To see a man about a dog

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A Dog About A Man

⭕ There’s no doubt about it: English is a challenging language to learn, and that’s largely because it’s full of bizarre colloquialisms that, when you stop and think about them, don’t appear to make much sense to anybody.

⭕ To see a man about a dog, or to see a man about a horse according to Wikipedia, “Usually used as a way to say one needs to apologise for one’s imminent departure or absence—generally to euphemistically conceal one’s true purpose, such as going to use the toilet or going to buy a drink.”

⭕ The phrase has several meanings but all refer to taking one’s leave for some urgent purpose, especially to go to the bathroom or going to buy a drink. What does dog mean in this context? Nothing! As far as I can tell, the phrase is used to discourage further inquiry. Another variation is “I’ve got to see a dog about a man.” I remember another expression that has a dog in it but has a different meaning: “I’ve got no dog in this fight.” If you have no dog in a fight, you are not concerned and will not be affected either way by the outcome of something.

⭕ “Go kill a dog” is sometimes used to indicate going to defecate. Here the reference is much more direct, alluding to the smells associated with the act. It’s the room we most often frequent, but good manners dictate that we avoid direct references to the toilet at all costs. In my mother tongue we often use a similar expression just between friends to avoid direct reference to the toilet, “I’ve to make a call, I will be back soon”.

⭕ To see a man about a dog (or horse) – “Although in the late nineteenth century, to ‘see a man about a dog’ meant to visit a woman for sexual purposes, it now means to go to the bathroom. It is, obviously, a traditional answer to the questions Where are you going or What’s your destination? The variations on these expressions are endless and include: Go see a dog about a horse, go and see a dog about a man, go and shoot a dog, go and feed a dog, go and feed the goldfish, go and mail a letter and go to one’s private office.” From the “The Wordsworth Book of Euphemism” by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver (Wordsworth Editions, Hertfordshire, 1995).

⭕ To sum up, if you need to take care of some business and don’t necessarily want to share all the details, then you can say you are going to see a man about a dog and no one will ask any further questions. Well, that’s my two pennies worth. But excuse me, I have to see a man about a dog…

A Man About A Dog

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