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a woman wearing a fox stole, animated so that the head of the animal is shown in detail
figure 1  

 

put on the dog. Get dressed up, to the nines, I would imagine.

The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins says that this used to be a bit of a put-down, sort of like putting on airs.reference 1 The Morrises go on to suggest that the dog may be one of those used as a fashion accessory, like a lap dog, perhaps. I suspect this is a variation of the phrase “all dogged up” cited in the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. There the suggestion is that it is “inspired by” “dolled up” or “decked out.”reference 2

Michael Quinion even gives us a first citation: “Dog, style, splurge. To put on dog, is to make a flashy display, to cut a swell,” from Four Years at Yale by L.H. Bagg.reference 3 Quinion doesn't like the lap dog theory, but admits he can't offer anything better.

A variation of this might be seen in the use of the adjective “doggy” to describe one who is dashing or stylish, according to the OED.reference 4 However, I doubt you will find this often in conversational English in the U.S.

1. Morris, William, and Mary Morris. 1988. Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins. 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row.

2. Thorne, Tony. 1990. The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. 1st American ed. New York: Pantheon Books.

3. Quinion, Michael. 1999. Put on (the) Dog. World Wide Words. Accessed Sep 20 2001 from
http:// www.quinion.com/ words /qa/ qa-put1.htm.

4. The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2005. 3d ed. Accessed from http:// dictionary.oed.com.
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About the illustration: You see the aristocracy's pleasure in wearing the fur of canines here. The head of the fox, still attached to the stole, is presented in the detail. From the painting, “Portrait of a Lady” (1525-1535) by Francesco Mazzola, whose work was shown under the name Parmaigianino. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

see also: dog's dinner; dogcessory; lap dog

Last updated: July 28, 2008
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