Saturday, May 4, 2013

A word thing

The word "cagey" came to mind recently. It struck me as odd that you can refer to a "sneaky" person (or even an animal) as being "cagey". A cage is something that traps whatever is within it. What does that have to do with the meaning of the word cagey?

The dictionary that came with my Mac defines "cagey" as follows:
informal. He was rather cagey about his plans: secretive, guarded, cautious, wary, noncommittal, tight-lipped, reticent, evasive; informal playing one's cards close to one's chest. 
What does that have to do with a cage? Seemingly nothing. So I searched for the word's derivation -- but found nothing. The word's origin is said to be "unknown". Drat! 

However, one site noted that our definition of the word has evolved. It originally meant sportive. Sportive? What does a cage have to do with being sportive? Were the games originally played in a cage? Could be, I guess. And perhaps being "sportive" in that instance meant fooling your opponent, not letting him know your strategy, etc. And then perhaps it moved beyond the cage.

I hate when I can't ferret out the history of a word. Perhaps one day someone will see this post and supply a missing link. I hope so. Anyone know more about this word? Do tell.