"screw the pooch"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jan 15 02:28:51 UTC 2014

On Jan 14, 2014, at 8:27 PM, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:

> On Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 08:21:35PM -0500, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> On Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 5:57 PM, David A. Daniel wrote:
>>> Ben Zimmer wrote:
>>>> Researching "screw the pooch" took me in some interesting directions.
>>>> I wrote up my findings for my Wall St. Journal column:
>>>> http://on.wsj.com/poochbz
>>>> (If paywalled, just Google the title, "The Pedigree Of a Naughty 'Pooch'")
>>>> And here is the longer unexpurgated story for Slate's Lexicon Valley:
>>>> http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2014/01/14/screw_the_pooch_etymology_of_the_idiom_dates_back_to_nasa_and_the_military.html
>>> But wait, "fuck the dog", AFAIK, means and has always meant to do nothing,
>>> procrastinate, futz, waste time. If "screw the pooch" is a euphemism for
>>> FTD, how did it get from "doing nothing" to "committing an egregious
>>> blunder" in the NASA and Ms. Ward sense? Therein lies the missing link, I
>>> think.
>> In "The F-Word," Jesse has examples of "fuck the dog" meaning 'to
>> blunder' going back to John Oliver Killens' novel _And Then We Heard
>> the Thunder_ (1962), which takes place during WWII.
> (I should note that this quotation was not one of my discoveries, but
> was taken from Lighter's HDAS, the original source of _The F-Word_.)
Where it also shows up in the form "screw the dog" and "finger the dog".
1.  loaf on the job, esp. while pretending to be hard at work; fool around; waste time
2.  bungle; blunder  [with the Killens quote Jesse mentions]

Oh, and on both senses "fuck/screw/finger the dog" is "usu. considered vulgar".  (Aha!)  And there's a tantalizing "cf. _screw the pooch_, s.v. pooch".  If only we could.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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