Q. A dog's what
A. In addition to its literal sense, as in dog biscuit, dog is used in combination to denote the male of certain animals (dog ape, dog fox and dog otter); to denote inferior plants or those that are worthless as food (dog briar, dog cabbage, dog grass, dog leek, dog lichen, dog's mercury, dog parsley, dog rose, dog violets and dog wheat); or to express spuriousness or some mongrel quality, as in dog's logic and dog latin.
Q. Are they all derogatory terms
A. Mostly, but not all. English is thick with doggy locutions, and from talking of someone leading 'a dog's life' (Erasmus) to vaunting something as 'the dog's b******s' (anon, but given recent currency by Viz magazine), many of these idioms have some sympathy for dogs. We give a 'dog a bad name', we feel 'dog-tired', we haven't got 'a dog's chance'.
Q. Very versatile then
A. Indeed. Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
subdivides the long entry of the use of the word 'dog' under eleven categories:
1. Dogs of note
2. Dogs of noted persons
3. Dogs models of their specie
4. Dogs in phrases
5. Dogs used metaphorically, etc.
6. Dogs in the language of the Scriptures
7. Dogs in art
8. Dogs in proverbs and fables
9. Dogs in superstitions
10. Dogs, the male of animals
11. Dogs , inferior plants.
Dogs even make their way to primetime television: Dog Eat Dog, the Ulrika Jonsson comp�red BBC game show.
Q. But do dogs really eat each other
A. The title phrase is a modern turning on its head of an old saying: 'dog does not eat dog' (from an even older Latin proverb). A dog-eat-dog world is one gone wrong - an unnatural state.
Q. So every dog has its day
A. Well you may be enjoying luck or success now, but my turn will come in due course. A Latin equivalent is Hodie mihi, cras tibi (Today to me, tomorrow to thee).
'Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.'
- Hamlet, William Shakespeare
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By Simon Smith