The Cheshire Cat

World Smile Day

Oct 4

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

World Smile Day
All the Lads They Smile at Me
World Smile Day
The Cheshire Cat
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Today's Musings, History & Folklore

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

~ Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, 1865

Along with the Mona Lisa, one of the most famous smiles belongs to the Cheshire Cat from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, known for its distinctive mischievous grin, which lingers even as the cat itself disappears. The expression "grinning like a Cheshire Cat" predates the story, and has many origin theories, including the one favoured by the people of Cheshire, which boasts numerous dairy farms - cats in Cheshire grin because of the abundance of milk and cream.   Another theory relates to a time when cheese formerly sold in Cheshire was moulded like a grinning cat. The cheese was traditionally cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat. 😸

The Cheshire Cat

"Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go."

 

One of the most famous smiles in literature belongs to the grinning Cheshire Cat of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, whose mischievous grin lingers even as the cat itself disappears.

The expression "grinning like a Cheshire Cat" predates the story, and many theories abound as to its origin, including the one favoured by the people of Cheshire, which boasts numerous dairy farms - cats in Cheshire grinni because of the abundance of milk and cream.   Another theory is that cheese formerly sold in Cheshire was moulded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning. The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.

The scientific community has embraced the Cheshire Cat as a metaphor to explain several scientific phenomena:

  • The "Cheshire Cat effect" is a binocular rivalry which causes stationary objects seen in one eye to disappear from view when an object in motion crosses in front of the other eye.

  • "The Quantum Cheshire Cat" is a phenomenon in quantum mechanics in which a particle and its property behave as if they are separated, or when a particle separates from one of its physical properties.

  • A merger of galaxy groups in the constellation Ursa Major is nicknamed "Cheshire Cat galaxy group" by astronomers due to its suggestive appearance.

  • And in linguistics, "cheshirization" occurs when a sound disappears but leaves a trace.  Before disappearing, a sound may trigger or prevent some phonetic change in its vicinity that would not otherwise have occurred, and which may remain long afterward.

 

For more on the Quantum Cheshire Cat and a real observation of this principle in 2014, click Sir John Tenniel's illustration of Alice meeting the Cheshire Cat.

See below for RSCDS Toronto at Broadlands Community Centre, 2015, performing this dance.

The Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat

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The majority of dance descriptions referenced on this site have been taken from the

 

Scottish Country Dancing Dictionary or the

Scottish Country Dancing Database 

 

Snapshots of dance descriptions are provided as an overview only.  As updates may have occurred, please click the dance description to be forwarded to a printable dance description or one of the official reference sources.

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