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Horse phrases

Posted by ESC on March 01, 2004

In Reply to: Phrases posted by William Haack on March 01, 2004

: Would like to know the origin of: "changing horses in the middle of the stream" and "see a man about a horse".

Summarizing from previous discussion, the phrase "see a man about a horse (or dog)" relates to a person being "unwilling to reveal the true nature of his or her business."


I've written previously about some of my grandfather's expressions.

It also occurs to me that when I used to visit my grandparents as a child, my grandmother and grandfather had different ways of referring to going to the toilet. He would say "I'm going to see a man about a dog" and she would say "I need to spend a penny". I can guess the origins of her expression but am less clear on the origins of his. Any ideas?

: : : Could both be classified as euphemisms? Are there many similar expressions?

: : Yes. "Going to go see Miss Murphy."

: To explain the phrase for non-native English speakers: When someone says that they are going to see a man about a dog they really mean that they are unwilling to reveal the true nature of their business.

: The expression comes from the long forgotten 1866 play Flying Scud by a prolific Irish-born playwright of the period named Dion Boucicault. One of the characters uses the words as an excuse to get away from a tricky situation. This character, an eccentric and superannuated old jockey, says: "Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can't stop; I've got to see a man about a dog". This is the only thing that seems to have survived from the play.

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