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who let the dogs out? 1. Who invited these unattractive women to the party? 2. What unleashed the doggishness of the men at this party? 3. Who allowed (a specific) evil to be released into the world? 4. Isn't this wonderful? 5. Who gave these athletes the juice?

This phrase became ubiquitous because it was the refrain of a popular song. Its meaning is debated and it usage varied. Most of those who take the analysis of popular song lyrics seriously have concluded that the dogs in question are unattractive women who have arrived at a party. Though others have suggested the song is “about men partying and unleashing the doggy...side of their nature.”reference 1

Everyone else, including billions of people who have heard the song, remains largely unaware of the lyrics beyond this line and some woofing. Hence, the phrase has invited numerous interpretations. Maureen Dowd answered the question, saying that judicial nominee William Hayes let the dogs out by recommeding that SecDef Donald Rumsfeld approve the use of canines in interrogations of suspected terrorists.reference 2 The phrase worked well for her because in this case the dogs were both metaphorical and literal.

For Dowd, letting the dogs out was akin to loosing the dogs of war, that is allowing a bad thing to enter the world without restraint. Yet others have seen the unleashing of the dogs as a positive event. Admitting that he “wanted to be the first to use [the phrase] for what is going on in the telecommunications industry,” Peter Bernstein of telephonyonline goes on to say that, “...letting the dogs out is now a good thing.”reference 3 Frankly, the supposed “good thing” for the telecommunications industry is obscure and provides no added insight into the meaning of the phrase.

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figure 2

What I really want to know is who let the Baha Men out? In 2000, it seemed as if every sports franchise in the United States and Canada had this as their theme song. Perhaps it reflects the natural tendency of testosterone-afflicted men to bark like dogs. My step-son and I thought that it was special for the 2000 San Francisco Giants, and indeed a September 22 Salon article by Joan Walsh suggests that we were right.reference 4 At least the Baha Men actually came to Pacific Bell Park and sang the song in person; or did they do that elsewhere too? In any case, it has become such a cliché of sports that MasterCard Check card uses it as a reference in an ad.reference 5 The web site offers seventy-two reviews, most of which are negative, ranging from annoyed to contemptuous.reference 6 Still, the song was prominent enough to call for that much response. Was it just the Macarana of it's time? Or will it prove more enduring?

1. Pamela. 2006. Re: Who Let the Dogs Out. Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Discussion Forum. Phrasefinder. Accessed Mar 31 2008 from http:// bulletin_board/ 49/ messages/ 1123.html.

2. Dowd, Maureen. 2006. He Let the Dogs Out! New York Times, Jul 12. Accessed Apr 18 2008 from http:// select.nytimes. com/ 2006/ 07/ 12/ opinion/ 12dowd.html.

3. Bernstein, Peter A. 2000. The Analyst's Corner: Who Let the Dogs Out? telephonyonline. Telephony. Accessed Mar 31 2008 from http:// news/ telecom_analysts_ corner_let/.

4. Walsh, Joan. 2000. Who Let the Dogs Out? Salon (Sept. 22). Accessed May 23 2008 from news/ sports/ 2000/ 09/ 22/ giants/.

5. Someone who works at a football stadium is trying to buy the CD without this precious piece of plastic, meanwhile, back at the park, Minnie Riperton's 70s hit, “Lovin' You,” is playing on third down.

6. 2001. Customer Reviews: Who Let the Dogs Out. Accessed Nov 12 2001 from exec/ obidos/ tg/ stores/ detail/ -/ music/ B00004UAQ0/ customer-reviews/

About the illustrations: Figure 1 provided by Iconbazaar.

Figure 2 is from the record sleeve of the single. The copyright for it is most likely owned by either the publisher or the creator of the work depicted. I believe that the use of scaled-down, low-resolution images of record covers to provide critical commentary on the music in question or of the image itself qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

see also: let the dogs out; loose the hounds; unleash
cf: call off the dogs
Last updated: March 31, 2008
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