Dog-day reading

In Act 5, scene 1 of “Hamlet,” Hamlet returns to Denmark after narrowly escaping death on the high seas only to discover that his beloved Ophelia has not-so-accidentally drowned – a result of her grief over Hamlet killing her father – and her bro, Laertes, is none too happy. Hamlet is a bit surprised by Laertes’ coldness. (You know, Hamlet, for someone who is much smarter than anyone else in literature, you can be extraordinarily obtuse.)

Still, this being Shakespeare, he rises to the occasion.

“I loved you ever,” he tells Laertes. “But it is no matter. Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew and dog will have his day.”

Hence, the origin – well, one of the origins, the phrase has older variations – of the expression “Every dog has his day,” which in turn inspired a Toby Keith song and no doubt Sidney Lumet’s brilliantly wacky “Dog Day Afternoon,” with Al Pacino as a bank robber who gets his moment in the media sun.

And doggone it, if it isn’t one of the expressions you’ll find in “You’re My Dawg, Dog: A Lexicon of Dog Terms for People,” (Welcome Books), written by Donald Friedman and illustrated by J.C. Suarès.

Here are a few excerpts. For more, including full texts of some entries, we refer you and your pooch to your soon-to-be dog-eared copy:


Bird dog (n) Like a dog that is trained to find and retrieve birds, a person whose job is to find business opportunities. Pejoratively, the guy who goes after another guy’s girl – as in the Everly Brothers song of the same name with the admonitory chorus, “Hey bird dog, get away from my quail / Hey bird dog, you’re on the wrong trail.” 2. (v) To engage in such practices.


Dog-eared (adj) Turned down or bent over, especially the corners of pages. “Sally gave Herb her copy of Ulysses and, given that he’d never seen her read anything more challenging than Cosmo, he was dumbstruck when he opened it and found it dog-eared, underlined, and filled with her marginalia.” 2. Worn out, shabby from overuse. “We’ve been listening to the same dog-eared rhetoric from the same dog-eared senator for forty years now.”


Dog-paddle (n) A swimming stroke in which the swimmer lies on her stomach, head out of the water, and moves her hands forward and back while her legs jerk up and down – going through the water as a dog would. 2. (v) To swim using the dog-paddle. “While Sally lay indolently on the float, Herb brought her cold drinks and snacks, dogpaddling out to her, pushing the plastic foam tray with his nose.”


Dog rose or dog briar (n) (Rosa canina) A climbing perennial plant that grows to ten feet or more and whose Vitamin C-rich dried fruit, known as rosehip, has been widely used for years as a folk remedy for colds, fevers, digestive disorders, rheumatism, gout, and other ailments, including, centuries ago, rabies—which is a possible source for its name. It may also have been a way of disparaging the wild shrub by comparison to its cultivated relatives….


Dog’s life (n) A wretched existence. “Working in a coal mine is a dog’s life.”


Downward-facing dog (n) A widely recognized yoga posture with hands and feet on the floor and tailbone in the air, resembling a dog stretching itself. A rejuvenating stretch for both species.


Not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog One of Mark Twain’s and now America’s great aphorisms, suggesting that success is a matter of grit, spunk, determination, and a willingness to persist in the face of obstacles. Twain also observed, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you,” adding that this was the principal difference between a dog and a man.


Raining cats and dogs Raining heavily; a downpour. “We entered the restaurant on a clear sunny day and when we exited two hours later it was raining cats and dogs.” One theory of this phrase’s origin is that flooding after heavy rains drowned so many cats and dogs that their bodies floating on the rivers in the streets gave the impression that they’d descended with the rain.


Salty dog (n) An experienced sailor. 2. A man with a strong libido. In the latter use, conjoined in many song lyrics with “candy man,” meaning a drug dealer or, more connotatively, a man who provides for a woman in return for sexual favors. “If you can’t be my candy man, you can’t be my salty dog” sings the Reverend Gary Davis. 3. A drink made with vodka (or gin) and grapefruit juice.


Sea dog (n) Like “salty dog,” an experienced sailor. 2. A pirate. 3. The name salty dogs gave to meteors, which they thought foretold bad weather. Other weather-related usages are “water dogs,” referring to storm-portending dark clouds moving through the air by themselves, “sundogs,” the mock suns or light spots that are sometimes seen on either side of a low-lying sun, and rainbow-like formations that appear in fog. 4. A harbor seal.


All illustrations and texts are from “You’re My Dawg, Dog: A Lexicon of Dog Terms for People” by Donald Friedman & J.C. Suarès (Welcome Book). Text © 2013 Donald Friedman. Illustrations © 2013 J.C. Suarès. For more information or a chance to win a “You’re My Dawg, Dog” poster, visit


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