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ETpro's avatar

Where does the phrase, "copycat" come from?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) February 7th, 2010

It seems a strange figure of speech to apply to someone who mindlessly apes another. My cat is about the least likely living being I know to carelessly copy a particular behavior. She is stubbornly dedicated to charting her own course in life. Robert A. Heinlein recognized this fact when he wrote, “Never try to outstubborn a cat.” So how did the ill-fated feline get labeled as a mindless mime?

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3 Answers

Zen_Again's avatar

The term copycat (also written as copy-cat or copy cat) refers to the tendency of humans to duplicate the behavior of others, as expressed in the saying, ” monkey see, monkey do.” This notably happens in the case of suicide and murder. The term is used both for the act and for the person. It is often used in the derogatory sense, meaning a plagiarist.
The expression may have originated from observing the habits of kittens that learned by imitating the behaviors of their mother. Copycat has been in recorded use since at least 1896, in Sarah Orne Jewett’s ” The Country of Pointed Firs ” but the expression could be many decades older.

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onesecondregrets's avatar

Me, my name’s Cat and I’m just so awesome that people feel the need to repeat the things I do, you know.

(...kidding, but my name is Cat :P )

ETpro's avatar

@Zen_Again Thanks. Makes sense.

@onesecondregrets Ha! Cute. :-)

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