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hind quarters of a dog skeleton
figure 1  

 

crooked as a dog's hind leg. 1. Dishonest, corrupt, evil.

This was a turn of phrase that my father used to savor. I presume that the expression refers to the fact that a dog's hind leg joint appears to go the “wrong” way, if you want to anthropomorphize it, that is. Crooked, not just in the sense of participating in unlawful activities, but also in an unnatural way. Bent, it appears, is bad, straight is, by implication, good. Bent is unnatural, as in kinky, or gay, or...

It never ceases to amaze me that a simple and colorful phrase such as this one can so quickly expose the underlying bias of the culture.

The phrase was apparently quite an apt description of preacher Charles R. Grosschel, who was indicted for securities fraud. Quoted in the New York Times, Gordon Kosmicki, a resident of Grand Island, Nebraska, who worked with Mr. Groeschel until state officials ordered the company to stop doing business there, said: “He's as crooked as a dog's hind leg. He's a real good con artist. You better be handcuffed to him because that's the only way you can keep track of him.”reference 1

 

 

1. O'Brien, Timothy L. 1998. Pastor Chuck's Bully Pulpit; S.E.C. Challenges a New Road to Material Salvation. New York Times, Aug 22, 1.

aerial view of a winding river
figure 2  

2. Just plain crooked. The term need not be quite so pejorative. In Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, he describes a river channel as “crooked as a dog's hind leg.”reference 2

 

2. Twain, Mark, and A. Grove Day. 1975. Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, 22.

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About the illustrations: Figure 1 is cropped from the beautiful illustration of a dog's skeletal system which comes courtesy of the web site of Cheryl R. Dhein, Associate Professor in the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. http:// w3.vetmed.wsu.edu/~crd/images.html.

Figure 2 is an aerial view of the Sacramento River. Used without permission.

3. Mount, Jeffrey F. 1995. California Rivers and Streams: The Conflict between Fluvial Process and Land Use. Berkeley: University of California Press, Chapter 4.
see also: dogleg
cf: man's best friend
Last updated: January 8, 2010
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