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Take a Word.... Dog: Etymology, Sayings and Short Story 'the Old Sea Dog'

Updated on September 14, 2018
annart profile image

Ann likes to research the history of words, to experiment with them and to encourage others to use fresh words and idioms.

Considering Words

This is the second hub about taking words at random and seeing what we can do with them. It’s designed to help writers widen their scope by thinking around, below and above a word, not just taking it at face value. Try it; just take a word on impulse! How is it used? See what I mean?

We might not know all the phrases that go with a word, indeed I’ve probably left out some that you know so please add any in the comments. The aim is to help jog our memories in the hope that we might use a fresh idiom or a lesser known phrase, maybe one that is used in American, rather than in British, English or vice versa. Fresh writing is good writing.

Etymology of 'dog' refers to the Old English ‘docga’, ‘a late, rare word, used in at least one Middle English source in reference to a powerful breed of canine’, but states that the origin of the word remains a mystery. I couldn’t find any better derivation.

Just a Dog

Labrador/Collie cross
Labrador/Collie cross | Source

Idioms, Phrases & Verbs

As with the word 'penny' in the first 'Take a Word..' hub, I was surprised how many phrases came to mind. Here's another short story encompassing a few of them.

Those were the Days.... on the High Seas

Across the water from the Quayside
Across the water from the Quayside | Source

The Old Sea Dog

Abe ‘Barny’ Barnacle was instantly recognisable. The old sea dog ambled down the quayside. Bandy-legged due to compensating the roll of countless ships, a dog-eared cap drawn down over his forehead and with skin from a tannery, Barny stopped to gaze across the water, watching the busy traffic, his eyes drawn slowly towards the horizon. Dog stretched out at his master’s feet; he knew it was going to be a long wait before they turned for home and dinner.

Barny was a simple man, not stupid but uncomplicated, black and white. honest and basic; well, most of the time. Hence his best friend’s name which he’d scratched on the dog-tag hanging from its collar, ‘god’. He was dyslexic; Barny, not the dog.

One-sided conversation

“It’s a dog’s life, eh, Dog? Mine was, yours is better.” Barny took a swig from the bottle.

“That’s what you think. Your place is going to the dogs and you expect me to put up with it? Just because you’ve had enough doesn’t mean you should give up, that you can’t move with the times.” Dog was fed up with Barny's attitude; he'd heard it all before.

“I don’t belong here, in these times. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I’m useless, no-one wants to employ me. What am I supposed to do?”

“You old dog! Feeling sorry for yourself? Think the hair of the dog is going to help? Pull yourself together, man! You could still be something. Plenty of people would be interested in your story; get it published and you could be famous, earn yourself a few bob*.”

Dog was starting to resent these evening ‘walks’. He never got any exercise; just had to listen to all this drivel. Literally dog tired of it all, Dog had formed a plan to escape. His dogged determination would get results. In the meantime, his master’s voice droned on.

“To think that I was important once. Had my own ship. Roamed the seas courting chance and seeking adventure. Many a tale was told and heard; I could tell you some shaggy dog stories....... if I could remember them.

Times changed and I had to weigh anchor and take prolonged shore leave. Oh yes, found myself a job but they had no respect, did they? Treated me like a dog’s body. ‘Do this, Barny; do that, Barny; go get me that, Barny; fix that for me, Barny...’ And did I get any recompense? Did I heck! It was dog-eat-dog and I lost. How was I supposed to compete in that world? I was useless. Still am. Huh! Here I am, talking to a dog who can’t possibly understand and who doesn’t give a damn.”

Dog has enough

“You think so, huh? Ok, so you’re washed up, you look like the dog’s dinner and you can’t get a job. Every dog has its day. Make an effort, fight back, you can do something if you ditch that stinky bottle and get real! I’m sick as a dog of listening to you rant on day after day. If you don’t get it together, I’m off. I’ve tried to be your friend but you just don’t appreciate me. You don’t even notice my tail wag.”

“How can I survive now? What can I do?” Barny’s hang-dog expression said it all, the self-pity in his eyes, the slumped shoulders, the ‘woe is me’ attitude.

“Ok, mate, that’s enough. You’ve driven me to this.” Dog stood up, walked steadily to the quayside high above the water and jumped.

