combing the cat

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The habit of a boatswain's mate, during the flogging of a seaman, of running his fingers through the tails of a cat-o'-nine-tails after each stroke in order to separate them in preparation for the next one. After several strokes, when the victim's back had begun to bleed, the tails of the cat were apt to become coated with blood and to stick together, and a stroke with the tails matted together could inflict serious and permanent damage. See also cobbing.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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