We are spending the last few days of August celebrating the "Dog Days of Summer." Enjoy our "Parade of Dogs" as we trot towards the cooler days of September.
Some things do get better! Proof: "It's a dog's life."
When the phrase was first coined, seemingly in the 16th Century, the phrase referred to a life of misery, hunger and difficulty—a wretched existence. At that time, most dogs were hardly coddled. They were probably kept out-of-doors, in the cold, heat or rain. They were fed on scraps, perhaps eating only what they could find for themselves. And they were likely to be worked hard: as shepherds, ratters or pulling a dog cart. "A Dog's Life" was not luxurious, indulgent or pampered. Other phrases—"dying like a dog," "dog tired," "going to the dogs," or "dog eat dog"—all have similar, unhappy connotations.
Today, however, especially amongst people under 50, "A Dog's Life" connotes an existence of lazy indolence—an easy life of rest, regular feedings, and lots of human affection. No responsibility. Little exertion. Today, when a person is described of having "A Dog's Life," s/he is being characterized (gently accused?) of being supported without earning her keep.
How the meaning of this phrase was flipped—and so recently—is a mystery, even to language scholars. But such "reversals" have been known to happen in the past. "Awful" was once used to describe "a scenario inspiring awe" (Awe+full). Now it signifies "something terrible." "Cleave" is now understood as "to split" or "to divide" though it once meant "to hold-together tightly." And the word "fear," once used to describe "worshipful reverence of a venerated power" (God), now means "terror" or "crippling apprehension."
This jaunty little pup, cast in bronze in California, has the letters L-I-F-E impressed into each of his four paws. Whether you give it to someone lucky or unlucky in life, it is sure to provide happy companionship on a desk, bedside or windowsill. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
More handsome "Dog Days" ideas tomorrow.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248