I can jump

Jump! | Source

Shocked into inaction

Barny was jolted into the present. The shock drove all drunkenness aside. Dog! His Dog! What would he do without him?

Barny couldn’t swim. (“How was I supposed to know that?” thought Dog.) He yelled and yelled and yelled. These waters were always busy and a passing motor boat hauled Dog from the water. Embarrassed that he looked like a dog’s dinner with his wet coat plastered to his body, Dog shivered until they reached shore. Barny greeted him like a long-lost friend.

It was the last straw. He was crying, “Don’t leave me Dog, take a walk with me!”

The dog pricked up his ears. Sadly, Barny stumbled, his heart gave out and the old sea dog ambled no more. It seemed that now Dog would have to learn some new tricks.

*bob - a colloquial word for the old Imperial coin the 'shilling'


A dog-eared page
A dog-eared page | Source

Meanings & Background

Just in case you're not familiar with some of the sayings:

sea dog: old experienced sailor, usually of low rank, though at the time of Elizabetah I of England, it applied to a pirate, often of high rank

a dog’s life & going to the dogs: these two sayings probably originate from the hard use of the animals as hunting accessories, not pampered pets

dog’s dinner: something that is not appetising or appealing

dog’s body: someone who is used as a slave or a lacky

old dog: a rogue, possibly a sexual predator

hair of the dog: drinking more of the same alcohol to counteract the effects of the night before

shaggy dog story: a very long and interwoven tale, like a dog’s long hair, often used to stretch out a joke or to confuse people

dog-eat-dog: survival of the fittest or the strongest in a fight. Dog fights used to be the subject of bets and often the animals fought to the death, now illegal but it still occurs.

dog-tired: exhausted, slumped down in a chair or on the floor, tongue hanging out with thirst

dog-eared: worn out, like a dog’s ears bitten in fights, bits missing; also refers to a page turned down at the corner, like the floppy ear of a dog

dog-tags: exactly that, tags for dogs, then the military used the same term for similar shapes worn round the neck bearing identification

dog days: days when hot, sultry, oppressive weather makes people lethargic and uncomfortable, like dogs panting and hanging out their tongues when it’s hot

dog collar: white, circular collar worn by a priest which resembles, of course, a dog’s collar

dogged: (2 syllables) a strong determination to succeed

like a dog with a bone: similar to 'dogged' though more apt if someone is stubborn, he doesn't give up.

sick as a dog: I'll leave that to your imagination!

every dog has its day: gets one's own back, revenge on someone, or turn the tables. Does this refer to a dog biting back or finally rebelling against a bad master?

a dog: ugly woman or a sexually predatory or aggressive man; reminds me of the Everly Brothers song, Bird-Dog!

you can’t teach an old dog new tricks: unkindly inferring that older people can’t change their old ways or learn about modern things e.g. technology. What is a selfie anyway?

dog in the manger: keeping something to yourself so that others can’t use it

hang-dog expression: looking ashamed of doing or saying something - like a dog that knows it’s done wrong, hangs its head and looks away. You know, like the one who's licked clean the custard bowl that was on the table!

Elvis' ‘Ain’t nothing but a hound dog', crying all the time, i.e. making a howling noise.

'Dog-on!': an expression to voice surprise, frustration or excess.

Two sisters and a Ditsy Dog

Suki | Source
Sheba | Source
Kizzie | Source

My Dogs

I’ve had several dogs:

  • a beautiful black Labrador called ‘Trudie’ but she had to go as she was too strong for me and didn’t have enough space to let off her constant energy,
  • a Sealyham called ‘Ben’ who had an ear problem and got grumpy and snapped,
  • two Labrador/Collie cross-breed sisters, Sheba and Suki; beautiful animals. Sheba was timid, Suki was friendly, bouncy and crazy! They were rescued along with 7 others of the litter from a dark shed. We chose them at the local dog sanctuary,
  • my daughter had a Springer Spaniel called Kizzie - she was totally crazy!

I love Border Collies, Lurchers and Greyhounds but I would not have another dog. The pain of parting is too great.

Choose Carefully!

