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The Canine in Conversation
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dog's breakfast. 1. A big mess, a snafu, especially a kitchen failure.reference 1 2. A hodge-podge of leftovers.

Despite Evan Morris’s authoritative claim that a dog's breakfast is a big mess, I found few recent uses to justify this definition. New York Times reporter Michael Wines offers a less pejorative perspective. In analyzing President GHW Bush’s loss in the 1992 election, Michael Wines said that the campaign “repackaged a dog's breakfast of White House trade and fiscal policies into an ‘agenda for American renewal.’”reference 2 When queried by pundit and language columnist William Safire about his choice of phrase, he responded in this way, “A dog's breakfast is any kind of smorgasbord prepared, in haste or at random, from life's castoffs. In this case, it was the chicken bones and half-eaten pizzas of policies that the Administration had proposed earlier and Congress had rejected…cat people wouldn't understand, but anyone who has ever walked a dog down an alley would.”reference 3

Safire himself had recently used the phrase in an op-ed column when he quoted Wines, though he did not make any note of this in the language column. On February 22d he wrote, “the Clintonites slapped together a dog's breakfast of a budget proposal—and did not like what they saw.”reference 4

Dogs will apparently eat just about anything. However when it comes to meals, the dog modifier is anything but consistent. Dog's dinner has been used to refer to being all dressed up, wearing ones finest clothing. Or it can be simply another version of dog's breakfast. So far I haven't seen any evidence of a saying about dog's lunches, brunches, or any other meals.

1. Morris, Evan. 2000. And If They Don't Like It, They Hide It Behind the Piano. The Word Detective. Accessed Oct 21 2001 from http:// www.word-detective.com/042601.html#doggo.

2. Wines, Michael. 1992. How the President Lost: A Campaign of Disorganization and Disappointment. New York Times, Nov 29, 26.

3. Safire, William. 1993. Dog's Breakfast. New York Times Magazine, Mar 7, 16.

4. Safire, William. 1993. Calling a Tail a Leg. New York Times, Feb 22, 17.
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About the illustration: Burnt toast is a kitchen failure that can be associated with breakfast. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation, modified by the author.
see also: dogmeat
cf:
dog's dinner
Last updated: July 5, 2008
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