Katy Bar the Door

Meaning

What does Katy Bar the Door mean?

Katy bar the door is a popular colloquialism, predominantly present in the Southern territories of the United States, used to refer to impending trouble.

Origin

What's the origin of Katy Bar the Door?

“Katy bar the door” has a long history of usage in the US, although its origins are disputed, due to a lack of documentation.

Most explanations link the expression to Scottish immigrants, who were frequent in the Southern states.

 

One explanation states that “Katy bar the door” comes from a Scottish ballad of the 18th century, titled “Get Up and Bar the Door”, which tells the story of a husband and wife arguing about barring the door and getting in trouble as a result.

The ballad, however, doesn’t specify the name of the wife, leaving the Katy part of the phrase unexplained.

“Katy bar the door” is also widely associated with the popular story of Catherine ‘Barlass’ Douglass, who attempted to save the Scottish King James I from a raging mob in 1437, by hiding behind a lockless door and barring it with her arm.

According to the legend, despite her best effort, her arm was broken, and the king lynched.

By the 19th century, “Katy bar the door” was present in the United States as a colloquialism, with an article in an 1872 issue of The Louisiana Democrat even mentioning the phrase.

Spread & Usage

How did Katy Bar the Door spread?

Over the 20th century, “Katy bar the door” remained a popular unique expression of the Southern States, similar to other idioms like Fair to Middling or Devil is Beating his Wife.

“Katy bar the door” was first defined on Urban Dictionary on November 27th, 2011.

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