I have to see a man about a dog. Or, the unsearchable topic.

I’m sorry if this has been covered before, but I defy anyone to do a search on this topic given the four-letter mininum length for keywords.

Can anyone tell me the origin of the phrase, “I have to see a man about a dog”? Along with any number of variations of the form “I have to see a man about ‘x’”, it seems to have been quite the catchphrase in the early XXth century. There’s a Three Stooges short where the boys are running a dog hospital, and someone says they have to “see a man about a dog…diet”. P.G. Wodehouse has a character say she has to see a man about a tennis racket.

Granted, it’s not completely outlandish to go see men about things, but it does seem an odd way of putting it. It’s obvious from the way the line was delivered in the Three Stooges film that seeing men about dog…diets was supposed to be funny. And the P.G. Wodehouse character would normally have said she had to go to the tennis shop to pick up her racket.

So where did that expression come from?

Google link #1:


My grandfather used to find the reverse, “see a dog about a man” pretty funny. Nowadays I find myself saying it too. :o

Google link two:


Interestingly, enough, “Flying Scud” was the name of a clipper ship built in Maine in 1853:


Thanks for the responses. That jardmail website is pretty interesting, and has given me my new sig.

I don’t recall ever encountering the “see a man about a dog” phrase before, but I know the variant, “I’ve got to see a man about a horse,” which is a mascuiline way of saying “I’ve got to powder my nose,” which is an old-fashioned feminine euphemism for “I must pee now.”

I’ve always thought it was a take-off on the more vulgar “I’ve got to pee like a racehorse”, but now I’m wondering if it isn’t a boastful variant on the dog expression. “You may have to see a man about a dog, but the way I’m hung, it’ll have to be about a horse.”

I guess I’m southern - born in Washington, D. C. (south of the Mason-Dixon line) in the '50’s, and “I have to see a man about a dog” was used frequently in my family as a euphemism meaning “I have to pee.” I have no idea of its etemology.

Even if you get farther south of the Mason-Dixon line it still means “I have to pee.”
“I’m going to see a man about a horse.” may be a more serious calling. My grandfather from around Dayton, OH used to say “I’m going to water the ducks.” :wink: