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The Canine in Conversation
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painting of a dog in sunglasses hiding behind a bush
figure 1  


doggo. In concealment.

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first appearance of this term to an 1893 work by Rudyard Kipling: “I wud lie most powerful doggo whin I heard a shot.”reference 1 The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang names the origin as a reference to “a trained dog's playing dead.”reference 2 Evan Morris comments that “this explanation shows a lack of experience with dogs. Dogs are natural masters of studied impassivity and need no training in the art. A dog who does not wish to be involved in a particular situation (a bath, for instance) will pretend to be asleep, and if an attempt is made to rouse it, will then pretend to be in a deep coma. No one can lie doggo as well as a dog.”reference 3 Humorous as Mr. Morris's observations are, I find his interpretation no more credible than that of the editors at Random House. Drawing on the Kipling line, I imagine the narrator cringing and cowering as shots fly: exactly the kind of submissive behavior you would expect of a dog when it is threatened.



1. The Oxford English Dictionary Online. 2005. (3d ed.) Oxford University Press. Accessed from

2. Lighter, J. E. and Random House (Firm). 1994. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. New York: Random House.

3. Morris, Evan. June 13, 2000 2000. Coma Doggie. The Word Detective. Accessed Oct. 21 2001 from 042601.html#doggo.
About the illustration: Adapted from an image that appears on a “Doggie Doormat” with the added inscription: “Dog hiding in bushes behind you. He knows you're here. Ring bell. Act as if nothing is wrong.” Shawn Shipman, artist © High Cotton, Inc. Reproduced by permission.
see also: lazy as a dog; let sleeping dogs lie Last updated: February 11, 2008
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