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The Canine in Conversation
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photograph of the operetta Trial by Jury
figure 1  


sly dog. A person who is discreet about mistakes or pleasures.reference 1 It is significant to note that such a person is anything but blemishless. On the contrary, he—this term is usually gendered—is typically someone drawn to sensual pleasures, even vice. It is simply that he continues to appear virtuous.

In Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury, the accused is described to the jury as a sly dog. In this instance, the defendant is a young man who has won the heart of a young woman, only to abandon her when she speaks of marriage. The sly dog has led her on.reference 2

1. Pearsall, Judy, and Bill Trumble. 1996. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford, England; New York: Oxford University Press.

2. Sullivan, Arthur, W. S. Gilbert, and Steven Ledbetter. 1999. Trial by Jury. New York: Broude Bros.

About the illustration: D'Oyly Carte Trial By Jury—1990 Production. This image is excerpted from a publicity photograph, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher or the creator of the work depicted. I believe that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of posters to provide critical commentary on the theatrical production in question or of the image itself qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other uses of this image may be copyright infringement.
see also: cur; dog (man) Last updated: July 28, 2008
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