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figure 1  


doghouse (vehicular) It's that weird box that fits over the engine on a vehicle such as an automobile.

Older readers will recall a time when trucks and especially vans had a bump or larger intrusion between the front seats that covered the engine. This is the place where someone might have to “sit bitch.”

I had thought that only trucks had doghouses, however, in my research it became clear that all kinds of vehicles, from boats to trains to planes, have doghouses on them. For most of us, cars and trucks are the dominant species in this regard. It is hard to say where this locution began. In some of the classic car literature, it seems as if even the bonnet or hood of a car is called the doghouse. Certainly some of those older vehicles had a hood that looked pretty doghouse-like in appearance. Maybe the engine is a kind of dog.




figure 2  


doghouse. (industrial) A small shed at an oil rig.reference 1

In describing the experience of an artist visiting an oil rig The Scotsman described it this way, “She also started to learn the offshore patois used to describe the different parts of the platform: the dog house, the monkey board, the rat hole, the cat walk.”reference 2 You can see that the doghouse is hardly the only feature to be named after an animal.

1. Hobbs, M.A. Underwood. 1999. Pure Doggerel. White Star Farm,. Accessed Oct 21 2001 from http:// doghouse/ puredoggerel.htm

2. Mansfield, Susan. 2004. Taking Oil Painting to a Whole New Platform. The Scotsman. Accessed Jan 11 2009 from http:// ViewArticle.aspx?articleid= 2580488.

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photo of Grand Trunk caboose spacer
figure 3

doghouse. (railroad) The caboose or perhaps more specifically, the cupola on a caboose.reference 3 Sometimes this term may be used for a cupola on a house as well.

3. Cassidy, Frederic Gomes, and Joan Houston Hall. 1985. Dictionary of American Regional English. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 113.
figure 4  


doghouse, or dog-hutch, dog hole, etc. A run-down or poorly constructed dwelling or place, not fit for human habitation.reference 4

4. The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2005. (3d ed.) Oxford University Press. Accessed from
figure 5  


doghouse or dog kennel. (musical) A bass viola or double bass.reference 5

No longer in general use.

5. Shelly, Lou, ed. 1945. Hepcats Jive Talk Dictionary. Derby, Conn: TWO Charles Company. and Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part II. American Speech 40 (4): 252.


figure 6  
About the illustrations: The image in Figure 1 is adapted from an online ad for an all-aluminum boat. I chose it because it actually looked a little like a literal dog house, but it is probably not the kind that most people will be familiar with.reference 6 Left (figure 5) is an image of the doghouse in a 1966 Falcon Deluxe Club Wagon.reference 7 This image may ring more of a bell in your mind, at least if you can figure it out. The view is from the left back seat, looking between the two front seats. The steering wheel is barely visible at the top of the image.

6. Thunder Jet. 2001. Thunderjet: Covers. Accessed Oct 29 2001 from http:// /tops.htm.

7. Haring, Don, Jr., ed. 1999. Falconaut: 66 Club Wagon: Good from Far ... Far from Good. Fedora World Media Industries. Accessed Oct 29 2001 from http:// falconaut/falcons/van_2.html.

Figure 2 is an off-shore oil rig.  I have no idea if the arrow points to where a doghouse would be. It simply seemed provocative. Collaged by the author.

Figure 3 is a caboose from the Grand Trunk. I chose it because the cupola is prominent. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 4 is a rundown fisherman's shack on Isle au Haut, Maine. Photo courtesy of Jon and Jennifer Hughes.

Figure 4 shows a double bass. Photo by the author.
see also: dog house, in the; sit bitch Last updated: January 11, 2009
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