I was curious as a cat about animal idioms, so I started working like a dog and I became busy as a bee once I opened up that can of worms.
Animals are so ingrained into our lives that we just can’t stop talking about them. Once I started looking these animal idioms up, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Supposedly we have The Little Pet Peeve comic strip by Frank King a hundred years ago to blame for this one. But you know what really gets me? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone speak of a peeve, but add “pet” to it and everyone has heard of pet peeves. What bothers you may not bother me, so that makes it your Pet Peeve but if it bothered all of us, then I guess it would just be a lowly, “Peeve.” That really peeves me off.
This is an adjective that works when you want to describe something in a positive manner, and don't want to evoke any of those four-letter words. You are dog-gone gorgeous, he is dog-gone funny, they are so dog-gone happy. It’s just the strangest dog-gone thing but when you add an “it” to dog-gone, then dog-gone-it, it’s become a negative. That is the strangest dog-gone thing dog-gone-it.
All Bark and No Bite
This is one of those dog idioms that really is self-explanatory. We all know people like this who talk a lot but never do anything. Instead of shunning these types as we should, we usually just elect them to public office.
Pick of the Litter
As we all know, cats and dogs give birth to multiple kittens and puppies and the whole batch is called a litter. Well, the pick of the litter usually means the best one of the bunch. If you get the pick of the litter, you are one lucky dog.
Let the Cat Out of the Bag
A long time ago in a land far, far away (England) vendors at the market would sell piglets that were in a sack, also called a pig in a poke. Dishonest sellers would put a worthless (To them, don’t get all upset at me) cat in a bag to scam the unsuspecting buyer. Well, if you let the cat out of the bag you busted them. That’s why letting the cat out of the bag now means to tell the doggone truth.
Dog Days of Summer
The Romans noticed the hottest days of the year were when the “Dog Star”, Sirius, was visible in the sky. Sirius comes from the Greek word “Seirios” which means “Scorching”; thus the Dog Days of Summer are the hottest days of the year. This was also around the time those crafty Romans started just wearing bed sheets instead of pants.
You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Now this is a saying that has been argued over by old guys for years, so I’ll just let the cat out of the bag on this one. This is one pet peeve that is all bark and no bite and I can prove it. I may be in the dog days of my life, but at one time I was the pick of the litter, dog-gone-it.
Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for ColoradoLocalLegends.com and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.