A Persian cat licks that lips during the Catsburg 2016 international cat show in Moscow, Russia, march 6, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin


Now, it is time for Words and also Their Stories, a program from VOA discovering English.

You are watching: The cat that ate the canary

People around the civilization love their pets. And in the united States, cat are really popular. However they room not just famous as pets. Their regularly strange and also funny actions has do them really famous on the internet too.


America's favorite famed feline, grumpy Cat, celebrate her 6th birthday through Purina and also PetSmart in ~ the "Save a Fortune" occasion on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 in new York. (Purina)

So, it is not surprising the American English has plenty of cat expressions. In past programs, we have actually talked about several that them. Yet today we focus on one expression that functions another animal – birds.

Some cats like to catch and kill tiny birds. Birds such as sparrows, finches, robins and also canaries are fair targets for these experienced hunters.

Today’s regimen centers ~ above the canary.


With its beautiful feathers and also lovely bird-song, many human being keep canaries as pets, too. So, if a cat eats one, the may have a watch on its face that mirrors both pride and also guilt. The cat is happy that did it even if the is wrong to eat a fellow pet.

Now, execute cats feeling guilt and pride? more than likely not. But people do.

Let"s say ns look an extremely proud but slightly guilty for doing other I need to not have done, others can say that i look choose the cat that ate the canary. You can also say “swallowed” rather of “ate.” Both work.

This look is not one of moral pride for tough work or a an excellent achievement. If looks could talk, this one would say, “I simply got away through something and you have actually no idea what it is. I must not have actually done it and I know it was wrong. Yet I to be still pleased with myself!”

That’s right. The expression “to look like the cat the ate the canary” says all of that.

When utilizing this expression, nothing forget the guilt part. Let’s say you have a friend who studied really hard on a test and also then scored really well. She feel proud of her accomplishment. She smiling confront shows it. Yet you would certainly not say to her, “Well, don’t you look like the cat who ate the canary. Congratulations!”

The expression walk not work that way.

However, if she did not study yet still passed since she cheated and also still looks proud around it … then the expression will occupational quite well.

Now, we usage this expression in other situations. Maybe we know something the no one else does and it reflects on our face. We have actually a secret. We might look favor the cat that swallowed the canary.

We usage it as soon as we room really pleased v ourselves – when we feel smug.

What go “smug” mean, you might ask.

When you are smug, you room TOO proud of you yourself – come the allude where other civilization are uncomfortable or annoyed v you. You space too self-satisfied.

People who look choose the cat the ate the canary are also hiding something from rather or simply not informing all the details. One word for that is gift coy.

And that"s all the moment we have for this Words and Their Stories. Find a chance to exercise with today’s expression – “you look choose the cat the ate the canary.”

Until next time … i’m Anna Matteo.

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Anna Matteo composed this story because that VOA discovering English. Kelly Jean Kelly to be the editor. The tune at the end is "Prologue: Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats" from the musical “Cats.”


Words in This Story

fellow adj. used come describe human being who belong to the same group or course or that share a situation, experience, etc.

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proud adj. very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you understand or are related to, etc. : emotion pride

smug adj. having or reflecting the annoying high quality of world who feel very pleased or satisfied through their abilities, achievements, etc.