In Reply to: Screw the pooch posted by Smokey Stover on May 16, 2010 at 18:51:
: : I would like to know about the origin of the phrase 'screw the pooch.'
: T think you can call this an Americanism. The Wiktionary has the following explanation:
: The term was first documented in the early "Mercury" days of the US space program. It came there from a Yale graduate named John Rawlings who helped design the astronauts' space suits. The phrase is actually a bastardization of an earlier, more vulgar and direct term which was slang for doing something very much the wrong way, as in "you are fucking the dog!" At Yale a friend of Rawlings', the radio DJ Jack May (a.k.a. "Candied Yam Jackson") amended this term to "screwing the pooch" which was simultaneously less vulgar and more pleasing to the ear.
: The term, however, did not enter the popular lexicon until Tom Wolfe used it in his book about the space program, The Right Stuff, where it was used to describe a supposed mistake by astronaut Gus Grissom.
: I don't think I need to explain why screwing the pooch is a huge mistake. But it's interesting to speculate.
I was suprised to see this phrase started its life with an entirely different meaning from the one that most people would think of today. Around here, "fucking the dog" (and the sanitized versions "screwing the pooch","seducing the hound") mean to do nothing or to do nothing productive, often while making it look like your are doing something worthwhile. It happens a lot when the boss is away. When in mixed company, my friends and I use "feeding the fish".