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The Canine in Conversation
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illustration of a yellow flag with an international symbol for hazardous waste on it
figure 1  


sick as a dog. Really, really sick—and unpleasantly so.

Is there something special about dogs' illnesses that a bad illness has some canine quality about it? I doubt it. More likely the reference arises because, beloved as dogs are, most humans know that their own status is preferable. It is bad enough to be ill, adding some dog-like state to it underlines just how bad the illness is.

In his June 2, 1987 Observer column, Russell Baker opined that “Americans don't talk as colorfully as they used to.” He goes on to say, “...since the social ban on dirty talk was dropped in the 1960's, the subsequent generation has been too busy talking dirty to cultivate the art of talking is rare nowadays to hear of anyone who is free as a bird, pretty as a picture, stubborn as a mule, strong as a horse, dumb as an ox, dull as dishwater, quiet as a mouse, poor as a church mouse, straight as an arrow, smart as a whip, sharp as a tack, sick as a dog...”reference 1 In conversation this may indeed be the case. However a quick Google news search turned up three dozen citations for “sick as a dog” in the month of March 2008.

1. Baker, Russell. 1987. Dry as Dust. New York Times. Accessed Mar 16 2008 from http:// query. gst/ fullpage.html? res= 9B0DE4DB133FF931 A35755C0A961948260.

About the illustration: Quarantine is traditionally indicated by a yellow flag. In this instance the recent international symbol for biohazard has been added. Digitally collaged by the author.
see also: one sick puppy Last updated: July 28, 2008
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