Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Like a dog with two tails

Sometimes, a saying just strikes you as having its roots in a certain culture. For me, this is one of them. This saying just seems cut from the cloth of the Deep South. (Not cut from whole cloth, mind you. That's another saying unto itself!)

I'm happy to say I was right. Sort of.

Okay, not really. Unless the Deep South you're referring to is South Canada.  (Who knew there was a North and a South Canada?)

Brief History Lesson

At one time both Lower and Upper Canada existed as a part of the colony New
France, established in 1534. By France. (Yeah, we figured you'd guessed that part).

France, ca. 1730. Map courtesy
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Then came the Seven Years' War.

When France lost to Great Britain, all of Canada was relinquished to the British.  It evolved into "Upper Canada" and "Lower Canada" as a way to acknowledge the lifestyles of the settlers in each respective area.

Most of those living in the upper basin at the time were British expatriates while those living in the area that is modern-day Quebec were French.

The Constitutional Act of 1791 was passed as a way to allow British immigrants the freedoms of their English laws and institutions while the French-speaking population of Lower Canada could keep French civil law and their predominantly Catholic religion.

So what does this have to do 
with dogs and two tails?

This pup's wagging so fast, he seems
 to have 2 tails! photo: smerikal,
Creative Commons 2.0
Not that much really, except I was so sure this term sounded like something out of the Deep South. Which led me to the discovery that it came from South Canada. Which I hadn't even known existed prior to this little research jaunt.

What was most intriguing to me: most sources that trace the origins of idioms didn't know this. They cite the earliest published use of this idiom as being from an early 20th century journal published by Duke University, called American Speech.

I found only one somewhat obscure reference that led me to a quote written over 100 years earlier.

You see, there was this Scottish engineer named John Mactaggart who journeyed to Upper and Lower Canada.  He was hired to help build a bridge over the Ottawa River at the Chaudière Falls to join the two Canadas together.

Upon his return to England, he wrote Three Years in Canada, and in that book, he declared, "Off went the Laird, as proud as a dog with two tails."

Betcha you didn't expect to get a history lesson today, did you?

The Oxford English Dictionary
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Wikipedia - Upper & Lower Canada
Metaphor Dogs
"Three Years in Canada," John McTaggart. 1829.


  1. Arr - ye be tellin' us tall tales!

    Pirates of Wildcat Woods

  2. A tall tail or tails..LOL. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. We love our history lessons BOL and the tails you tell :) xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  4. Hah! Whisky would like to ask if the dog would spare her a tail!

  5. meeeeYARRRR! we likes yer tail tale right well, we does!

  6. We expected pirates, but we're always open to learning new things even if they in some way refer to woofies. Thanks for coming to our birthday party and singing for us. You all are pawsome. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  7. Ooooh! Interesting! But you left us dangling!! What was the "20th century journal published by Duke University, called….. "?

  8. Argggh (har har har)! Ye be spinning a mighty fine yarn, mateys!

  9. Austin: ooops! Blogger (ha, and by Blogger we mean our MOM) somehow scrambled that paragraph - two lines were out of order. It's fixed now!!

  10. Now we found this history lesson quite interesting!!!

  11. Nope, we sure didn't expect to get a history lesson today. :)

  12. We had no idea there was a north and south Canada. Of course, we know there is the French part and the rest of Canada. It was really interesting!

  13. I feel so much wiser now, thanks!!

  14. It does so sound like from south usa.. Great post


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