Proverb – Polish

“gdy kota nie ma, myszy harcuja”

“When cat not has, mice play”

“When the cat’s away, the mice will play”

Marysia told me that she learned this proverb from her mother when she was allowed to stay alone at home for the first time. Marysia learned this proverb in her home in Texas but is sure her mom learned it in Poland when she was growing up. The proverb is often said to teenagers and young kids when they are given responsibility. It serves as a forewarning to the kids, that the parents know that the kids want to misbehave. It is also is used to talk about other people who were caught doing something they knew they shouldn’t such as throwing an unauthorized party when parents are out of town. This proverb has also been used by the kids as an excuse for their bad behavior- telling the parents that because they are not present they should expect that the kids will misbehave.

This proverb’s translation into English is also commonly used in the United States. Personally, I have heard this proverb used on television, by teachers and authority figures and I’m sure I may have used it as well. The mice represent a misbehaving group, usually younger and prone to misbehave. The cat is always represents an authority figure that usually keeps the “mice” in line.

Marysia doesn’t know the origin of the proverb but imagines it is at least 50-60 years old when mice in homes were a problem. In the past households would keep cats as