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Cheshire cat

The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat appearing in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. It appears and disappears at will, engaging Alice in amusing but sometimes vexing conversation.

At one point, the cat disappeared gradually, until nothing was left but its grin, prompting Alice to remark that she had often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.

"Please, would you tell me," said Alice, a little timidly, ... "why your cat grins like that?"
"It's a Cheshire cat," said the Duchess, "and that's why."

It is said that Carroll found inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in a carving in a church in the village of Croft in the unitary authority of Warrington in the north west of England, where his father had been rector. The cat is named after Caroll's home county, Cheshire.

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable[?] says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old simile, popularized by Lewis Carrol". Brewer adds, "The phrase has never been satisfactorily accounted for, but it has been said that cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire moulded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning."

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