Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Trivia: "Dog Eat Dog"

© Melis82 and © Korshenkov | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Believe it or not, this saying actually began as "dog does not eat dog"!
And it was quite well known - in that form - literally for centuries.

The saying dates back to the writings of Roman scholar and writer Marcus Tarentius Varro. In a commentary on the human condition written in 43 BCE, he observed that even "Canis caninam non est" ("Dog does not eat dog").

The point he was making is that sometimes humans can act in ways that 'lesser creatures' never would: through the destruction of their own kind. In light of the horrendous act of terror perpetrated on innocent victims in Boston, this seems tragically timely....

By the 16th century, there is evidence that the phrase had been turned around, with "dog eat dog" being used to describe the ruthlessly competitive individual.

Both phrases were in use up until the late 1800's. Shakespeare was still using it in its original form in 1602 when he wrote Troilus and Cressida (one of his lesser known works) as was Hugh Henry Brackenridge in his book, 'Modern Chivalry,' published in 1792.

Not surprisingly, by the time of the Industrial Revolution, phrases such as "it's a dog eat dog world" had become commonplace, and eventually overtook the original phrase altogether.
The Word Detective
Etymology Online
Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Gregory Y. Titelman, Random House, New York, 1996.

Comment-a-thon Update: We've had over 130 comments since last Sunday, and at 50 cents each - well, we talked mom into rounding up to $75 to donate to the Jackson Galaxy fundraiser that will be held here in Kansas City in 3 weeks. Thank you all for participating!


  1. We did not know any of that. Thanks. Have a terrific Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Dog will never eat dog. There's also this belief in our country that if you eat dogs, dogs will know this and they will growl at you.

    Speaking of hot dog, it's really hot in here. This 2PM, the temperature rose to 36 degrees Celsius. With 49% humidity, it's really a skull cracker.

  3. Interesting evolution of the meaning ; a sad insight into the human condition. In our world these days, it seems there are way too many dogs willing to eat each other!

    the critters in the cottage xo

  4. So glad your commentathon was so successful. That is terrific. Interesting info about 'a dog eat dog world'.
    Have a great day.

  5. We like the original meaning MUCH better!!!

    The Chans (and a woof from Tommy)

  6. We had absolutely no idea! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Very interesting!
    Wow, the commentathon did great!

  8. Me thinks me likes the original better!

  9. Totally thick, we knew none of that..LOL good job we started blogging as we are learning so much :) xx00xxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  10. That photo is so cute...."dog eat dog" is another one I've wondered about. Thanks for enlightening me!


  11. That is really interesting...I'd like to see us go back to the original phrase and remind ourselves of the truth of it regularly

  12. Our mom loves hot dogs even though she knows they aren't good for her!

  13. Well, it must come from the story of a hunter who killed a moose and packed it on his sled. When a pack of wolves followed, he tossed off the moose and the wolves ate it, then a few sled dogs and the wolves ate THEM. and( (horribly) his guide fell off and was eaten. Then the wolves turned on each other smelling the moose meat in them.

    The one wolf left approached snarling, fangs bared.

    But it fell fell over dead just as he approached the hunter (conveniently out of bullets). Well so would you if you had a moose, 5 sled dogs, 10 fellow wolves and a guide in your stomach!

  14. I say it's a cat-eat-tuna world.

    Think my saying will catch on? *looking for tuna*

  15. Very interesting origins of that expression, and neat to read how it's changed!

  16. Very interesting!
    Uh Oh! Did we miss a commantathon? Can we be late? Comment comment comment!


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