and afraid she was!

So today we use to have kittens to say how worried, angry, or anxious we are about a situation. Below are some true examples, and you’ll see that we often add in the word “nearly” to show that it obviously didn’t happen in reality!

  • I nearly had kittens when my husband said he wanted to buy a fast motorbike!
  • My daughter is having kittens this week because she has some difficult exams.
  • I remember my friend Ann was having kittens before she took her driving test!
  • We nearly had kittens in the middle of the night when the burglar alarm started ringing. Then we realized one of the cats had set it off!
  • There was a man having kittens in the car park yesterday and peeping his horn (“stava suonando il clacson”) because someone had parked, blocking his car.

Enjoy your week!

The English Tree team