squirrel cage

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squirrel cage (plural squirrel cages)

  1. A circular cage for a squirrel or other small animal, which rotates vertically as the animal runs at the bottom.
  2. (figuratively, by extension) A tedious, repetitive, unfulfilling activity or situation, especially one in which no progress is achieved.
    • 1944, B. R. McElderry Jr., "The Grapes of Wrath: In the Light of Modern Critical Theory," College English, vol. 5, no. 6, p. 312:
      The poor stuggle for riches, success, power; but those who achieve them die out. Life is, then a sort of squirrel cage or treadmill.
    • 1986, Madison Smartt Bell, Straight Cut (2011 Open Road Media edition), ISBN 9781453235515, (Google Preview):
      So maybe I wouldn't even call Kevin. . . . Or I could just see him socially. . . . Or I could . . . . Or, or, or. . . . I was still running around in this squirrel cage when the big gray poisonous cloud that usually covers New York materialized just off the right wing.
  3. (engineering) Any other device, such as a fan or rotor, that resembles a squirrel cage in form.
    • 1996 May 19, Edward R. Lipinski,"Home Clinic: Time to Inspect Air-Conditioners," New York Times (retrieved 13 Feb 2014):
      A blower, in the shape of a drum fan (also called a "squirrel cage"), pulls the warm humid air from the room across the coils.


See also[edit]