October 06, 2015 16:17 UTC

Words and Their Stories

'What a Dog's Life!'

Every dog has its day
Every dog has its day
Dog Talk
Dog Talki
|| 0:00:00

Now the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.

Americans use many expressions with the word "dog." People in the United States love their dogs and treat them well. They take their dogs for walks, let them play outside and give them good food and medical care. However, dogs without owners to care for them lead a different kind of life. The expression "to lead a dog's life" describes a person who has an unhappy existence.

Some people say we live in a "dog-eat-dog world." That means many people are competing for the same things, like good jobs. They say that to be successful, a person has to "work like a dog." This means they have to work very, very hard. Such hard work can make people "dog-tired." And the situation would be even worse if they became "sick as a dog."

Still, people say "every dog has its day." This means that every person enjoys a successful period during his or her life. To be successful, people often have to learn new skills. Yet, some people say that "you can never teach an old dog new tricks." They believe that older people do not like to learn new things and will not change the way they do things.

Some people are compared to dogs in bad ways. People who are unkind or uncaring can be described as "meaner than a junkyard dog." Junkyard dogs live in places where people throw away things they do not want. Mean dogs are often used to guard this property. They bark or attack people who try to enter the property. However, sometimes a person who appears to be mean and threatening is really not so bad. We say "his bark is worse than his bite."

A junkyard is not a fun place for a dog. Many dogs in the United States sleep in safe little houses near their owners' home. These doghouses provide shelter. Yet they can be cold and lonely in the winter. Husbands and wives use this doghouse term when they are angry at each other. For example, a woman might get angry at her husband for coming home late, or forgetting their wedding anniversary. She might tell him that he is "in the doghouse." She may not treat him nicely until he apologizes. However, the husband may decide that it is best to leave things alone and not create more problems. He might decide to "let sleeping dogs lie."

Dog expressions also are used to describe the weather. The "dog days of summer" are the hottest days of the year. A rainstorm may cool the weather, but we do not want it to rain too hard -- we do not want it to "rain cats and dogs."

This VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories was written by Jill Moss.

I'm Faith Lapidus.
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Comment Sorting
06/23/2014 12:32 AM
All the dog expressions described here are very nice and can be put in to practice in day to day life. Dogs are man's most faithful companions. But no man can entertain a 'mad dog'. The expression 'dog tired' is a very common thing that can be seen in most villages often times. A dog comes to unmanageable rest after engaging in a lot of misbehaviors and exertions and wandering and bitch chasing. 'Leading a dog's life' also portrays in mind the real picture of a wretched person who has lost control of himself. I think you will be back with many more colorful expressions. Thank you.

by: Enrique from: Spain
06/22/2014 1:13 PM
Wow, I did not know that Americans had so many expressions with the word dog. I knew some of them, such as 'to rain cats and dogs' or the one that my English teacher taught us ( 'as crooked as a dog's hind leg,' that, if I remember well, means 'dishonest') but I could have never imagined there would be so many!
The one I liked best is 'every dog has its day,' because I think it's a very optimistic one, and I feel what it states is completely true.
In Spanish we also have some expressions with the word dog. One that I think is very funny is 'to be stranger than a green dog'. And we have one that is quite similar to 'his bark is worse than his bite.'
Thank you very much for this information! It was really interesting.

by: emir from: turkey
06/22/2014 11:04 AM
I agree with everything that this text says about using terms related to dogs. In my country is used similar expressions, too. For example, when we are in love with someone very much. we say that "I am in love with her/him like a dog". This means that "I love her/him so much that i might die without him/her". Another example is that when we have to ask permission from anyone for having something we want very much, so we insist to have that thing. This situation is interpreted that "to beg like a dog".

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