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The Canine in Conversation
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illustration of a bewildered looking dog with a pencil in its mouth lying on a page with words on it
figure 1  


doggerel. Crudely or irregularly fashioned verse, often of a humorous or burlesque nature.

From Middle English, poor, worthless, from “dogge” or “dog” in the clerical sense, not the canid one.reference 1 The Century Dictionary says that the origin is unknown and that “there is no obvious connection with dog” and defines it as “mean verses, defective alike in sense and in rhythm.”reference 2 But then the same dictionary inserts the term “dog Latin,” which is what they term “barbarous Latin” All in all, when it comes to language, to add dog as a modifier is to suggest a marginal or unacceptable level of appropriateness. The implication of animality is present—even if not formative—in this term.

1. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth. 2000. Accessed August 26 2001 from http:// 61/.

2. Whitney, William Dwight and Benjamin E. Smith. 1914. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia; with a New Atlas of the World. New York: Century Co. Accessed from: http:// century
About the illustration: Here is a pooch trying desperately to get his rhymes to scan. Digitally collaged by the author; original images © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
see also: dog latin Last updated: July 5, 2008
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