Of course, if you get a dog, you need to do your homework. Consider factors like:

  • size (strength & enough space)
  • temperament
  • compatibility with children
  • exercise needs
  • kenneling when on holiday
  • vets' bills
  • not leaving it alone too long

You must realise the impact of the old cliché that a dog is for life. They depend on you. They need you.

They will also repay you one hundred-fold with loyalty, joy and companionship.

Do You Like Dogs?

What dog(s) have you had?

See results

© 2015 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Alicia. Glad you enjoyed this and the photos. I would have another dog but we are away far too much for it to be fair to the animal.


    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and very informative hub, Ann. I love the dog photos!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Oh, ok Jo; I'll ask John if it's his. Many thanks (((Jo)))


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, whonu. Glad you like this. Hope the dog enjoyed his walk!!


    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      4 years ago

      I am not sure if it isn't Jodah that wrote about a historic quote or not.

      I can't seem to find my hub for this? :(

    • whonunuwho profile image


      4 years ago from United States

      My dogs are dogging me to take them out again. Thanks for the nice work my friend. whonu

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much, Jo, for your kind comments and your votes. I'm glad you liked this and I'm so glad to hear from you.

      Whilst you're there, can you give me the link to your hub which challenged us to take an historical person's quote and write about it; I can't find your hub and I'd like to link it to my REALLY late response to your challenge!


      All the best ((((Jo))))


    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      4 years ago

      I really love this one the most! I love dogs. My husband is a cat person.

      I like cats, but my two babies are the best. :-)

      My Rasta is a Jack Russell and boxer. And my little Marley who just turned a year old the other day. He is a Yorkie Terrier.

      Marley is very sensitive and loves to be loved on. Rasta does too.

      But not so much anymore. :( Looking forward to reading your interesting, beautiful, funny and useful creations here. Up she goes

      Shared too. (((((((((((((( Ann )))))))))))))))) More hugs!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      I know, teaches, and I missed a few! Thankfully others are reminding me. Raining cats and dogs was another which someone mentioned in the 'cat' hub the other day - such an obvious one but I hadn't thought about it!

      Glad you like this and the photos; the black ones are my dogs, long gone and sorely missed. The Springer belonged to my daughter and granddaughter - also long gone.


    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      I didn't realize we had so many dog expressions. Very well done! Love the dog photos - so adorable.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, R.Q., for your visit and kind comments. The photos of the two labrador-cross sisters were taken by my father; he developed his own prints so I guess he was 'experimenting' with background.

      Weather marginally better today but not what I want from August! Ah well....

      Hope you have a good week.


    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      4 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      Quite a compendium you've imaginatively created here Ann during this dog watch with a tidy little tale to boot.

      The photographic rogues gallery of your fur-bound friends are great shots ( the sepia? background highlights their features admirably ).

      Thanks for the waggish read and hope you have a pleasant week, weather notwithstanding.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks so much, Chris. I'm glad it serves a purpose as well as being a fun thing to do. Your feedback is much appreciated. The next one is nearly ready!

      Have a good week and good luck with the competition.


    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      4 years ago from Kettering, Ohio through January, 2020

      Ann, I like what you are doing in this series. This process does make make me think more deeply about my word choices. Well done and very helpful.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Hi Shyron! Glad you got the dyslexic thing!

      I think the dog-tired and sick as.. is because they do everything in the extreme, just throw themselves down with tongues hanging out or throw it all up with gusto (or should that be gutso? sorry!).

      Thanks so much for your visit and kind support.


    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Ann, you know that I am a logophile and I love dogs also. What about dog tired, are dogs always tired? Or sick as a dog, are dogs always sick?

      I just got Ann, when you said Barney was dyslexic and being dyslexic he spelled the dog backwards -- so the dog's name was Dog.

      Blessings my friend

      Voted up, UABI and shared

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      lisavanvorst: Thanks for your visit and kind comments.

      Yes, I've had cats too and I do have a draft hub on 'cat' for this series. I've always preferred dogs but it's much easier to look after a cat, isn't it? They are self-sufficient and don't need taking for walks!


    • lisavanvorst profile image

      Lisa VanVorst 

      4 years ago from New Jersey

      I liked this hub. You never realize how many sayings include the word dog. I also liked the pictures. Today for me "Its a dog day afternoon", as I read hubs. I never owned a smaller breed. My family and when I got married, my husband always liked the larger breeds. I love dogs, but am more of a cat person. Hey, do you have any cat sayings you can do an article about?

