Dog Days of Summer and Other Pet Sayings

Dog Days of Summer and Other Pet Sayings

Ever wonder where those funny little sayings come from?

“It’s the dog days of summer!” “Cat got your tongue?”

And others?

They seem too often be about cats and dogs, right?

Well, those are largely called idioms, and like just about every other language in the world, English has a ton of them.

Idioms are phrases that have a usage or meaning that you wouldn’t be able to deduce from the literal meaning of each phrase, making them kind of like inside jokes between you and the rest of English speakers!

Here are some of our favorites at Sunset Veterinary Clinic:

Common Sayings and Idioms with Cats and Dogs in Them (And What They Mean!)

“The dog days of summer.”

Expression For: The hottest days of summer.

Etymology: This phrase comes from the Romans, who called the days that were the hottest in the summer “caniculares dies,” literally “days of the dogs.”

“Cat got your tongue.”

Expression For: Unusually quiet.

Etymology: This phrase is usually directed to children who were expected to speak but couldn’t or didn’t and there’s no known reason why it became such a common saying!

“That dog won’t hunt.”

Expression For: Something that is useless or pointless.

Etymology: The late governor of Texas, Ann Richards and is most common in Texas. It speaks of hunting dogs who won’t go into the marshes or wetlands to fetch a bird you just shot. Certainly, some dogs are made for hunting. Others are not.

“A cat has nine lives.”

Expression For: Cats are lucky and often survive dangerous incidents.

Etymology: This phrase comes from the fact that cats always seem to land on their feet — even from great falls sometimes. Shakespeare used it, and it’s also said to be in an ancient proverb.

Cat on a Ledge

“My dogs are barking.”

Expression For: My feet hurt.

Etymology: This phrase (sadly) comes from the fact that shoes for humans used to be made out of dogs.

“A cat nap.”

Expression For: A short nap.

Etymology: This phrase is almost easy to figure out. It comes from the fact that cats always seem to be sleeping, and sometimes not for very long — 5 or ten minutes here or there.

“Curiosity killed the cat.”

Expression For: Beware the dangers of unnecessary investigation or experimentation.

Etymology: Despite cats having nine backup lives, they also seem to get into mischief quite often. This phrase notes that if you’re too sneaky and snoop a lot, there could be consequences.

“Three dog night.”

Expression For: It’s really cold.

Etymology: This phrase is said to come from the Australian outback where days can be hot, but nights can be cold! When it’s a “three dog night,” you need three dogs in bed to keep you warm!

Three Sleeping Husky Puppies

“Let sleeping dogs lie.”

Expression For: Ignore the issue or it may get worse.

Etymology: This phrase originated in 13th century. Later in 14th century, it was used by Geoffrey Chaucer in one of his books which says it is good to avoid waking up a sleeping dog. ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ derives from the long-standing observation that dogs are often unpredictable when they are suddenly disturbed.

“Not enough room to swing a cat.”

Expression For: This place is very small or crowded.

Etymology: This expression, first recorded in 1771, is thought to allude to the cat-o’-nine-tails, or “cat,” a whip with nine lashes widely used to punish offenders in the British military.

“I am dog tired.”

Expression For: The person is physically exhausted.

Etymology: The expression dates from the late 18th/early 19th century. An earlier form of the expression is ‘dog-weary’ used by Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene II, when Blondello says, “I have watched so long that I am dog-weary” which means that this version probably dates from at least the mid-1500s.

“Let the cat out of the bag.”

Expression For: Reveal facts previously hidden.

Etymology: In the Middle Ages, when someone would purchase a pig, the vendor would sneak a cat into the bag instead, cheating the buyer out of the higher price for a pig. It wasn’t until the buyer arrived home and, literally, let the cat out of the bag that they’d realize they’d been scammed, hence the phrase’s association with revealing a secret.

Cat in a Bag

“Go to the dogs.”

Expression For: To become ruined.

