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figure 1

pooch. A slang term for a dog, especially a mongrel.

The word first saw print in 1924, according to the OED, as a slang term for dog. Dick McQuillen of the web site Word for Word, quotes Eric Partridge (A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 8th ed.) as saying this about pooch: “Perhaps it is cognate with the German Putzi, a fairly common name given to a lap dog.” McQuillen said that this was the only reference he could find.reference 1 The American Dialect Society listserv had a lively and largely uninformative exchange on the subject a few years ago. One correspondent suggested that pooch was a reference to the dog's jowls; another that pouch was a pocket and still another pointed to dog names: Pucci (Italian) and Poonch (hindi).reference 2 I tend to think it is a corruption of “porch dog,” an alternative designation for the yaller dogs of the rural American South.reference 2

I have been able to find no metaphorical uses of the term “pooch.” However, it has often been a nickname for athletes, most notably Pooch Donovan who coached football, track and field, and boxing at Harvard in the late 19th century.reference 3 More recently, you will find the athlete and actor Pooch Hall.

1. McQuillen, Dick. 2001. Word for Word. Plateau Press. Accessed Aug 30 2001 from http:// plateaupress.com.au/ wfw/wfwindex.htm.

2. Wilson, Douglas G., Geoffrey Nunberg, and Dale Coyle. Re: A Guess on Pooch=Dog Origin. American Dialect Society Mailing List. American Dialect Society. Accessed Jun 2 2008 from http:// listserv.linguistlist.org/ cgi-bin/ wa?A2= ind0309A&L= ADS-L&P= R1845&I= -3&m=27606.

3. Harvard Re-Engages Pooch Donovan. 1915. New York Times. Apr 15. Accessed Apr 12 2008 Accessed from http:// query.nytimes.com/ mem/ archive-free/ pdf? res= 9F05EFDD153EE0 33A25756C1 A9619C946496D6CF.

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About the illustration: Figure 1 shows a pooch on a porch at the beach, ready to get up and run. Used by permission of Debbie Todd, a mortgage consultant.
see also: cur; mongrel; mutt; pyedog; yaller dog; Pooch Hall; pooch kick Last updated: July 28, 2008
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