Monday, July 03, 2006

July 3: Dog Days

Today is the first day of what is known as the Dog Days of Summer. The association of summer with “man’s best friend” comes to our language via ancient astronomy. During the period from July 3 through August 11, the Dog Star, Sirius, rises in conjunction with the Sun. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky and is part of the constellation Canis Major, Latin for the Greater Dog.

Some ancient Romans believed that the sultry heat of the Dog Days was explained by the combined heat of Sirius and the sun; however, even in the days before the telescope, this belief was more prominent among the superstitious than serious students of the stars.

English is replete with idioms (expressions that don't make sense when taken literally) related to dogs. And it is interesting to note that despite the dog’s reputation for being “man’s best friend,” most of the expressions use dog in the negative sense. For example, they are used as scapegoats for missing homework: “My dog ate my homework.” They are associated with sickness: “Sick as a dog.” And they are even used to characterize the life in general as harsh and cut throat: “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

Today’s Challenge: Dog Daze
Identify the common idioms containing dog based the clues below. For each idiom you are given the number of words in the expression and a brief literal translation of the meaning of idiom as it might be used in everyday speech.

1. Five words: Don’t make something unimportant the most important thing.
2. Five words: You’re searching in the wrong place.
3. Four words: My feet are very tired.
4. Four words: My wife is very mad at me.
5. Seven words: He’s not really as mean as he seems.
6. Eight words: Some people will never change.
7. Four words: Don’t remind him of your past conflicts.
8. Five words: Every person is successful at something at some point in his/her life.

Quote of the Day: To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs. --Aldous Huxley

Answers: 1. The tail wagging the dog 2. Barking up the wrong tree. 3. My dogs are barking
4. In the dog house 5. His bark is worse than his bite 6. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 7. Let sleeping dogs lie. 8. Every dog has its day

1 – Claiborne, Robert. Loose Cannons and Red Herrings: A Book of Lost Metaphors. New York: Ballantine Books, 1988.

1 comment:

Brian Fox said...

One of the three family dogs accompanied four of the six family members on a trip to Bow, WA today. We celebrated day one of "dog days" with a road trip, dropping off our oldest and then exploring Anacortes. I loved it up there so much that I checked out the school district, looking for employment. It was great to find your name, and a promo for your new book. It looks as if life is good. It's great to see you doing well.