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The Canine in Conversation
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illustation of a dog performing on a stage
figure 1  


dog town. 1. A town or city where a theatrical production is tried out before it appears in New York.reference 1

This term is increasingly antiquated as Broadway and Off-Broadway become moribund and regional repertory theaters are seen as the venues for new and exciting theatrical productions. Many of their productions never make it to the Great White Way. In 1938, the hierarchy was quite pronounced, as Linton Martin noted in the New York Times. “Time was when the practice of play producers of ‘trying it on the dog’ aroused yelps and yowls of protest from Philadelphia 's footlight faithfuls.”reference 2 Should the intelligent reader come across the term today, antiquated as the term may be, I suspect that its meaning will typically be ascertainable through context. For instance, in Matthew Kennedy's biography of Marie Dressler the line, “There was endless travel from one ‘dog’ town to another,”reference 3 seems plain enough.

1. Lighter, J. E., and Random House (Firm). 1994. Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang. 1st ed. New York: Random House.

2. Martin, Linton. 1938. Philadelphia Is Pleased to Be a Dog Town. New York Times, Jul 10, 121. Accessed May 22 2008 from http:// gst/ abstract.html? res= F10917FD38581 A7A93C2A8178 CD85F4C8385F9.

3. Kennedy, Matthew. 1999. Marie Dressler: A Biography: With a Listing of Major Stage Performances, a Filmography, and a Discography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.

photograph of a hovel
figure 2  
dog town or dogtown.2. A mining camp, so termed by miners because the hovels were “good enough for dogs to live in.” The place name then turned up on topographical maps and at least one such town emerged formally as Dog Town (in Mono County California). The encampment had many “makeshift huts” built by Chinese miners in the 1850's.reference 4 Dogtown is also an informal name for a number of significant urban areas around the US. See dogtown in the Appendices.
4. Gudde, Erwin Gustav. 1969. California Place Names; the Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. Rev. and enl. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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figure 3
Dogtown, as it refers to specific geographic locations is discussed in the Appendices under Dogtown.
About the illustrations: Figure 1 is digitally excerpted from a Punch illustration, © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

The goldrush town in Mono County is long abandoned and ruins—but no pictures of the original structures—remain. As a stand-in, Figure 2 is a mining camp, probably on Grasshopper Creek in Montana. Public domain courtesy of the State of Montana, the Montana Kids' Site.

Figure 3 is an arial view of east Los Angeles, showing an established barrio known as Dogtown.

see also: dogtown; try it on the dog Last updated: July 5, 2008
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies