Asked in Idioms, Cliches, and SlangAllegory and Simile
What does there is more than one way to skin a cat mean?
June 18, 2009 2:18PM
There's more than one way to accomplish the task or solve the problem. The remark is often made by someone who has just come up with a clever or crafty, less obvious alternative, especially when the first solution didn't work. ANSWER SKIN THE CAT - According to Charles Earle Funk in "A Hog on Ice" (Harper & Row, New York, 1948) the expression "to skin the cat" refers to a boy's gymnastic trick: "In America, as any country boy knows, this means to hang by the hands from a branch or bar, draw the legs up through the arms and over the branch, and pull oneself up into a sitting position. As we must abide by the record, we cannot say positively that the name for this violent small-boy exercise is more than a century old, but it is highly likely that Ben Franklin or earlier American lads had the same name for it. No one got around to putting it into print until about 1845. One can't be sure why the operation was called 'skinning the cat,' but maybe some mother, seeing it for the first time, saw in it some resemblance to the physical operation of removing the pelt from a cat, first from the forelegs and down over the body." Mr. Funk doesn't say WHY anyone would actually skin a cat, but anyway.
Idioms: more than one way to skin a cat
More than one method to reach the same end, as in We can get around that by renting instead of buying a computer--there's more than one way to skin a cat. This expression may be an American version of the earlier British more ways of killing a cat, but why the death of a cat should be alluded to at all is not clear. [Second half of 1800s]
There are several versions of this saying, which suggests that there are always several ways to do something. Charles Kingsley used one old British form in Westward Ho! in 1855: "there are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream". Other versions include "there are more ways of killing a dog than hanging him", "there are more ways of killing a cat than by choking it with butter", and "there are more ways of killing a dog than choking him with pudding".
Mark Twain used your version in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in 1889: "she was wise, subtle, and knew more than one way to skin a cat", that is, more than one way to get what she wanted. An earlier appearance is in 'Way down East; or, Portraitures of Yankee Life by Seba Smith of about 1854: "This is a money digging world of ours; and, as it is said, 'there are more ways than one to skin a cat,' so are there more ways than one of digging for money". From the way he writes, the author clearly knew this to be a well-known existing proverbial saying. In fact, it is first recorded in John Ray's collection of English proverbs as far back as 1678.
Some writers have pointed to its use in the southern states of the US in reference to catfish, often abbreviated to cat, a fish that is indeed usually skinned in preparing it for eating. However, it looks very much from the multiple versions of the saying, their wide distribution and their age, that this is just a local application of the proverb.
The version more than one way to skin a cat seems to have nothing directly to do with the American English term to skin a cat, which is to perform a type of gymnastic exercise, involving passing the feet and legs between the arms while hanging by the hands from a horizontal bar. However, its name may have been
http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-mor1.htm When someone says there is more than one way to skin a cat they mean that there is more than one way to do something