I am reading a book now, and one of the chapters opens itself by the following phrase, which its meaning makes me to feel lost in English... even after I've done a nice research on Google and dictionaries.

"mother, asked Kate, "Is it correct to say 'water a horse' when he is thirsty?"

"Yes, dear, quite correct"."

"Then I am going to milk the cat"

I think that I do understand what these idioms mean (to urinate, and getting pussy) but I don't understand them in the context at all.

For me, the question if it's "correct to say 'water a gorse' when he is thirsty" is not logical. The same thing regarding to the following comments there, there is not coherence. Therefore I would like to know the explanation for this paragraph.

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and this is the full picture of the page in which these paragraph are found:

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    These are jokes, not serious propositions. The first joke exploits the fact that to water a horse means to provide it with water; Kate logically but erroneously assumes that she can can therefore use milk to speak of providing a cat with milk. The second joke exploits the spelling of elephant to put forward a preposterous understanding of elephants as a sort of ants. – StoneyB Oct 31 '16 at 22:17
  • hahahaha now I got it! thank you:) I would like to choose your answer as the accepted answer but it's comment rather than answer. I've read the answer of Colin and I didn't understand but now after your concise explanation I understand it well. – Judicious Allure Oct 31 '16 at 22:38
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    I do it as well as I did it in this case, but no results except of urban dictionary. I didn't look for water meanings but I looked for the phrase meaning 'water a horse' as it appears in the book. In this way you'll not find it in the dictionary that you mentioned and I couldn't have any clue about the meaning, again, as a non native English speaker. – Judicious Allure Oct 31 '16 at 23:15
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    You should not rely on Urban Dictionary for the meaning of "to water" and "to milk", the entries which you linked to are slang and extremely vulgar. In addition, they are not even highly rated, only 17 positive votes against 12 negative for "water the horse". Moreover, it's clear from the next story in the image, see the pun "Eleph-ants", you are in fact reading a joke book. Something which you conveniently omitted from saying. – Mari-Lou A Nov 1 '16 at 7:38
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    Why is it that so many learners say "in a book" but never give its title. What's so difficult about naming the source? A "book". Does it mean it must be about grammar? No. It could be a story, a novel, something you read online, the "book" might have been written by an Indian English speaker, or an American speaker. It might be a collection of different stories, the "book" could be about anything. But you think in an English language book they're going to use that type of slang? They're going to be teaching students of all ages about "pussies" and "pissing"? – Mari-Lou A Nov 4 '16 at 12:38

Im afraid you are misunderstanding the joke. It is nothing about either urinating or pussy.

One of the meanings of "water" is "give water to" - this is in common use for plants ("Water the roses" or "water the garden"). It used also to be usual for horses - I suspect that it is only not common because not many people nowadays encounter horses in their daily lives.

"Milk" as a verb, however, only means "get milk from the teats of" - most often used of cows, and sometimes other animals. (It also has a transferred meaning of "get as much value from as you can", but that is not relevant here).

So the joke is simply the girl noticing an inconsistency in how we use these verbs - 'water' meaning "give water to", and 'milk' meaning "get milk from", and mischevously extending the meaning of one to the meaning of the other.

  • After I've read the comment of Stoney I understood what you said:) Thank you for the answer – Judicious Allure Oct 31 '16 at 22:43
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    @Assiduous , much of English humor relates to misunderstanding that comes with the misuse of common grammar. As another example, Punctuation saves lives – Andrew Oct 31 '16 at 22:49
  • Yes, I've got it.:) – Judicious Allure Oct 31 '16 at 23:17

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