September 27, 2005

the history of dog

where does the word dog come from? suprisingly, this is far from clear. here is what the oxford english dictionary has got to say:

"dog: late OE. docga (once in a gloss); previous history and origin unknown. (The generic name in OE., as in the Teutonic langs. generally, was hund: see HOUND.) So far as the evidence goes, the word appears first in English, as the name of a powerful breed or race of dogs, with which the name was introduced into the continental languages, usually, in early instances, with the attribute ‘English’. Thus mod.Du. dog, late e 16th c. dogge (‘een dogghe, vn gros matin d'Engleterre, canis anglicus’, Plantijn Thesaur. 1573), Ger. dogge, in 16-17th c. dock, docke, dogg (‘englische Dock’, Onomast. 1582, ‘eine englische Docke’, 1653), LG. dogge, Da. dogge, Sw. dogg; F. dogue (‘le genereux dogue anglais’, Du Bellay 15..), It., Sp., Pg. dogo, Pg. also dogue; in all the languages applied to some variety or race of dog."

the idiom it's raining cats and dogs was first recorded in 1652 ("It shall raine..Dogs and Pole cats"), to dog-sit is about 10 years younger than dog-sitter (another case of back formation), dog's meat is rhyming slang for feet, to see a man about a dog has been around since 1867 and it has been used as a euphemistic expression for buying liquor, visiting the restroom, and for absenting oneself.
  • and what about puppy?
well, first of all, puppy is older than pup. secondly, puppy corresponds to French poupée "a doll, a woman likened to a doll as a dressed-up inanity, a lay figure used in dressmaking or as a butt in shooting; also, contextually, a plaything, hobby, toy (e.g. il en fait sa poupée), whence app. in Eng. ‘a dog used as a plaything, a toy dog’, a sense unknown to French. The doll- and woman- senses of F. poupée are usually represented in Eng. by puppet."

The word has been around in English since the 15th century, but the first usage in writing in the meaning "small dog" is from Shakespeare ("One that I brought up of a puppy: one that I sau'd from drowning, when three or foure of his blinde brothers and sisters went to it.", Two Gentleman of Verona, 1591).

No comments: