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like a blind dog in a meat market. 1. Out of control and probably ineffective. 2. Aimless. 3. Incapable of or unable to take action.

Similes are tricky. This one appears to presume that all blind dogs act the same way in meat markets and that we all know what that would look like, and more importantly what it would mean. However, if you are of a mind to use this simile, I would suggest that you provide a lot of context so that the meaning is clear, since, when it comes to usage, it is quite varied. Personally, when I first came across the phrase, I pictured an excited dog going from loin to chop to steak and back again. After all smell is a dog's dominant sense while its sight is relatively poor. So much for thinking I grokked the phrase.

To help understand what the simile may mean, let's look at actual examples of usage starting with the first and most commonly intended meaning. From a 1919 Clothing Trade Journal, we have this quotation:

The actions of the Attorney General's Office toward the high prices of clothing and the moves they are making or threatening to make, to reduce them are a line of comedy that has never been equaled on the American stage. The best description of their actions is the old wheeze, “Running around like a blind dog in a meat market.”reference 1

Note that the phrase is referred to as an old wheeze,” suggesting that it was considered hackneyed almost a century ago. Nonetheless, it is still in use. In her 2009 direct-to-paperback Summer of Two Wishes (set in contemporary west Texas), Julia London puts these words in a character's mouth: “You hear things like that. Soldiers see things over there that makes them so nutty they start going 'round like a blind dog in a meat market.”reference 2

Frosty Potter, in Cowboy Slang, offers the phrase, “Knockin' 'round like a blind dog in a meat market” with no additional exegesis.reference 3 From 1930 Oklahoma we have Benjamin Botkin we have: “Don't stand around like a blind dog in a meat market, do something even if you do it wrong”reference 4

Some variations are less challenging: comedian Fred Allen is quoted in a 1965 Life Magazine article as saying, “Senator, your tongue's wagging like a blind dog's tail in a meat market!reference 5

Perhaps some empirical investigation is needed.

1. Unnecessary Business Houses. 1919. The Clothing Trade Journal 16 (1):222.



2. London, Julia. 20090. Summer of Two Wishes. New York: Pocket Books. 141.

3. Potter, Edgar R. 1986. Cowboy Slang. Rev. ed. Phoenix, Ariz: Golden West Publishers. 19.

4. Botkin, Benjamin Albert and Oklahoma Folk-Lore Society. 1930. Folk-Say, a Regional Miscellany. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press. 110.

5. Moore, Sam. 1965. A Nostalgic Stroll up Allen's Alley. Life, Nov 12, 22.


About the illustration: Figure 1 is an excerpt from a commercial that airs in Rochester NY for Inclema's Meats on Goodman Street. DJ G-Roc provides the pitch. And dogs apparently are moved by this short piece. Check out Sammy really likes this Inclema's Meat commercial! on YouTube

cf: chase one's tail; like a bitch in heat Last updated: October 9, 2009
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies