Most of yesterday was spent on the phone, sending IM, e-mails and SMS, while trying to remain focused on work, which was slowly but surely piling up. Our friend Gabs was in labour and information was scant.
In the evening, on our way to see Blur, we decided to call Gabs’ mum. Me: "Hello, Mrs. R. Any news from Gabrielle?". Her: "No. I’m having kittens here." Well, I never. Gabs was having a baby and her mum was having kittens. What a weird coincidence.
I don’t think I had actually heard that expression before, but its meaning was clear, considering the situation. When I got back I checked my dictionary and it said: "Piquer une crise". I don’t like that very much, as it could denote anger. I would rather say "Être dans tous ses états", which is closer to the panicky state you’d be in if you actually were giving birth to kittens. Or if you daughter was having a baby and you had no news.
I found a very interesting explanation on this expression:
For anyone to confess ‘nearly to have had kittens’ is a dramatic way of admitting how anxious and scared she had been. For us it is just a metaphor, and no one would dream of taking it literally. Yet the phrase itself goes back to times when women were really worried that, instead of giving birth to a child, they would bring forth kittens.
It was an age when people believed in witches and the mysterious influence of cats, which extended even to their sex life. A black cat, for example, that turned up at a wedding was taken as an omen of good luck and of a fruited union.
A superstition, once prevalent among Scottish people, may be directly responsible for the phrase. This assumed that a woman could conceive kittens, if unknowingly she ate any food on which cats had ejected their semen.
From "How Did It Begin?" by R. Brasch (Pocket Books, New York, 1966).
PS: Little Mo finally joined us yesterday at 18 h 37. Welcome, Little Mo!