let the "dead dog" lie

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Midland, Jun 10, 2006.

  1. Midland Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Hellow, friends.

    The other day I heard the phrase "let the 'dead dog' lie."

    Is this the same as "let 'sleeping dogs' lie"?

    I learned the "sleeping dogs" version is very old, back to the 13th century, but how about the "dead dog" version? Is this new? Or is this slang?

    For the definition, I understand it means "not to bring up the subject, which was already settled, again.

    But is there any difference in definition between the sleeping dogs version and the dead dog version?

    Thank you!

  2. ericscot Senior Member

    I have never heard this version of the expression, but from your description, it's the same as "let sleeping dogs lie," which is still quite common. Then again, the latter can also mean that there is some problem that no one is talking about, and it would be easier on everyone just to leave the subject alone.

    It's possible the expression you mentioned is intended to have a slightly different meaning, or it's possible that someone misstated it. That happens quite frequently.
  3. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    It is a combination of "Let sleeping dogs lie" and "Don't beat a dead horse." Both expressions have similar meanings.
  4. maxiogee Banned

    I would be fearful of what might be revealed were i to poke at a dead dog with a stick.
    I am not unaware that the process of decay involves wriggly, squiggly, jiggly things - but I feel no desire to see them at close quarters!
    I would be more prepared to wake a sleeping dog than to disturb a dead one!
  5. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    The expression I've usually heard is "flogging a dead horse".

    If you are "flogging a dead horse" you are wasting your time and effort.
    A dead horse will not get up, no matter how much you hit it.

    Let sleeping dogs lie means don't stir up trouble.
    A sleeping dog won't do you any harm, but if you wake the dog, she could bite you.
  6. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    "flogging a dead horse" is "beating a dead horse" in AE although flogging is used in AE just not in this expression.
    "let the dead dog lie" is not common i.e. I have never heard it, nor do I like it.
  7. Midland Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Thanks for your input.

    I heart the expression ("the dead dog" version) from an American TV and also saw it in the Internet, and it was rather surprising that the phrase is not so often heard for ericscot and MarcB. (Has LanguageGuy heard it often?)

    Does it mean the phrase is used only on a special occasion? MarcB said "nor do I like it" because of the eerie impression the phrase gives?

    Does "dead dog" sound negative? Is it the kind of expression used by the rough type of people? Should I, a non-American English speaker, better use "sleeping dogs"?

    Thank you,

  8. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
  9. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    I'll chime in with another American opinion. I've not heard of it, either.

    HERE's an interesting article I found where the writer claims it is used among lawyers who advise doctors about malpractice suits. We would need someone from the legal profession to confirm whether this use is common in that field.

    However, this is only one of a total of TWENTY results pulled up for the expression. A majority of the other results where from blogs or forums, where I have to assume it was an amalgam of "let sleeping dogs lie," and "don't beat a dead horse," which has already been suggested.

    Contrarily, I found 265,000 results for "let sleeping dogs lie."

    Given that to "let sleeping dogs lie" means to not retart a conflict already considered resolved, I would guess that "let a dead dog lie" takes this one step further - don't even try to resucitate it - just let it go.
  10. Midland Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Thank you, MarcB and GenJen54.

    Seems I should use it with caution.

    Many thanks.

  11. Bonjules Senior Member

    never heard the 'dead dog' thing either.
    However, my mother made a very rich dessert by that name ("Toter Hund"). Here it is:
    1. Melt chocolate of your liking.
    2.Lay tea biscuits in a narrow baking pan (the hard, flat, rectangular cookies).
    3. pour the chocolate over each layer.
    4.Cool in the fridge.
    5. enjoy!
    (It is easier if you put wax paper in the pan first)
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I have never heard the expression. However, "a dead dog", meaning something that will not and cannot function, is sometimes used. It's not terribly common in normal speech.

    Dead animals, as symbols for something that is inactive, are not uncommon. There is a nice Brazilian one that, translated, means, "to return to the cold --implicitly dead--cow". That is said when a conversation has digressed far from the original topic, and somebody wants to redirect it back to the starting place.

