Posted by Lewis on May 11, 2006
In Reply to: See a man about a horse posted by RRC on May 10, 2006
: : : : got to see a man about a dog- there are a few different meanings behind it, but isnt it derived from early cockney slang- gotta see a man about a dog... 'gotta go to the bog' ? (just like dustbin lids is meant for 'kids' etc)
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: : : That's ingenious, but I don't think I agree. OED finds the expression 'see a man about a dog' first used in an 1860s melodrama by the Irish-American playwright Dion Boucicault, who doesn't seem a very likely user of Cockney rhyming slang. Eric Partridge in his 'Dictionary of Historical Slang' defines it as meaning to urinate, but also as meaning to have a drink, and (as he primly puts it) 'to visit a woman sexually'.
: : Nobody ever gives us context. Or not willingly. The phrase "I have to see a man about a dog" has quite a history. Type "see a man about a dog" into the search box, top of the previous page. Both the OED and Partridge can tell you what the phrase has meant to at least some users of it, but not what it means to whomever you got it from. For that you need context, perhaps quite a bit. In the rural U.S.A. it has pretty consistently meant "I've gotta pee." Or, "I'm going to see a man about a dog," I'm going to pee, usually at least a short distance away. (Otherwise the statement would be moot.) Perhaps to the boys and men I grew up with, the image of a dog naturally suggested the act of lifting the leg (although that's not precisely the way it's done by most men). SS
: The rhyming explanation also does little to explain the equally popular "see a man about a horse". Horses pee like a racehorse (^_^) but they don't rhyme with any word I can think of for toilet.
"I've got to see a man about...a dog" has a well-established UK use of making a departure to an undisclosed destination. when I were a lad, it were used to indicate that the destination was none of the hearer's [i.e. my] business. I did not often hear it used for going for a pee, for which there were many other euthemisms, but rather just 'out'. the one place the person was not going was to see a man about a dog.
it did mean 'out' so could be used to visit an outside privvy, but that was just one of many possible destinations and the implication was that the speaker was going to be some time.
I'm puzzled that the alleged origin should be so late [mid 1800s].
I've lived most of my life (so far) within the amplified range of Bow Bells & I don't reckon on it being rhyming slang at all, but if you take a captain (Captain Hook=look) at the Peregrines (Peregrine Took=Book), me old silver (silver plate=mate), you may golden (golden plover=discover) the gravy (original sauce/source).