LINGUIST List 3.572

Tue 14 Jul 1992

Disc: Dog

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. (, dog
  2. , Hot Dogs and Hot Dates

Message 1: dog

Date: Tue, 7 Jul 92 14:58:23 CSTdog
From: ( <>
Subject: dog

Two questions arise about the nature of _dog_:

1) is it sex-neutral?
2) is the billboard in question sexist?

Undoubtedly the answer to the second question is yes, it will be
perceived to be sexist by a significant number of people of both
sexes, which makes it sexist no matter what.

The question of the actual reference of _dog_ is an interesting one. Its
masculine references are often negative, though never in the same way that
the feminine ones are. Perusing the OED and the slang dictionaries
shows the sexual connotations of male human dog, as in sly dog, lucky
dog, are positive ones, or if they are negative the sense differs from
that of the feminine.

But the billboard owner will rely, no doubt, on the kind of definition
provided by the _Random House Webster's College Dictionary_, sv _dog_,
sense 8: "an unattractive person" , which no doubt derives from the
dictionary's policy of sex-neutral definitions. Of course slang is so
slippery and pliable that dog may be developing a sex-neutral sense of
`unattractive or otherwise disappointing date' after all. But the slang
dictionaries do not support such a reading now.

Dennis Baron
Dept. of English office: 217-244-0568
University of Illinois messages: 217-333-2392
608 S. Wright St fax: 217-333-4321
Urbana IL 61801
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Message 2: Hot Dogs and Hot Dates

Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1992 23:24:21 -Hot Dogs and Hot Dates
From: <>
Subject: Hot Dogs and Hot Dates

 Rebecca Wheeler asks whether the term "dog", as applied to a date can
refer to a man, i.e., whether the date can be male.

 My copy of Wentworth and Flexner lists as its articles 11 and 12,

11. A disreputable or untrustworthy man, especially in sexual or social
matters; a cad.

12. An ugly, unrefined, or sexually disreputable girl or woman; a boring girl
or young woman who does not have the compensation of beauty.

 So the usage described in the query is not sex-specific, per se. The usage
is not specific enough to allow an unambiguous choice between these.

 The matter becomes much more complex, of course, if you want to discuss
distribution and relative frequency of usage. Wentworth and Flexner tends
to emphasize male slang. So it would tend to underemphasize the female
use of such terms. (There is still, I believe, a relative lack of information
on the history of use of sexual language by women, despite recent studies.)
Can one make an argument that men are far more likely than women to use
such a term?

 Slang etymologies are notoriously difficult to obtain. The entire group
of usages (op cit) is consistent with the idea that the above usages 11 and
12 are derivative from the more general:

6. Something inferior; something disliked or lacking in appeal.......

Under this reading the term is very general; its referent need not be human or
even animate.

 J.A. Given
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