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The Canine in Conversation
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animation swapping two images: a dog's leg and a golf hole diagram showing  a dogleg
figure 1  


dogleg. In golf this describes a fairway that has an angle in it, rather than being a straight shot from tee to green. It may also be used in driving directions, indicating a bend in the road.

It is a reference to the angled quality of dogs' legs, especially their hind legs, which are always bent and, to some eyes, unnaturally so. However, unlike “crooked as a dog's hind leg” this is a neutral term and merely descriptive.




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figure 2

dogleg. (oilfield) A particularly crooked place in a wellbore where the trajectory changes rapidly in three-dimensions. Sometimes a dogleg is intentional and sometimes, as far as I can tell from my research, it just happens: a section of the holechanges direction faster than anticipated or desired, usually with harmful side effects.reference 1

1. Dogleg. 2009. Schlumberger Oilfield Glossary. Schlumberger. Accessed Jan 13 2009 from http:// Display.cfm? Term= dogleg.
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dog-leg tobacco. An inferior quality of chewing tobacco, “so called because it is in the shape of a twist.”reference 2

Haber cites Mitford Mathews’ Dictionary of Americanisms. It may simply be that tobacco twists in general are considered “dog-leg”, or that there was a certain kind of twist that was considered to resemble a dog’s leg. As you can see in Figure 2, the twists can be somewhat complex. I have been able to find almost no corroboration for Haber. Through the generous efforts of the archivists at The Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, I was able to discover that dogwood bark was used to mix with tobacco by some Native American tribes.reference 3 This is the closest reference they could find.

Despite the resurgence of tobacco chewing in the U.S., it appears that this term is less likely to make a comeback: commercial purveyors no longer sell “smokeless tobacco” in twists.

2. Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part II. American Speech 40 (4):247.


3. Jacobi, Lori. 2008. Re: Question for the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. to A. MacLeod and West, George A. 1970. Tobacco, Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Indians. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. 109

About the illustrations: In Figure 1 we see the two kinds of dogs' legs superimposed upon each other. Digitally collaged by the author.

Figure 2 shows an oil rig with a crooked wellbore. © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation.

In Figure 3 we see tobacco twists that look remarkably like feces. However, photographer Dave Jones (who posted this image on his Southern Bread web site) assures me that these are indeed tobacco twists. Used by permission.

see also: dog leg claim
cf: crooked as a dog's hind leg; dog-leg claim

Last updated: January 13, 2009
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