Snoqualmie Pets 101: It’s Raining Cats and Dogs! Dog Idioms and Their Meanings

In her latest Living Snoqualmie column, dog trainer Melissa Grant, who works for LeChic Pet in Issaquah, explains the origins of some her favorite dog idioms.

What is an idiom? An idiom is an expression consisting of a combination of words that has a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words.  Idioms are numerous and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language. My favorite (or course) are dog idioms. Here are a few good ones and their meanings and origins.

Dog and Pony Show

A term which has come to mean a highly promoted, often over-staged performance, presentation, or event designed to sway or convince opinion for political, or less often, commercial ends. The term was originally used in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to refer to small traveling circuses that toured through small towns and rural areas. The name derives from the common use of performing dogs and ponies as the main attractions of the events.

Raining Cats and Dogs

This one clearly means raining very heavily. There are many theories of the origins of the phrase. Some think it means during heavy rains dogs and cats were dograincoatwashed from rooftops on which they perched but dogs don’t generally perch on rooftops. Some think it has to do with the God Odin or witches and their familiars riding on broomsticks through the night. This one shall remain a mystery.

Dog in the Manger

My mom told me not be this more than once in my childhood when I didn’t want to share. The story of The Dog in the Manger is derived from an old Greek fable. The story is now used to speak of those who spitefully  (groan yes mom) prevent others from having something that they themselves have no use for.

He who lies down dogs, Shall rise up with Fleas layingdogs

Not true in my household! This one means if you hang out with shady characters their badness will rub off on you.  Could be a French or Italian proverb or it could be Benjamin Franklin. No one is quite sure

Hair of the Dog

An expression used to refer to alcohol that is consumed with the aim of lessening the effects of a hangover.. The expression originally referred to a method of treatment of a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound. This treatment dates back to the time William Shakespeare and probably didn’t turn out too well for the bite victim.

Every Dog Has Its day

One of my favorites. It means everyone will have their chance. It shows up a lot in literature…  From Shakespeare’s Hamlet…” Let Hercules himself do what he may, The cat will mew, and dog will have his day” to Erasmus “A dogge hath a day” so who knows who was first but it’s a good positive message.

So never forget, we’ll all eventually have our time to shine. Just like our dogs

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