Name the dog! Why Man’s Best Friend Is Abused by the French Language

Now the full members of the family-just look at how Simone, Raoul, Martine replaced Médor, Kim and Pupuce, we almost forget that in the past, dogs had only one utilitarian dimension, hanging out there is a chain in the back yard and is fed daily with table scraps. This season, well done, though leaves an indelible mark on … the expressions in the French language!

We all have someone around us who “got sick like a dog” after getting Covid. More recently than ever, this expression dates back to the 17th century. If a dog is sick or injured, it is left on its own, rejected, isolated (that’s a word that has resonated since pandemic…) and escapes or dies in pain with little care. .

But this is no exception: most of the expressions that call the dog have a pejorative connotation. Let us consider a few examples. “A dog’s season” refers to the rainy season not to put … a dog outside (funny anecdote: the English are less biased, at home they say “it rains cats and dogs “); “a character of the dog” refers to a disgusting person; “Dog work” suggests to us an ungrateful and despicable activity. And what about the insult “it’s a dog” uttered by Jean Lasalle against a political columnist in April? For Julie Neveux, Sorbonne linguist and playwright, “Most of these expressions attest to a time when it was normal to abuse dogs, animals symbolizing the outside, filth, what could be shameful or despised”.

Domini canis

But dog hatred went back a long way, and observers made it the beginning of the great monotheistic religions, the first to associate the dog with an impure creature, a devil. The attacks on the herds and the fear aroused by the herds of wild dogs are enough to prove this amalgam? This is a hypothesis put forward by researchers. For Mark Alizart, philosopher and author of the book Chiens (Puf, 2018) “the pagan antiquity knew how to make room for the dog”, it was sometimes a warrior, sometimes a shepherd “but with monotheism , man becomes the dog of God, Domini canis (Dominican), and because it unconsciously he cannot bear, he must distance himself from the dog, so he is underestimated ”.

Being humiliated, beaten, martyred, exploited… it’s not always good to be a dog and we don’t want anyone to have a “dog life”. Denis Lafay is the author of a novel published in Editions El Viso in April titled “female dog of life”. So why did he choose this title for his novel? “It happened when I was composing the plot. Not only does it give a clue, but this expression also perfectly shows for me a part of the life of my main character, Nicolas, which is composed of pains, personal dramas and sorrows. On the other hand, I don’t know the origin of this expression. Trusting for trust, the author never imagined his romantic hero with “a head of a beaten dog”.

The lower poodle

Sometimes it goes further: it’s a different kind of dog that can attack its flesh. If you follow someone like a poodle, it seems like you are not in any judgment and are more in the category of being obedient and attractive. And what about the American political debate where Joe Biden criticized Donald Trump as “Putin’s poodle”? But it’s not good to get to know dogs. The poodle is actually second behind the Border collie in the ranking of the most intelligent dog breeds.

The French language is not the only one that implies and goes beyond pejorative connotations through the use of dog lexicon. “Bitch” in English or “female dog” does not only refer to the female of the dog class, but to a sexual and immoral dimension attributed to the shamelessness of the sex dog. Moreover, although the expression “have a dog” now seems like a compliment, there are 19th century origins to point to a somewhat marginal woman, with a frightening appearance.

Finally today, the use of these expressions in our everyday language represents a kind of linguistic violation; they are used without regard to their original meaning. For Julie Neveux, “we have always inherited, linguistically, old patterns of interaction”.

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