Where did all those dog expressions come from ?
by: R.L.Smith


Some words have explanations so logical that scholars can't accept them. Such is the case of "hot dog", which of course refers to the Dachshund shape of the sausage. There is still room for speculation on when the term took over from "frankfurter"in public jargon, and there's room for argument as to whether the expression was originally "hot dach", based on the animal's name, or always "hot dog", refering to the breed.

Although "dach" may sound closer to "dog", it is actually the German word for "badger". To engage in such a debate is truly an example of word specialists "going to the dogs".

"Going to the dogs" is another expression with two theories of origin. The term may be derived from an old Dutch expression, "money gone, credit gone", which happens to have a sound-alike translation "toe goe toe do dogs"> Others favour a shortened form of "going to the dog races", which was a swift and sure way of losing money.

Not all dog expressions have lasted through the ages. "dogs letter" is not heard of much these days. It's based on a reference to a dog's 'grrrowl' Wrote Ben Johnson in 1636, "R" is the dog's letter, and hurrith in the 'rr' is the tongue striking the inner palate, with a trembling about the teeth"

"Raining cats and dogs" may have a meaning a little more literal than one would suppose. Historian Alfred H. Holt believes the term is based on the fact that after a cloud burst in the 17th and even the 18th century England, the gutters would rage with a filthy torrent, not unlikely to include dead cats and dogs. The first mention can be found in a poem called "City Shower" by Jonathon swift (1738) which reads: "I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain Cats and dogs".

trying to figure out the expression "putting on the dog" has led dogged scholars to believe that it is bnased on the similar term, "putting on the side", suggesting a jaunty profile, a pose to show off the best features of a man or dog. Evidence suggests that it was first used at a dog show. A minority report from one author believes the word to be a corruption of "putting on the togs", bundling up in fine clothing.

"Git along little doggie" is a cowboy phrase that has nothing to do with dogs at all. It refers to calves, not canines. The young, plump calves were called "dough bellies" or "dough guts", which was finally shortened to "doggies".

In keeping with the backward medical practices of medieval times, it was believed that the bite of a rabid dog might be cured with a potion made from the dog's hair. Hence the term "hair of the dog that bit you". The term can be found as early as 1546, jovially referring to a hangover cure.

The number of dog expressions is easily ten times larger than those for any other animal. When looking up at the heavens , man can still see dogs, fantasising dogs as star shapes (Canis major and minor, the big and little dog). sirius was named the "Dog star" as an integeral part of the star outline. The term "dog days" comes from the ancient who believed that the hottest season of the hyear occurred when the "Dog star" was on the rise.

AND, thus ends this brief look at the history of dog expressions which has left both scholar and reader informed - but - also - "Dog tired".


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