Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sun Aug 12 18:51:09 UTC 2012

See my 2004 post --

-- for my general thoughts which I think are similar to JL's.

Here is one more item from 1900 (excuse me if it's been quoted before):


_New York Times_, '30 Oct. 1900': from Web archive, I don't see a page no.:

<<"I t'ought dey was all me fren's," he said to the police, "but when I
got in ter Mike's dese mutts dey tries to swoipe me dough. ....">>


As for why "mutt" has tended to be applied specifically to mongrel dogs,
here is an item of possible tangential interest from Australia from 1927
(from NLA archive):


_Western Mail_, Perth, W. A., 15 Dec. 1927: p. 44:

<<Wild Dogs. / As regards vermin proof fences it is unfortunate that
these are essential and some action should be taken by the Government to
eradicate wild dogs on Crown lands. / This paper recently published
photos of dogs at a kennel show and remarked that these were the sort of
animals that gave the pastoralist bad dreams. The complete control of
the dog question is a point that should be aimed at for, while granting
the splendid characteristics of the canine race, if the opportunity be
given, any dog from a wolf-hound downwards (we may except the Pekinese
and his kind) will turn into a mutton hound. The country north of
Yilgarn is a veritable breeding ground for wild dogs and the broken
country between the settled parts and Mt. Churchman is the home of
innumerable half bred dogs. The extended terms on which netting is now
available should bring a vermin-proof fence within the reach of every
settler who is otherwise in a position to carry sheep.>>


As for whether there is any evidence at all that "muttonhead" was
shortened to "mutt", I don't know of any. Similarly, I have no evidence
for "mutton dog/hound/lover" being shortened to "mutt". One can generate
other speculations (e.g., at some times in some places the consumption
of mutton was considered low-class and so derogatory "mutton eater" or
so might have existed and might have been shortened). These speculations
are fun and provide hypotheses to be checked against the available
historical record.

The 1898 citation which I presented in my 2004 post had "mut" referring
to a poor newspaper boy. One can compare "tyke", which apparently meant
"low-class dog", later "low-class person" and "[unfortunate] child".
Perhaps the same progression occurred with "mutt" -- but only "perhaps",
since so far evidence seems to be lacking!

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society -

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