Suppose a friend asks you for directions to the nearest coffee shop. Your friend knows how to get to the grocery store on the corner of Main Street and Oak Avenue. You simply need to explain that the coffee shop is on the diagonal corner from the grocery store. What phrase or description do you use?
You might say that the coffee shop is “kitty-corner” from the grocery store. That could elicit a raised eyebrow from your friend and the question, “Do you mean ‘catty-corner’?” Which one of you is correct?
The origin of both phrases is from the French word for four, “quatre.” This has been Anglicized as “cater.” In terms of whether it should be properly Americanized as “kitty” or “catty” has become a regional distinction.
Those who prefer “catty-corner” occupy most of the midwest and southern states of the USA. “Kitty-corner” proponents prevail in the northeastern, Great Lakes, and western states.
According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, “kitty-corner” and “catty-corner” are not the only descriptions used for a diagonal corner. Among the other terms are:
Of course, if you want to avoid any confusion, you should just drive your friend to the coffee shop, point to it, and say, “There it is. I’ll have a Pumpkin Spice Latte for my troubles.”
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