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The Canine in Conversation
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like a dog with two tails. 1. Demonstrably and visibly happy. 2. Proud.

The image of a dog with two tails pervades American idiom, though just how good a thing it is to be a dog with more than one tail is ambiguous. American Speech, the journal of the American Dialect Society has found variations on the phrase “pleased [or happy or proud] as a dog with two tails” from many parts of the U.S. including a Gullah version.reference 1 I could not find a contemporary citation for proud as a dog with two tails, but pleased and happy seem to be holding their own. When Brooklyn's Moore Street Market was spared the threat of urban renewal, the head of the vendors association for the Market said “I’m happier than a dog with two tails. They wanted to throw us out. Now we have a place that will give us life.reference 2

There is also a saying, with variations, as little use for a thing as a dog has for two tails.”reference 3 So might we add a third definition for what it is like to be a dog with two tails such as, to be in possession of something superfluous? I don't think so.

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spacer diagram of a mechanical dog with two tails
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Of course these there is always the possibility that someone will engineer a dog with two tails.

1. Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part I. American Speech 40 (4):85-86, Bond, Richmond P. 1926. Animal Comparisons in Indiana. American Speech 2 (1):44, Brewster, Paul G. 1941. More Indiana Sayings. American Speech 16 (1):23, and
Mufwene, Salikoko S. 1986. Number Delimitation in Gullah. American Speech 61 (4):55.

2. Gonzalez, David. 2008. Little Fish Eat Big Fish and Save a Market. New York Times, Jul 31. Accessed Aug 30 2009 from http:// cityroom blogs.nytimes. com/ 2008/07/31/ little-fish-eat-big-fish-and-keep-a-brooklyn-market-alive/.

3. Hardie, Margaret. 1929. Proverbs and Proverbial Expressions Current in the United States East of the Missouri and North of the Ohio Rivers. American Speech 4 (16):468.


About the illustration: This is an excerpt from a video made in research about asymmetric tail-wagging. This portion was where the dog was happy to see his human companion.reference 4 The research had something to do with different brain hemispheres in canines. Who knew?

Figure 2 is a modified diagram of a robotic dog.

4. Quaranta, A., M. Siniscalchi, and G. Vallortigara. 2007. Asymmetric Tail-Wagging Responses by Dogs to Different Emotive Stimuli. Current Biology 17 (6). Accessed from http:// science? _ob= ArticleURL&_udi= B6VRT- 4N97NYR-9 &_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt= &_orig=search &_sort=d &_docanchor= &view=c &_acct= C000050221& _version=1 &_urlVersion=0 &_userid= 10&md5= 17d200b5ad9f1b9f760f403712b2b829.

see also: tail wagging the dog; chase one's tail; tail between one's legs
cf: drag one's tail

Last updated: August 30, 2009
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