    So, to return to the cold cow, let the dead dog lie is not well known in AE.
  13. I've googled "let dead dogs lie" and there are 6,620,000 hits.

    From what I've skimmed through, it would seem that when something has ended, such as a love affair, then one should accept the fact and not try to resuscitate it.

    Whatever it is that has ended, just let it go and move on with your life. It's hopeless going back over old ground.

    I've never heard this expression in the UK.

  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Searching for the phrase using quotation marks:
    Results 1 - 10 of about 257 for "let dead dogs lie".

    Take away the quotation marks and I get:
    Results 1 - 10 of about 6,620,000 for let dead dogs lie

    Google with care.

    The dead dogs version lacks something critical to the sleeping dogs version.
    Life, and the interesting consequences of disturbing a sleeping - but disagreeable - dog.
  15. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    google is interesting it shows how many hits there are for something noone has ever heard of??? Does a million hits vs 2 hits matter if noone one either side of the pond has ever heard of it??
  16. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Ouch - I was too cryptic again.

    When I search for sites that use the complete phrase "let deads dog die" I find 257 hits. That is a very small number and many of them relate to a book with that title.

    If I search for let dead dogs lie without the "", I find every site that includes those words in any location, in any order - 6,620,000 of them.

    I did not mean to suggest that this expression is common, because it isn't. I was pointing out the dangers of using Google as a reference source without fully understanding how Google responds.
  17. Midland Senior Member

    Japanese and Japan
    Thanks you, folks.

    It is now apparent the "dead dog" expression is not common at all. And almost none of the people who joined this thread heard it.

    This fact is very interesting. It indicates the dynamics of English. In Japan, there are certainly new, but daily, expressions which ordinary people don't know, but they are mainly jargon or slang used only a specific group of people or young people, and such expressions are rarely used in TV dramas or in the media.

    Google is very useful, but yes, I know what matters is how to use it.

    Thank you very much for your information!

  18. slimered New Member

    I've seen this version used in legal pleadings to denote avoiding a settled issue. You might be able to wake a sleeping dog but trying to wake a "dead dog" is futile.
  19. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    It's completely unfamiliar to me, although we criminal lawyers don't stoop to consort with those medical malpractice guys. :D
  20. Problemsmith New Member

    I'll confer with slimered :) and explain further. The basis here: In legal proceedings are that futile arguments in front of a judge carry warnings and will usually after that point reap repercussions.

    1. Let SLEEPING Dogs lie. This is an issue that you should just leave alone as the situation could escalate and become drastically worse. ie the next expression you'd be using would be "Hindsight is 20/20"
    2. Let DEAD Dogs lie. This is an issue that is settled (written in stone), the situation/ decision will not change, no matter the argument. ie a futile argument. next expression "well he got served with an idiots coup de grace"

    Both sayings imply that there will be further implications after proceeding to argue a point after the saying is stated.

    ie kicking a sleeping dog that you know is sleeping... you might get bitten.
    ie kicking a dead dog that you know is dead... wrong... but the owner or someone else might just take it out on you as well.

    I use this all the time, its simply a point of no return.

    My 2 cents.


  21. Lonestarcookie New Member

    I can't believe no one has heard of this? I grew up in Texas with my great grandmother saying this...
    Example: "John. Just let a dead dog lie. No use in kicking it around, because it's not going to change anything."
    This isn't meant to be gross... It's just a reference. It just means, don't keep bringing a subject up that isn't going to change. - (kicking a dead dog will not bring it back.) ----Actually, writing it out like this makes it sound bad... But I'm a huge dog lover and have grown up saying this and have never once thought of it being bad. It's always just been a reference. It's sort of a cultural tone in the southern U.S. Many southern sayings might sound bad, but are really meant to lighten the mood by using a shocking and ridiculous sounding statement -with a dry humorous tone.
  22. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    Have you heard it from anyone besides your great grandmother?
  23. Lonestarcookie New Member

    Yes, and from unrelated people as well... especially from East Texas.
  24. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    That helps. Thanks. Perhaps it is regional. I'm another person who has never heard it. Texas is famous for its unique and colorful expressions.
  25. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English

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