Out on a limb
We’ve gone to the dogs this week…
In a dog’s age – The expression is actually adapted from two forms originally used back in the old West. The first expression, “in a crow’s age”, was used because that was the most common living critter out and about most towns. It was changed to “in a coon’s age” because raccoons live longer. Finally, when the word “coon” took on racial overtones, the more familiar version took form. It ultimately suggests something that will last a long time.
It’s a dog’s life – Most expressions that include dog are old enough to be based in times when dogs were kept as watchdogs or hunting animals, not pets. They often weren’t allowed in the house, but were kept in kennels, fed scraps, worked hard and often died young. Specifically, it’s a dog’s life is first recorded in the sixteenth century and seems to have remained in the language with the sense of “a life of misery” or of miserable subservience.
Every dog has his day – According to the medieval Dutch scholar Erasmus, the saying came about as a result of the death of the Greek playwright Euripides, who in 405 B.C. was mauled and killed by a pack of dogs loosed upon him by a rival. Thus the saying is usually taken to mean that even the most lowly person will at some time get revenge on his oppressor, no matter how powerful the man may be. The Greek philosopher Plutarch recorded the proverb for the first time in A.D. c. 95 as “Even a dog gets his revenge” and Richard Taverner included the first version in English, “A dogge hath a day”, centuries later in 1539. What was virtually the modern form appeared in 1670 from writer John Ray as “Every dog hath his day”.