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Going to see a man about a horse

Posted by ESC on August 05, 2003

In Reply to: Going to see a man about a dog posted by James Briggs on August 05, 2003

: : : 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.

Interesting. A variation: see a man about a horse. That form was used by a musician on a CD I own. The guy was leaving the stage to use drugs so I am guessing that the "horse" was h****n.

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