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large inflated dog with a man walking in front of it, child on his shoulders
figure 1  

 

big dog. A person or entity (such as a corporation) of status and power.

As the web site bestbuysonthenet.com reminds us in its discussion about bigdogs.com, “Americans like everything BIG.” It is not actually clear whether bigdogs.com, a clothier providing clever shirts and jackets, is a big dog or not when it comes to marketing.reference 1

Of course when it comes to status and power, few can claim more than the President of the United States. On Bloomberg.com, Margaret Carlson mixed up the dog metaphors in a piece entitled “Big Dog Bill Clinton Snarls at Pesky Obama.” She quotes a voter who explained his opposition go Hillary this way, “‘You can't be commander-in-chief,’ he said, ‘if you can't keep your dog on the porch.’”reference 2

 

 

1. Hagopian, Dan. 2002. Big Dogs. BestBuysOnTheNet.com. Accessed Sept 6 2002 from http:// www. bestbuysonthenet .com/ bbn/ reports/ 43.html.

2. Carlson, Margaret. 2008. Big Dog Bill Clinton Snarls at Pesky Obama: Margaret Carlson bloomberg.com. Accessed Feb 7 2008 from http:// www.bloomberg.com/ apps/ news? pid=20601039&refer= columnist_carlson&sid= aGnovwEKBXbE.

head of a golf club
figure 2  

big dog. (golf) The golf club known as the driver.

In an early scene in the movie Tin Cup, Kevin Costner's character, Roy McAvoy, is teaching Rene Russo's character, Molly Griswold, how to play golf. McAvoy is poetic in explaining the basic golf swing using a plethora of metaphors. He tells her that she needs to “let the big dog eat,” the big dog being the driver.reference 3
3. Shelton, Ron. J. Norville and R. Shelton, writers. 1996. Tin Cup. W. Bros., G. F. productions and R. Enterprises.
star chart of constellation canis major
 

big dog. (astronomy) The constellation Canis Major, also referred to as the Great Dog. Also sometimes applied to the brightest star in the constellation, Sirius,reference 4 the Dog Star.

The two dogs, Canis Major and Minor, are near Orion the hunter and are often described as his hunting dogs.
4. The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2005. 3d ed. Accessed Mar 8 2005 from http:// dictionary.oed.com.
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big bill spacer
figure 4  

big dog. (finance) A big bill for “services rendered.”reference 5

Grant Barrett gives us a citation from the late 1930s in the Lexicon of Trade Jargon. As with “dog” referring to a promissory note, I would guess that this usage is archaic.

5. Barrett, Grant. Nov 72005. Dictionary: Big Dog. Double-Tongued Dictionary. Accessed Jan 11 2009 from http:// www.doubletongued.org/ index.php/ dictionary/ big_dog/.
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About the illustrations: Figure 1 is a large inflated dog at Purina Farms, the theme park for one of the corporate giants in the dog food business. In that market, Purina is definitely one of the big dogs. Used by permission.

Figure 2 is the head of a driver, © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 3 is from a star chart that appeared in a Funk and Wagnalls.reference 6
6. Funk, Isaac Kaufman. 1903. A Standard Dictionary of the English Language. new ed. New York, London: Funk & Wagnalls.
see also: run with the big dogs; Dog Star
cf: little dog; dog (finance)
Last updated: January 11, 2009
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