There are thousands of funny sayings about dogs and cats, phrases we hear all the time and probably repeat now and then. But have you ever stopped to wonder where the expressions “Sick as a Dog” or “The Cat’s Meow” came from? Here are some funny dog sayings and cute cat phrases, along with theories on their origins.
Sick as a Dog is one of the oldest and most well-known dog sayings. It means to be extremely sick,especially from a stomach malady.Although this dog-related phrase is thought to date back to the 17th century, the origin is actually unknown. It may have originated as a way to exaggerate the statement of feeling ill, but why “dog” was chosen over other animals is a mystery. Some speculate it was because many dogs will eat just about anything, and often suffer gastric consequences as a result.
The Dog’s Dinner means to be dressed in a flamboyantly smart manner. The earliest example of this dog saying in print is purported to be fromThe Miami News, October 1933: “What are you doing sitting there all dressed up like a dog’s dinner?” It’s interesting to note that a similar 20th century phrase, The Dog’s Breakfast, means a mess or muddle. It’s thought that the two phrases were coined independently of each other, which could explain why they have opposite meanings.
Tail Wagging the Dog refers to something of minor importance dominating a situation. This funny dog saying likely originated in the U.S., where it’s been frequently printed in publications from the 1870s to present day. The earliest use is thought to be in The Daily Republican, April 1872: “… the Baltimore American thinks that for the Cincinnati Convention to control the Democratic party would be the tail wagging the dog.”
The Dog Days of Summer refers to July and August, typically the hottest, most sultry days of summer. The phrase was used by the Greeks and ancient Romans who called this time caniculares dies (days of the dogs) after Sirius (aka, the “Dog Star”) which, other than the sun, is the brightest star. During the Dog Days of Summer, Sirius and the sun supposedly rise and set at roughly the same time. Many people mistakenly believe the saying refers to the lethargy dogs display on hot days.
Hair of the Dog is a small amount of alcohol, intended to cure a hangover. The full version of this popular dog saying is actually “the hair of the dog that bit me,” which refers to the medieval belief that a person bitten by a rabid dog could be cured by rubbing some of the same dog’s hair into the infected wound.
Hush Puppies are small balls of deep-fried corn meal dough customarily served in the South. It’s believed that this term originated when people cooking outdoors would feed a few of these little balls to the dog to keep him quiet while they ate.
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs does not mean that felines and canines are actually falling from the sky but rather, simply that it’s raining profusely. Although this funny pet-related phrase has no definitive origin, there are plenty of theories. One theory comes from mythology, wherein dogs were attendants to Odin (the god of storms) and sailors associated them with rain. Another theory purports that in early 17th-century London, cats hunting mice on the rooftops slid off during heavy rain and fell on passersby.
If you’re Grinning like a Cheshire cat, then you are said to be grinning broadly (or ear to ear). Although this funny cat phrase was popularized by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the origin is unknown. It’s generally believed that Carroll didn’t coin the phrase himself, since there are citations of the phrase that pre-date his stories. Such as, the poet and satirist John Wolcot who wrote under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar: “Lo! Like a Cheshire cat our court will grin.”
“Curiosity Killed the Cat” is a saying used to warn people that being too inquisitive can be dangerous. It supposedly evolved from the 16th century saying “care kills a cat” where “care” actually meant worry or sorrow. The first substantiated use is said to be in Ben Johnson’s 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour: “Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care’ll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman.” Nowadays, a frequent reply to “curiosity killed the cat” is “satisfaction brought it back,” yet no one seems to know how this came about.
The Cat’s Meow refers to someone or something wonderful, lovely, nice or extra-special. Credit for this funny cat phrase goes to an American newspaper cartoonist by the name of Thomas A. Dorgan, who used it sometime between the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Catbird Seat refers to being in a superior or advantageous position. The probable source of this unusual cat saying is the Catbird, a North American songbird so named for its uncanny ability to mimic a cat’s meow. Catbirds are known to seek out the highest perches in trees to sing.
Let the Cat out of the Bag means to reveal a secret. The origin of this funny cat phrase is said to come from the Middle Ages, where markets were held to sell livestock, produce and other goods. Small animals like piglets were usually sold alive and placed in sacks to be carried home. Unscrupulous merchants sometimes swindled their customers by substituting cats for piglets. However, if the buyer happened to open the bag while still at the market, they’d foil the ruse by “letting the cat out of the bag.”