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The Canine in Conversation
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a dog standing atop a piece of wet paper
figure 1  


house trained or house broken. Having acceptable manners, usually said by women of men.

If you are a dog, the crucial skill for living successfully with humans is to know when and where to eliminate your wastes. If you are an adult human, this goes double for you, figuratively as well as literally, if you wish to share living space with another human being.

A notice by a young man seeking housing that was posted on a University of Birmingham computer bulletin board demonstrates his grasp of this fact as well as the assumptions regarding the gendered nature of these capacities. Beef, as he calls himself, writes, “I don't want much. A bed and a roof over my head would be nice. I am well house-trained for a boy.”reference 1

The alternate, house broken, is more disturbing in its implications that the will or the spirit of the dog must be “broken.” When applied to humans it appears, at least on the surface, to be humorous. The traditional hierarchy between men and women in the household as well as the “war between the sexes” are both at play here. In Lisa Hamilton's Down Boy! A Girl's Guide to Housebreaking a Man, the power imbalance is implicit in the title: females are girls while males are men.reference 2 Or is that just to put the guys off their guard?

1. Beef. 2003. I'm a 22 Year Old Postgrad and I Come from Birmingham. BUGS forum. University of Birmingham. Accessed Feb 10 2004 from http:// forum/ topic.asp? TOPIC_ID=67 .

2. Hamilton, Lisa. 2004. Down Boy! A Girl's Guide to Housebreaking a Man. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews McNeel Pub.

About the illustration: A dog being paper trained, considered a precursor to house training. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
see also: rub one's nose in it; Dog is to Cat as Man is to Woman Last updated: May 22, 2008
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