Richard Bailey (Am.Dial. Soc.) on animal terms

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Fri Jan 14 03:13:06 UTC 2005

> Ads-l member Richard Bailey was interviewed for the item below, forwarded by J. McCollum  to Barry Popik and then to me. Btw, the 1870s are way too early for "hot dog" = hot sausage; (first attestation:1895, Yale, discovered by Barry).  As for "eat crow," Barry also treated this item in his article: "Material for the Study of _Eat Crow_: Three Versions of Humorous Story Agree That Scotch Snuff Made the Boiled Crow Particularly Unappetizing." in: _Comments on Etymology_, Oct. 2003, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 7-9.
> Gerald Cohen
> ----------
> From:         Joe McCollum
> Sent:         Thursday, January 6, 2005 6:51 PM
> To:   bapopik at
> Subject:      NewsEMail
> Hey, I don't belong to the linguistics listserv any more, but take a look
> at:
>  Talking About Words
>   With Prof. Richard W. Bailey
>   Eating crow, hot-dogging it and other animal metaphors
>   quick and dead.
>  (Embedded image moved to file: pic09550.jpg)A spiritual
>   discipline known as breatharianism invites its adherents to
>   eat only air. Vegetarians eat vegetables. Fruitarians eat
>   fruit. Breatharians may be forced to eat solid food
>   sometimes but only because air pollution interferes with
>   the assimilation of the four gasses fundamental to life:
>   hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. In a better,
>   cleaner world, breatharians could thrive solely on inhaling
>   and exhaling.
>   English-speaking breatharians face a further obstacle: Our
>   language is designed for carnivores and, everywhere we
>   look, we discover the traces of meat-eating. Eating crow is
>   accepting humiliation. Chow (and the verb chow down) comes
>   straight into American English from the China trade. It
>   means, as a California newspaper of 1856 explained,
>   > "> something good to eat.> ">  So a chow hound is doubly a dog
>   since the food eaten comes metaphorically from the edible
>   Chinese dog, the chow chow, and the eager eating from a
>   famished beagle or blue-tick.
>    Hot dog (a noun to describe a cocksure young man) and the
>   hot dog (an adjective for something pleasant or exciting)
>   were recorded in American college slang at almost the same
>   time> -> the former at Yale and the latter at Michigan, both in
>   the 1890s. (At the University in 1896, a student reported
>   that there were some hot dog drawings available.)
>   Not long after that we got hot dog! the equivalent of
>   > "> Bravo!> "> -> and its companions: hot doggies! and hot diggety
>   dog! Nowadays aviators, surfers, snowboarders and all
>   manner of athletes attract attention by hot-dogging, though
>   these verbal meanings came much later. (Somewhere in this
>   barking collection of words come the wiener or frankfurter.
>   Examples of eating hot dogs come earlier than these
>   meanings, and in the 1870s it was common for people to
>   frequent the hot-dog parlors of New York. It remains to be
>   seen how the sausage made a metaphor for the sassy and
>   smart.)
>   Greedy people wolf down food or pig out. In The Merry Wives
>   of Windsor, Shakespeare gave us the expression, > "> The
>   world's mine oyster> ">  for having boundless opportunities,    >
>   having a juicy delicacy to slurp down.
>  Animals are not just the eating or the eaten, of course.
>   Animals are everywhere. > "> Don't have a cow, man,> ">  admonishes
>   Bart Simpson. He might as well have said go bananas, but
>   Bart's an animal guy. People flounder around indecisively,
>   weasel out of obligations, horse around having fun,
>   squirrel away their savings, beef up their resumé, chicken
>   out when courage fails, grouse about their boss, beaver
>   away at their job, outfox the competition.
>   Of course some of these expressions just look like animals.
>   The bum steer (bad advice) is probably not bovine, any more
>   than we should expect quacking in duck down or duck out.
>   But once these words come to our attention, we want the
>   animals to come alive.
>   (Embedded image moved to file: pic30894.jpg)
>   We imagine animals. Is there a bison in the person who is
>   buffaloed by a problem? Do dances like the mamba and the
>   bunny hug actually resemble the behavior of the creatures
>   for which they seem to be named? Is there a baby deer
>   hovering around the person who fawns on her best friend or
>   a tropical bird squawking in the guy who parrots the ideas
>   of others?
>   Some of these metaphors we can be pretty sure about if
>   we've seen the beast involved. Clam up makes sense, but
>   does the mullet > "> bad hair style> ">  have something to do with
>   the fish? Bear hug, yes, but have a gander, no. People can
>   be catty or turkeys or gorillas or coltish or skunks. Do
>   animals come to mind with equal vividness? Go bats and buck
>   naked are not very obviously connected with animals at all.
>   Everybody has a different piece of the language and a
>   different set of associations and imaginings. Some of these
>   animals are quick, some dead. They are all metaphors.
>  (Crow image on front page from quilt at
>   (Embedded image moved to file: pic08892.jpg)Richard W.
>   Bailey is the Fred Newton Scott Collegiate Professor of
>   English. His most recent book is Rogue Scholar: The
>   Sinister Life and Celebrated Death of Edward H. Rulloff,
>   University of Michigan Press, 2003> -> a biography of an
>   American thief, impostor, murderer and would-be philologist
>   who lived from 1821 to 1871. It was published by the
>   University of Michigan Press in 2003.
>  U-M News Service Link:

More information about the Ads-l mailing list