Dog-Botherer Redux

Long-time Swear of the Month Club subscribers may remember my paean to the archaic swear “dog-botherer.” In my previous essay on the word, I described it as a “forever insult.” At the time, I did not realize just how right I was. My intention with that first essay was to revive dog-botherer as a modern swear, but what I failed to notice was that dog-botherer has already been revived. It has merely taken on a more contemporary form.

I am referring, of course, to the delightfully illustrative phrase, “fuck the dog” (minced as “screw the pooch.”). As the original meaning of “dog-botherer” is essentially “dogfucker” (a swear which also survives to this day), “fuck the dog” - meaning “to thoroughly cock up a delicate situation” - is very much an heir to the dog-bothering tradition.

We need not stop at dogfucking, however. As is often the case, the steady march of sweary evolution has given us access to shades of meaning not available in the original epithet. “Fuck the dog” and “screw the pooch” alone have subtly different connotations, but we can do better. If one is flirting with disaster, we might say that they are “fondling the dog.” If one truly and irreparably fucks up, we might say that they “really took the dog in both hands.”

As you can see, what was once a simple Shakespearean insult has today blossomed into a wonderland of possible expletives. I encourage you to venture forth and explore this brave new world of canine pleasure. Just remember: don’t fuck any actual dogs. I do not endorse it.