- Books, Literature, and Writing»
- Commercial & Creative Writing
Take a Word.... DOG: Etymology, Sayings & Short Story 'The Old Sea Dog'
Just a Dog
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'
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=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.
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
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.
“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.”
I can jump
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.
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'
Copyright annart/AFC 2015
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 & a Ditsy Dog
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.
Of course, if you get a dog, you need to do your homework. Consider factors like:
- size (strength & enough space)
- 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.