When did "dog" stop being an insult?

Time was when calling a man a “dog” was grounds for pistols-at-dawn. Nowadays, nobody uses the word as an insult. I’ve known kids who call each other “dog” affectionately (then again, they also call each other “nigger” affectionately and some of them are white).

Is this because modern culture in English-speaking countries has developed such a sentimental affection for dogs?*

“Son of a bitch,” OTOH, remains an insult – and it’s just another way of daying “dog.”

“Bitch” still is used as an insult – but the way it’s used is curious. You might call a woman a “bitch” if she is in your eyes arrogant, cruel, sharp-tongued, slutty**, or generally unlikeable – not characteristics one associates with a female dog.

*Didja hear the one about the dyslexic insomniac agnostic?

He stayed awake all night wondering whether there really is a Dog! :smiley:

**Well, not quite. A slut will sleep with anybody. A bitch will sleep with anybody but you. :wink:

There are zillions of dog idioms in English, many of them not pejorative.

There’s “top dog,” “putting on the dog,” “leading a dog’s life,” “hot dog” (as an expression of approval) and so on.

A womanizer was also known, positively, as a dog, as when a friend complements another on a conquest, “you dog, you.”

Many of these usages go back to the 19th century, so a positive use of dog is nothing new.

Obviously Randy Jackson on American Idol has popularized the term, at least as dawg, but it goes back well before him.

Here if you called a girl a dog you would be implying she’s ugly. It’s still an insult depending on context.

It’s not “dog”, it’s “dawg”. Originated circa 1898, says dictionary.com. Urbandictionary.com was of no help, as usual. One site suggests it’s from the spanish “perro”, meaning dog. I wonder if perro is close to another spanish word for friend.

On a site note, homie comes from “hombre”, spanish for “man”.

I still take offense at being called ‘fool.’


The obvious answer, and the one m-w.com suggests, is that it’s merely a shortening of ‘homeboy’, which is derived from nothing more than the english words ‘home’ and ‘boy.’

Around here saying “You dog!” to a man is said half-admiringly, half in jest. it usually is said right after pronouncements like “And then I found out she was a contortonist” or “Then her twin sister showed up.”

How does that work? Perro and dawg don’t have a single similar sound in them. Or are you saying that Spanish may have a word for friend that sounds similar to perro, so we made a word that sounds identical to dog? (That seems unlikely to me.)

Hi & Lois Flagston’s pooch has been named Dawg since the start of the strip, very long time ago. Mandolinist David Grisman has been Dawg for more than a quarter of a century. A local pimp (an actual pimp) told me about 30 years ago that “Man is a dog. I couldn’t make a living if it wasn’t true.” He meant man is lustful and incapable of fidelity, and perhaps he was right. When it became popular to greet a male friend with, " 'Sup, dawg?" is it an admission of the pinp’s old truth? Considering that we get it from the hip-hop life, it probably means the same thing. Lust and infidelity are mandatory traits there.

I don’t know whether An Gadaí is British (I suspect Irish?), but what he says holds for the whole of the UK, in my experience. “She’s a dog” = “she’s ugly”, “dog rough” = “ugly” etc.

I have seen in thirties movies a night life loving man about town called admiringly a Gay dog.
This was long before gay came to mean Homosexual but meant lighthearted.

I’m Irish yep.