Greased BBs and cat fur

One of the phrases I remember from my childhood is an answer my dad would give when we asked a question like “what for?” His response was often, “cat fur to make kitten britches–want the first pair?”

I didn’t realize until much later that this phrase fits into a category of responses used to get kids to stop asking questions. I don’t know if my dad was bent on deflecting our inquisitiveness or whether he just liked the phrase; I also don’t remember how effective it was as a diversionary device. (I do know that I never got any kitten britches, not the first or any subsequent pair.)

If you’re looking to diversify when it comes to answering children’s questions, I’ve got some colorful options for you.* In answer to the question, “Whatcha doin’?” you could choose one of these:

–sewing buttons on ice cream

–stacking greased BBs with boxing gloves on

–making a whim-wham for a goose’s bridle†

Not everyone has a ready supply of inquisitive children needing to be told to buzz off. Fortunately, there are other uses for these phrases. Urban Dictionary’s listing for stacking BBs identifies it as “a pointless and/or unrewarding task that is often maddening and futile in nature.” If you’ve got such a task in your future, perhaps you can use this phrase to explain why you’d like to be excused from doing it; if it can’t be avoided, the image of those boxing gloves and lots of tiny, slick BBs might help you garner sympathy.


or buttons shaped like ice cream

Or buttons shaped like ice cream

Do you use or know of other “buzz off” phrases? Let me know in the comments–I’m eager to expand my collection. You never know when such a thing might come in handy.

Canada goose

a goose without bridle or wimmydiddle

*These come courtesy of A Way with Words, a radio show about language.

†A whim-wham is an old English term for a trivial or frivolous thing, such as an ornament or trinket. This is an Australian variation of the phrase; another version is “making a whim-wham for a goose’s wimmydiddle.” A wimmydiddle is a carved wooden toy, like this.

[Images: etsy, ebay,]


2 thoughts on “Greased BBs and cat fur

  1. So often kids ask questions without really listening to the answer. I think another function of these types of answers is to check if the kids are really listening, or to get their attention if they’re not.

    • Great point. It can sometimes feel like we as adults are a sort of vending machine, and that all day children are pushing buttons (in more than one sense) and scooping up what they ordered. Nice to shake things up a bit by delivering up something entirely unexpected.

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