Thursday, December 15, 2005


Who came up with the phrase “screwed the pooch”? Someone used it the other day here at the office and it got me thinking, how did making a blunder become associated with having sex with a dog? I’m not an expert on bestiality, but it would seem to me that if you’re having relations with a canine, you KNOW you’re having relations with a canine. Make no mistake about it – that’s an intentional act.

“They printed off the wrong presentation deck before heading to the airport? That sucks – sounds like they really screwed the pooch this time.”

A statement like this one doesn’t really seem to work, as sex with a dog doesn’t signify “catastrophic blunder” to me. “Screw the pooch” sounds more like an intentional act so embarrassing the committing individual can’t tell anyone about it. As in:

“High Grant got caught soliciting oral from a prostitute? Man, did he screw the pooch!”

That seems a little more accurate to me…but in such cases we walk a fine line between the literal and the metaphorical. “Screw the pooch” is simply not an easy expression to pull off, which is why I recommend this colorful phrase be retired and replaced with something a little more universal in appeal – like the standard go-to phrase “fucked up.”

That way there’s no confusion over whether there was an error made or whether someone just did something grossly unacceptable, like pork the pet.

If someone told me this guy "screwed the pooch," I'd believe it!

For your files, I did look up the origin of the phrase and it turns out it's a derivative of the old phrase "fuck the dog," which originally meant to waste time, or loaf around on the job. In addition to being a little more abrasive, the original expression doesn't work so well in its intended context. A friend just called me at work and asked what I was up to. "Not a whole lot," I said. "Just fucking the dog."

That opened up a line of questions I'd rather not get into. All you need to know is that confusion can be safely avoided by sticking to more widely accepted figures of speech.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I have never heard that saying! Is it a yankee thing?

Arne said...

I tought it was a kiwi thing.