“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain.
Calling a woman a dog implies she’s ugly. Calling a man the same thing implies that he’s uncouth or of low morals, although it could also be used as a compliment – ‘You lucky dog!’.
Calling a woman a bitch was quite unpopular until recently when the trend has been for young women to call each other ‘hot bitches’ as a compliment apparently – good news for female dogs, I suppose.
In the past, a dog had a job to do or it went hungry – a dog’s life was a hard, unpleasant experience – (tell that to today’s pampered pooches). To go to the dogs means to deteriorate. The Beatles sang, “It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog”. Elvis sang, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” – hard work and low status.
Dog days were the sultry days of summer when ‘the sea boiled, the wine turned sour and dogs grew mad’. When you’re in disgrace you’re in the doghouse, and when you want to slip away you are going to see a man about a dog.
It’s curious that if you make a dog’s breakfast of something, you make a mess, yet when you’re dressed up like a dog’s dinner, you’re in your finery, or overdressed. And putting on the dog means going all out to impress.
Physically, every part of a dog’s body has been hounded into the English language. A dogleg is a bend in the road, houndstooth is a check pattern and dog-eared means having a corner of a page turned down. A hair of the dog is a hangover cure consisting of more drink and a dogsbody is a person given the boring jobs nobody else wants to do.
When you think that dogs are the most loyal of pets, it seems harsh to give them such bad human traits. In defence of our best friend (yes, he can be a woman’s best friend too), the word dogged means persevering, which is a dog’s most endearing trait – waiting patiently for his owner to come home.
There are many more doggy phrases which I don’t have room for but it shows how much our furry friends are a part of our lives.