Get your goat

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Get your goat : Phrases


Make you annoyed or angry.



The dictionary definition of goat is 'a ruminant quadruped of the genus Capra'. What's that got to do with being angry? Well, nothing - 'get your goat' appears to be a stand-alone phrase with no connection to quadrupeds.

We might expect to find goat as a slang term meaning anger or annoyance. Strangely, this isn't the case and there doesn't seem to be any other use of goat meaning that, either as a single word or in any other phrase. The other commonly used goat phrase is 'acting/playing the (giddy) goat'. That alludes to real goats, so no connection there.

The phrase originated in the US and the first entry in print that I can find comes from a fanciful story about a burst water pipe that was printed in the US newspaper The Stevens Point Daily Journal, May 1909:

"Wouldn't that get your goat? We'd been transferring the same water all night from the tub to the bowl and back again."

The first non-US citation, isn't until 1924 in John Galsworthy's story, 'White Monkey', and even there it is clearly seen as a recent innovation:

"That had got the chairman's goat! - Got his goat? What expressions they used nowadays!"

The following year, The (London) Times printed a piece in memory of the recently deceased Friedrich Baedeker.This includes a side-swipe at American tourists and uses the phrase as a typical piece of Americana:

"... goggled Americans whispering aloud, 'Wa-al Sadie, these durned three star things get my goat'!"

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