Here’s an fascinating fact you probably haven’t heard before. In fact, I only learned* it for the first time right now.
Cats, with their vertical slits for pupils, have a greater range of vision up and down. However, on bright days, that feature–so handy for nabbing varmints while climbing trees–limits their horizontal peripheral vision. That’s why you may see cats weaving their heads back and forth when following the motion of their prey. Use a laser pen and test it if you like. Cats love it!
This side-to-side motion, interestingly enough, is most pronounced on the ocelot. This small cat found in South America is almost constantly waving its head. When the Spanish first found them in Central America, they brought back a few of these curious creatures. While it first entered the Spanish language, it wasn’t long before English traders in the Americas had brought this mini leopard and its name into our lexicon. And its existence as an option for 4th grade research and middle-of-the-line crossword puzzle answers alike continued through time.
Over the years, spellings of things shift. Case in point, pronounce Worcestershire Sauce to yourself. Don’t try too hard, everyone is wrong. Always. So though variations on ocelot happened, mostly by association. By the 20th century, electric motors were being placed in every device possible, much like computer chips today. Through clever mechanisms on top of the motors, they were able to make devices that changed directions at specific intervals. The most notable invention was to mount a fan on such a servo.
Everything today still has a trail going back into history, and this fan needed a name in order to be marketable. The new “Fanning Fan” sounded ridiculous. So they went with the scientific term that originated with our titular feline: the oscillating fan.
*”learned” here means discovered by epiphany. No research was involved (or required).