By Carol Bryant, Dogster
We’ve all heard of canine-referenced phrases, but where did they come from and what do they mean? Did Elvis Presley really think of a pooch when crooning “Hound Dog” to adoring fans? Here are some popular dog sayings, songs, and seemingly howl-inducing idioms.
In my household, every day (ergo, minute) is one revolving around dog in some way, shape, or form: at my feet, scrawled across a computer screen, or in an attachment, as I share a picture of a rescue pooch in need of a forever home. The saying, however, finds its origins deep in the Elizabethan period. In requesting a photo of herself from her brother, Princess Elizabeth (eventually Queen Elizabeth I), wrote, “Notwithstanding, as a dog hath a day, so may I perchance have time to declare it in deeds.”
Some sources cite Erasmus, a Dutch scholar, who wrote that upon the death of Greek playwright Euripides in 405 B.C. by a pack of dogs, the saying was thus born. For me, as an English major in college, ‘twas not Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy speech that resonated, but his “the cat will mew and dog will have his day” line of the same play that struck a nerve. Derivation aside, the interpretation implies that no matter what happens in life, we all will have our “rising up” at some point.
Recorded during the same session as Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel,” both sides of the single reached No. 1 status in the U.S. in 1958. Presley wasn’t the first to record the song, with blues singer Ellie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton first putting it on the charts in 1953.
The song served as a bit of an aphrodisiac for screaming fans while Presley gyrated his pelvis. Dancing was viewed as evil by some, and Presley’s motions increasingly stirred that pot. Hound dog, in this case, is a metaphor for a cheating man, as the song was first recorded by a woman. Rumor has it that Presley never liked the song. A bit of a hound dog himself, perhaps?
From July 3 through Aug. 11, Sirius, the dog star, rises in near synchronous fashion with the sun. These “dog days” have evolved to mean the hottest time of year, like in this phrase, “It’s 98 degrees; the dog days of summer are upon us!”
Sirius does not cause the warmer period of summer to occur, as temperatures rise as a result of the Earth’s tilt and its position relative to the sun. Ancient Romans, however, believed Sirius to be bright enough to produce heat to warm the planet. “The dog days of summer” buries its roots many moons ago, but the phrase is used to this day. Hot enough for you?
Who among us, after a long day, hasn’t been utterly exhausted, worn out, and simply dog tired? Certainly, the person who first uttered this phrase wasn’t raising a retriever puppy at the time. So the origins go that Alfred the Great, king of Wessex from 871 to 899, would send his sons out with a pack of hunting dogs. Whoever would catch the most hounds would gain a seat next to their father at the dinner table. It is believed these “hunts” would leave the boys dog tired of their pursuits.
Fanilows, sway with me. Non-Fanilows, put the tomatoes down! I’m a self-admitted Barry Manilow fan. It’s rumored that his ’70s-era hit song was written by Scott English and Richard Kerri with a dog in mind. Fetching my Manilow box set (reserve judgment, please), the accompanying booklet quotes English as saying, “It was not” written about a dog. In its first draft, the song was called “Brandy.” The song title was consequently changed because the group Looking Glass had a song out around the same time called “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl).”
And so it goes, Barry Manilow writes the songs the whole world sing, but not with dogs in mind.
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