bell the cat


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bell the cat

To undertake or agree to perform a risky, dangerous, or impossible job or task. It comes from a fable (often and likely incorrectly attributed to Aesop) called "Belling the Cat," in which a group of mice decide that one will harness a bell to a murderous cat so that its jingle will warn them of its presence, though none want to take on the dangerous role. Someone has to bell the cat and tell the boss we aren't going to come in to work on Saturdays anymore. Who's going to bell the cat and tell mom we wrecked her car?
See also: bell, cat

bell the cat

take the danger of a shared enterprise upon yourself.
Bell the cat alludes to the fable in which mice or rats have the idea of hanging a bell around the cat's neck so as to have warning of its approach, the only difficulty being to find one of their number willing to undertake the task.
See also: bell, cat

bell the cat

To perform a daring act.
See also: bell, cat

bell the cat

To put yourself in a dangerous position. The phrase comes from one of Aesop's fables: The Mice held a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. After a general discussion, a young Mouse rose to present a proposal. “You will all agree,” he said, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the Cat's neck. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighborhood.” This proposal met with general applause, until an old Mouse rose to ask, “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The Mice looked at one another, but none spoke, whereupon the old Mouse smiled and commented, “It is easy to propose impossible remedies."
See also: bell, cat
References in periodicals archive ?
Together we have the power to bell the cat of public misperception
But it is almost urgent that someone bell the cat, swallow a few scruples, and write a book to articulate the vision of these authors to other historians as well as the general reader in order to incite them to challenge their assumptions and to recast their questions.
While it's easy to identify the problems, the solutions are politically explosive; no one wants to bell the cat.
National security issues may be a bigger topic now, but it's not clear who's going to bell the cat.
If the proverbial mice decide to bell the cat, success will depend upon the cat's consent to wear a bell.
With pusillanimous actions one cannot bell the cat.