demnition bowbows (bow wows)


Senior Member
I know "going to the demnition bow wows" is one of Charles Dickens quotes but still I can't follow exactly what's meant by it in the following context, taken from "Manhattan Transfer" [1925] by Dos Passos:
Location: a diningroom in a lavish apartment in Manhattan NY.
Family members and a friend are sitting round the table when an unwanted guest (a famous broker in his good days known as "King of the Curb") butts in and tries to make himself pleasant.
He upset a glass staggering to his feet. "If Emily insists on looking at me crosseyed I'm goin out. . . But remember give Lily Herf Joe Harland's love even if he has gone to the demnition bowbows."
Does it simply means "if he has gone to hell" or "has been damned" or something like that?
  • Mr Mantalini in Nicholas Nickleby uses the word demnition for damnation is many of his speeches, and talks at one point of going to the demnition bow-wows to mean going to the dogs (going into some sort of generalised moral decline). I suspect this is a representation of post-colonial slang.

    Bow-wow is young children's slang for dog. We don't talk of going to the damnation dogs, but of going to the dogs, which may, I suppose, in some people's minds, imply future damnation.

    I think the unwanted guest is producing a clumsy gloss on Mr Mantalini's expression.
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