1. A tightly fought contest whose outcome is too close to call.
The Washington Post reporter Kevin Merida used the term to characterize the Democratic primary fight of 2008. After Barack Obama showed strength in South Carolina, he said, “Hillary Clinton's black supporters...hadn't expected their candidate to be in a dogfight right now.” The term refers to the closeness of the fight which is probably more of a reference to the earlier usage for fighter planes rather than literal fights between dogs. Seldom does this usage imply the viciousness or duplicity often associated with dogs.
2. An aerial battle between fighter planes, especially during World War I, when the term came into use.
If you've read The Right Stuff, or seen the movie Top Gun, you may know a number of other colorful terms associated with dogfights. My favorite is “waxing his tail,” which is a symbolic victory in the process of chasing and being chased in a dogfight: to wax the other pilot's tail is to follow him in such a way that he could not, in actual battle, claim the superior position or elude fire. Perhaps the term is more of a reference to the nature of the aerial struggle as one of dominance and submission as it is to the fierceness with which dogs fight.
Merida, Kevin. 2008. Obama Wave Stuns Clinton 's Black Supporters. Washington Post, Feb 19. Accessed Apr 18 2008 from http:// www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-dyn/ content/ article/ 2008/ 02/ 18/ AR2008021802364.html.
2. Wolfe, Tom. 1979. The Right Stuff. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux.
3. A film directed by Nancy Savoca starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor. Set in 1963, several GI's about to leave for Vietnam play a game called 'Dogfight': each seeks a woman for the send-off; the one who finds the most ugly one is to win a prize. Taylor may not be a classic beauty, nevertheless It is hard to see her as a winning entry in such a contest, but the references to the dog-like promiscuity of men and the derogation of unattractive women as dogs are obvious.
Zoerner, Tom. 2008. Plot Summary for Dogfight. Internet Movie Database. IMDb. Accessed Mar 19 2008 from http:// www.imdb.com/ title/ tt0101748/ plotsummary.