Etymology: As far back as the 1500s, bad or stale food that was not thought to be suitable for human consumption was thrown to the dogs. The expression caught on and expanded to include any person or thing that came to a bad end, was ruined, or looked terrible.

“He’s top dog.”

Expression For: A person, group, or thing in a position of authority.

Etymology: The term top dog seems to have evolved from the literal meaning of the phrase, describing the dog who is dominant in a pack or victorious in a dogfight.

“Go to the dogs.”

Expression For: To become ruined.

Etymology: As far back as the 1500s, bad or stale food that was not thought to be suitable for human consumption was thrown to the dogs. The expression caught on and expanded to include any person or thing that came to a bad end, was ruined, or looked terrible.

“It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Expression For: Particularly heavy rain.

Etymology: The phrase is supposed to have originated in England in the 17th century. City streets were then filthy and heavy rain would occasionally carry along dead animals. Richard Brome’s The City Witt, 1652 has the line ‘It shall rain dogs and polecats’.

Dog Watching the Rain

“Fight like cats and dogs.”

Expression For: To fight or argue a lot or in a very forceful and angry way.

Etymology: The phrase dates back to 1611, when it was performed at the Globe Theater. The play was about the Celtic legend of King Cunobelinus. Some critics found the play to be a disaster, while others saw it as a romantic gesture.

“He’s top dog.”

Expression For: A person, group, or thing in a position of authority.

Etymology: The term top dog seems to have evolved from the literal meaning of the phrase, describing the dog who is dominant in a pack or victorious in a dogfight.

“It’s a dog’s life.”

Expression For: A difficult, boring, and unhappy life.

Etymology: This expression was first recorded in a 16th-century manuscript and alludes to the miserable subservient existence of dogs during this era.

“She’s the cat’s pajamas.”

Expression For: A highly impressive, admired or exceptionally adorable thing or person.

Etymology: This phrase was first recorded in 1920 as part of the typical vocabulary of Jazz Age flappers and was soon popularized by cartoonist Tad Dorgan in his comic strip Indoor Sports. It’s just one of dozens of nonsense phrases combining an animal with a part of the human body or an article of clothing that the cool kids used in those days.

Cat in Pajamas

“They are fat cats.”

Expression For: A wealthy contributor.

Etymology: The phrase was first used in the 1920s in the United States to describe rich political donors.

“The cat who swallowed the canary.”

Expression For: Someone who looks guilty, smug and self-satisfied.

Etymology: Going back to 1911, the phrase “cat that ate the canary” was used to describe another political figure in the Milwaukee Journal of June 2 in a news story entitled, “Czar A Tactless Guest.” Signs of particular disgust showed on the czar’s face when the iced melon hors d’oeuvres were brought on.

“He’s in the doghouse.”

Expression For: In trouble or out of favor.

Etymology: In Chapter 16 of Peter Pan, 1911, J. M. Barrie used a plot device in which the father of the family, Mr. Darling, consigned himself to the dog’s kennel as an act of remorse for inadvertently causing his children to be kidnapped.

“When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”

Expression For: When a person in authority is away, those under the person’s rule will enjoy their freedom.

Etymology: The expression when the cat’s away the mice will play is derived from a Latin phrase, dum felis dormit, mus gaudet et exsi litantro. A literal translation is when the cat sleeps, the mouse leaves its hole, rejoicing. This medieval Latin phrase gave rise to similar expressions in many different languages.

Mouse Hole

When’s the Last Time Your Pet Had a Checkup?

Our pets are the joys of our lives, and they deserve to be healthy and happy just like us. Dogs and cats especially should have a vet checkup at least once every year (twice a year is even better!).

If your pet hasn’t been to the vet recently, give Sunset Veterinary Clinic a call to book your appointment!

Contact Info
2017 N Kelly Avenue Edmond, OK 73003
Monday – Friday
7:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Saturday 8:00 AM to 12 PM