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 colorfully...it 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...” 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. nytimes.com/ gst/ fullpage.html? res= 9B0DE4DB133FF931 A35755C0A961948260.