• dog •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A domestic four-legged carnivore, common as a pet, that is related to wolves and foxes. 2. A bad or ugly person (Ivan Oder is such a dog with women). 3. A bad or ugly piece of work (He just produced a dog of a movie, too).
Notes: The Dog Days of summer here in North American bring today's Good Word to mind. Dogs are such commonplace pets their name has become deeply embedded in our vocabulary. Actually, in Late Latin the hottest days of summer were called (dies) caniculares "(days) of the dog" because they coincided with the period when the "dog" star, Sirius, rose with the sun. This Roman word for "of the dog" remained as the French word for "heat wave", canicule. Russian borrowed it for their word kanikuly "holidays". The islands known for their dogs, called Insulae Canariae "Islands of the Dogs" in earlier Classical Latin, suffered a mishap on its way to English: someone misinterpreted Canariae as canary, so English speakers have to puzzle over where all the canaries on the Canary Islands have gone.
In Play: For all our love of dogs, the word dog itself has gone to the dogs. Bad things are most often associated with the word. Not only bad people and work are called "dogs", but bad poetry is known as doggerel. Dogs are portrayed as relentless plodders in the verb to dog and the word appears in an exclamation of disappointment: "Doggone it!" The only bright spot in the semantics of today's Good Word is the British idiom, dressed like the dog's dinner, which means dressed smartly if maybe a little showy. But then, the dog's breakfast means a mess: his room looked like the dog's breakfast.
Word History: No one knows where today's Good Word came from. In Old English is was docga and apparently referred to a guard dog, probably one used around palaces. We find the word in other languages like Dutch dog, Danish dogge, Russian dog but meaning "mastiff" or "great Dane". All of these words were borrowed from English. As we see above, however, many words have been derived from it since Old English. A doggery is either a gang or rabble, or a scuzzy saloon where creepy characters congregate. A dog in the manger deprives others of things they need, and so forth and so on, and on, and on.
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