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Until the last dog is hung

Posted by ESC on June 11, 2010 at 21:02

In Reply to: Until the last dog is hung posted by Brenda on June 11, 2010 at 20:28:

: What is the origin of the phrase, "I won't be home until the last dog is hung?"

We've got theories:

UNTIL THE LAST DOG IS HUNG - "The earliest appearance of this phrase in print that we have been able to locate is in a novel by Stewart Edward White. Called 'The Blazed Trail,' it was published in 1902 and contains this line: 'They were loyal. It was a point of honor with them to stay 'until the last dog was hung.' White spent much of his early life on the frontier, first in the West, later in the Hudson Bay country. We would hazard the guess that the original 'dogs' hung were of the human species and that the reference is to the kind of vigilante lynchings known as 'necktie parties' in the early West. Nowadays, of course, the expression is most often heard in reference to the inevitable two or three people at every cocktail party who hang around everlastingly -- 'until the last dog is hung' and the host shows them the door." From the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).

"Even now things that people thought of as regional attitudes and expressions come straight from the Senecas. When anybody from around here wanted to say they were still present at the end of a big party, they would say they had 'stayed until the last dog was hung.' Most of them probably had no idea anymore that they were talking about the Seneca New Year's celebration in the winter, where on the fifth day they used to strangle a white dog and hang it on a pole, Nobody had done that for at least a hundred years." From "Dance for the Dead," a Jane Whitefield novel by Thomas Perry (Random House, New York, 1996)

And more recently:

Posted by Michael Scheib on February 19, 2010 at 19:56

'Until the last dog is hung' originates with Henry VII. At the conclusion of the War of the Roses, Henry VII pitted a pack of dogs against a lion to demonstrate what would happen to traitors in his kingdom. The lion lost--which is not what Henry expected. To make his muddled point clear, Henry had every dog hung--and made his nobles watch till the last of them was dispatched. The story is related in The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George.