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Mel. No, we don't have that expression here but it's a good one! It's fascinating to hear about the different idioms used across the pond, even though we speak (mostly!) the same language.

      I've got a few more ready for this series; it good to know that you think I should continue. I appreciate the support, Mel.

      Have a great weekend!


    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      Dog needs to quit dogging old Barny Barnacle out. Do you over on that side of the pond use the expression "Quit dogging me out?" It means quit harassing me, quit busting my chops (another idiom). Anyhow, this was a great hub, and I hope you keep this series up.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Flourish, for your kind comment. Good to see you.


    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      What an extensive array of dog saying. You are so creative in integrating them into a tale. Thee are a few I had heard of.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Hi, Frank! Thanks for reading; glad you got something out of it! I appreciate your comments very much and I'm pleased you like the series.

      Ann :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      I too am quite taken with this series, and I dont know why I enjoyed reading this one... I got alot out of it so you know

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      alancaster149: Yes, that's a good one, presumably closely linked to dogged determination. Thanks for the extra info on 'docga'; interesting.

      Glad to see you today and thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.


    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      'Lo again Ann. What about 'dogged' as in followed (close at heel).

      In my books (set 1066 and onward) I call them hounds (hearth hounds, hunting hounds, guard hounds). 'Docga' appeared only in Old High English and would have been pronounced 'dodger' (as 'brycg' is prounced roughly as 'bridge'); 'hund' = hound was used in the East Anglian vernacular version of the Peterborough Chronicle (E) after 1066, being an amalgam of Eastern English and Danelaw Danish.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Theresa. How lovely to see you today! Thanks for your wonderful comments.

      Is a cockapoo a cross between a cocker spaniel and a poodle? Never heard of that one before. Labradors are lovely aren't they? I must admit they were my favourites (at least the lab/cross ones I had, pictured here); they are so gentle and children-friendly.

      Hope you are well. I must give your site a well-overdue visit! Busy, busy!

      Have a great week!


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      Paintdrips: Your father sounds like a wonderful character. Barking is often a short version of barking mad but it sounds as though your Dad meant they were barking with pain. Lovely expression!

      What a great story about 'kickin doog'; that would be a good one to turn into a fiction hub - why not try (if you haven't already, that is)!

      Thanks so much for reading and providing your valuable input.

      Have a great day!


    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Ann,

      What a delightful read here and so cleverly written with all of the dog phrases! I learned a few new ones for sure. Oh, your photos of your dogs are beautiful ...sweethearts.

      I have had mostly Labs in my life, black, yellow and chocolate now. We had a Jack Russell Terrier and some collies when I was a child and then a cockapoo too, I think is what he was called...when I was a teenager LOL

      I always love reading your hubs for they are always different from all others.


    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      4 years ago from Fresno CA

      I don't know if it was just my father's expression or if it was a local term in Indiana but he always called his feet "dogs" and his dogs were usually so tired they were barking. It was his own personal joke I think. He had a twang to his speech and spoke of having a hound dog when he was a boy. He said dogs were those cute little lap animals that never had to hunt or work, but a boy needs a doog, which was his hound dog to go huntin' with. He said when he was out doing nothing with his doog, he was kickin' doog. People were always afraid we were abusing out animals because we children picked up the term kickin' doog. It never had anything to do with kicking a dog, just kicking around WITH the dog. He was a funny guy and I miss him.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      4 years ago from SW England

      So good to see you first on the doorstep, bill, and I'm so glad you called it a 'series'. I was thinking of continuing as I have lots in the wings but I wanted the feedback first. So you've spurred me on.

      'Fun read' was what I was aiming for so that's made me smile. Thanks for the suggestion - I could try one on 'brilliant' but then I think I'll leave that one to you! 'Jack' is a great one - do finish it soon!

      Those goats are certainly giving you a run for your money. Good luck, bill!


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I love this new series and quite frankly, only one word will do it justice....BRILLIANT! :) I actually tried this exercise several weeks ago with the word/name Jack....never finished it, but it's there waiting for me.

      Fun read my friend. Gotta run...the goats are hungry.



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