With his ears cut short and his tail cut long.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by panjandrum, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Oh foolish me.
    The inevitable question followed:
    What does the red line mean?
    I wish I knew - but I'm sure someone out there can help :)
  2. Monkey F B I Senior Member

    Acton, MA
    English - USA
    As far as I'm aware, that's really quite literal. When you get a dog's fur cut, you of course have to choose the length that you want his or her fur.

    Basically, the fur at his ears is short and the fur at his tail is long.

    Why did they say "With his ears cut short and his tail cut long"? It's stylistic in a sense...A songwriter can't simply say something in standard English because it won't rhyme or it will just sound off. So as a result of this, words are left off, sentences are changed, and it's up to the reader to interpret the song.
  3. Nunty

    Nunty Modified

    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I did a search on "his ears cut short" and came up with this image, which fits with the explanations we have received and is blessedly different from the gruesome images that haunted my childhood in relation to this song.
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Unfortunately, the gruesome image is probably correct.

    It was (and, shockingly, in some places still is) common with some breeds to crop or dock the ears or tails of puppies in order to make them resemble some standard (terriers, for example, are supposed to have short, stubby tails, and if they were born with longer tails, the tail would be cut short...), and this song blithely acknowledges that dreadful practice.

    More can be read here:
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm sure GWB is right, sadly.
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    GWB is correct. Cropping ears and tails was (is?) a widespread practice.
  7. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Would this practice have been normal in the US back in 1864 when the song Der Deitcher's Dog was written?

    It appears that the poor dog probably ended up as sausage meat (see verse 4), but that doesn't relate to what may have happened to him before his unfortunate disappearance.
  8. Topsie

    Topsie Senior Member

    Avignon, France
    The "tail cut long" (of the song) is probably just for comic effect, but the practice of cropping ears & docking tails is apparently "hundreds of years old" according to this article:
  9. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Sorry, panj, I wasn't around back then. Best to wait for JamesM or ewie. :D
  10. PMS-CC Senior Member

    Agreed. It's just a slam on immigrants who talk funny.
  11. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    I believe that doberman pinschers, as an example, are one breed who routinely have their ears cropped and tails docked in order to achieve the "classic" look. I can't say that I approve of these practices.

    Of course, the tail cut be cut short or cut long, depending on what the owner finds most attractive.
  12. out2lnch Senior Member

    Ottawa, Canada
    A tad off-topic perhaps, but some dogs actually benefit from the tail docking, and it is done with apparently no pain. The benefit is for dogs who are like an acquaintance's, which routinely damaged his tail from vigourously wagging his tail into the corner of a wall. If this didn't phase him (he kept on wagging), then a tail docking would seem to be in his best interest (not that that is why show dogs are docked).

    I have never heard anything good about ear-cropping though. Painful and unnecessary except for the owner's vanity. I even knew of a rescued dog that looked like the previous owner took it upon himself to crop the ears...

    To keep it on topic: I agree that this seems to be what the song is about.

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