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The Canine in Conversation
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an animation showing an open book with a page flapped down which is then replaced with a dog with one ear standing up and another flapped down
figure 1  


dog-ear. (verb) To turn the corners of the page of a book.

For a long time, I knew that when a book was dog-eared, it was not only worn but also abused in some way. However I did not know that the abuse took a specific form: the turning down of the corner of a page, most likely as a quick way to mark thepoint at which you stopped reading. To dog-ear is to make a cheap and abusive bookmark. The description is based on the visual similarity of a turned down page to a dog's ear, which tends to flap over. That makes this a predominantly visual metaphor.

a blue baby buggy which looks to be in sad shape
figure 2  

Dog-eared (adjective) Though the OED does not mention it, other things can be dog-eared besides books. At first I inferred that the adjective can be applied to any well worn and (ab)used item. In referring to the shopping cart of an elderly Dubliner, AP writer, Shawn Pogatchnik, described it as “her dog-eared blue-leather trolley.”reference 1 However, I discovered that dog-earing can aslo be a characteristic of fabric. Tom Burns Haber refers to George Linton's Modern Textile Dictionary, which states that dog-earing refers to “A defect in cloth that tends to roll or curl up at the corners.”reference 2



1. Pogatchnik, Shawn, and Associated Press. 2002. Government Slaps Fee on Plastic Grocery Bags in Bid to Tidy up Ireland .Yahoo! News. Accessed Mar 6 2002 from http:// news?tmpl= story&u=/ap/ 20020305/ ap_wo_en_bu/ireland_bag_tax_6.

2. Linton, George quoted in Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part II. American Speech 40 (4):248.

About the illustrations: Figure 1 shows a dog-eared book and a dog’s flopped ear. Digitally collaged by the author.

Figure 2 is a rather beat-up stroller, dog-eared as well. Digitally altered from an image © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

see also: dog ear collar Last updated: July 5, 2008
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