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The Canine in Conversation
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a photographic close-up of a human eye with a dog's face reflected in it
figure 1  


“If it were a dog, it would have bitten you already.” Said to someone who is looking for something which is right under his nose. An old Dutch saying.

Dogs do like to get close, but why is the assumption that if one does so, its intention is to bite you? One of the variations, “If it were a snake... ” makes a bit more sense. Certainly fewer people cuddle up to a snake without at least some worry about being bitten. Then again, dog bites are more common than snake bites and equally serious. Dogs have even been known to bite the hand that feeds them .

This adage is old and entered American English through its linguistic cousin, Twents. Here it is in its original form: “At e ne hond was, dan e oew allange ebettene.”



1. Dijkhuis, G. J. H., and Twente Akademie. 1992. Twents Woordenboek: Twents in Woord En Gebruik: Twentse Woordenschat. 3., herziene en uitgebreide druk / ed. Enschede: Van de Berg.

About the illustration: Perhaps I would title this one “Cluelessness.” Digitally collaged by the author.
see also: bite the hand that feeds one Last updated: March 21, 2008
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