Living a dog's life

  • liveinusa

    New Member
    USA
    CHINA CHINESE
    thanks you guys!
    is it common in oral english? if i speak these idioms when i talk to a native speaker, will i be weird?
    or i just say "he lives a miserable life " is better?
     

    Arrius

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    He leads a dog's life. means his life is extremely unpleasant, for whatever reason(s). As for No.1 I think you may have to await someone familiar with the slang of Harlem or some such place to get an answer. Don't blame your ESL teacher.
     

    liveinusa

    New Member
    USA
    CHINA CHINESE
    thank you for your explaination! i can understand ,because sometimes i dont know the chinese idioms even if i come from china.
     

    liveinusa

    New Member
    USA
    CHINA CHINESE
    thanks you guys again. i really LOVE this forum. persons here are very warm-hearted. i wish i knew this forum ealier.
     

    AngelEyes

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I was surprised to see that no one thinks "a dog's life" is positive. I've heard it used and have used it to mean, "Boy, is he lucky! No cares in the world. He sure is living the dog's life."

    I did find thisreference to the ambiguousness of the term, though the more negative one is certainly more popular.

    Has anyone else ever heard of this relatively new association?

    Maybe it's because every one of my pets and all the dogs in my family are spoiled rotten, so I don't find it so odd at all.

    Welcome to the Forums, liveinusa!

    AngelEyes
     

    lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I was surprised to see that no one thinks "a dog's life" is positive. I've heard it used and have used it to mean, "Boy, is he lucky! No cares in the world. He sure is living the dog's life."

    I did find thisreference to the ambiguousness of the term, though the more negative one is certainly more popular.

    Has anyone else ever heard of this relatively new association?
    I thought the same thing. Dogs get to sleep all day, they have no worries, they are clueless about problems associated with living in our world, etc., and all they have to do to earn these privileges is be happy to see us and accompany us on walks.

    I, too, did a search and was surprised to find that the other negative meaning was more accepted. I guess I'm more used to seeing pampered pets than the lowly, unfortunate variety.

    Perhaps the meaning of this phrase will become dependent on that other popular WR word - "context". :D
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "He leads a dog's life", means he has a miserable existence.
    Dogs are treated differently in different cultures, but here in the U.S., where we have a multi-billion-dollar pet industry for toys, clothes, special foods, veterinarian care, etc., it means to lead a pampered existence, i.e. the exact opposite of the above.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    A dog's life, meaning miserable circumstances, can be traced to Erasmus, who pointed out the wretched subserviant existence of dogs in the mid-sixteenth century, as well as to the seventeenth-century proverb, "It's a dog's life, hunger and ease."

    You don't have to go far to find "the lowly, unfortunate variety." Check out your local animal shelter. Millions of dogs are euthanized each year in the U.S. alone.
     

    estefanos

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    i dont know what this idiom's meaning:
    To put on the dog
    He leads a dog's life.
    I have not heard either phrase for about 30 years! My grandfather, who was born in 1890, used both regularly.

    To put on the dog = to get dressed up in fancy clothes (tuxedo, etc.)
    To live a dogs life = to live a life of ease and indolence.

    As a child, I was always confused by the positive meaning of "a dogs life", as I was by possible origin of "the life of Riley", which was a fairly equivalent phrase that was also common at the time.

    I think both phrases dated to the period between 1910 - 1930, but have no evidence of that. It's simply what I always assumed because of the context in which my grandfather used those phrases.

    Perhaps the negative uses are recent attempts to reclaim a disused (and misunderstood) metaphor.


     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    The positive interpretation seems to live more in the fixed expression "It's a dog's life!", whereas "Living a dog's life" (although it's not an expression I've heard in use) certainly gives me a negative feeling.

    I think this goes for most, if not all, other expressions that use dog as a metaphor: that they imply misery and toil, e.g. "working like a dog", and other unpleasant associations. "It's a dog's life!" (no cares of responsibilities, etc.) seems more like the exception.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    The positive interpretation seems to live more in the fixed expression "It's a dog's life!", whereas "Living a dog's life" (although it's not an expression I've heard in use) certainly gives me a negative feeling.

    I think this goes for most, if not all, other expressions that use dog as a metaphor: that they imply misery and toil, e.g. "working like a dog", and other unpleasant associations. "It's a dog's life!" (no cares of responsibilities, etc.) seems more like the exception.
    I agree. I had never thought about how strange this was until I read this thread. "It's a dog's life!" is said when someone is enjoying a pampered life full of leisure. "Living a dog's life" means that he is living a difficult and miserable life. How strange!
     

    gotitadeleche

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    I have never, ever heard "dog's life" used positively. But whenever I hear or use the expression, I think of my pampered pooches and I often comment ironically that I wish I led a dog's life. :p
     
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