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See a man about a dog

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 10, 2006

In Reply to: See a man about a dog posted by antiquary 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)

: 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

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