Whither "catch"?
January 4, 2015 2:06 PM   Subscribe

"Nice catch!" you'll think, realizing that I deserve kudos for noticing that this question is hard to find an answer to. But where does the phrase "nice catch" come from? Why is noticing and identifying a thing a "catch"? When was this first used and whence did it come?
posted by TheNewWazoo to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I just assumed it was from baseball- if you catch the ball you've just put your team ahead one Out (Oh, you know what I mean.)
posted by small_ruminant at 2:08 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

In terms of typos, if you don't notice them you "missed" them or "it got passed you" either of which could seem to be the opposite of catch. I have no idea which is the chicken and which is the egg or whether the chicken or egg came first, though.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:10 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When was this first used

From etymonline: Meaning "act as a catcher in baseball" recorded from 1865. To catch on "apprehend" is 1884, American English colloquial.
posted by jedicus at 2:15 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's much older than that. From jedicus's link:

Meaning "that which is caught or worth catching" (later especially of spouses) is from 1590s.
posted by mkultra at 2:40 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would have gussed fishing ( or trapping).
posted by bq at 2:43 PM on January 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also would have thought fishing.

(By the way, if you're asking about where something comes from you want to say "whence". "Whither" would be for asking where something is going to.)
posted by alms at 3:58 PM on January 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wherefore art thou, alms, when I mean wherefore but say whence and hope nobody notices!
posted by TheNewWazoo at 5:13 PM on January 4, 2015

Same for 'thither' and 'thence', but there not where.
posted by eclectist at 9:39 AM on January 5, 2015

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