Posted by: Jack Henry | March 7, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Dog Wagging and Wagging the Dog

As promised, I spent my weekend searching for a dog to rescue and I kept my word! Some of you asked for a picture, so here his is: meet Harvey!

As far as non-personal information, I’d like to share two dog-related phrases and their meanings with you: the tail wagging the dog and dog days, as explained on the Grammarist website.

Tail Wagging the Dog

The tail wagging the dog describes a situation in which the thing which should be driven by circumstances instead is the thing driving the circumstances, it is a role-reversal. In modern times, an example would be the phenomenon of a news outlet reporting about an unimportant situation so often and so fervently that the situation becomes important, instead of the news outlet scheduling its reportage around situations that are inherently important. The idiom the tail wagging the dog seems to have originated in the United States in the 1870s. According to Google Ngram, the popularity of the idiom tail wagging the dog has risen steadily since then. A popular movie about political manipulation of the news media debuted in 1997, Wag the Dog.

Dog Days

The idiom dog days traditionally refers to the hottest period of the late summer. It has a long and interesting history. The Romans referred to the late-summer period as dies caniculares, literally meaning Dog Star days, out of the belief that the summer heat was caused by the proximity of the star Sirius (the brightest star and part of the Canis Major—Large Dog—constellation) to the sun during these months. This belief may have come from the Greeks or Egyptians.

For the Romans, the dog days fell between July 24 and August 24. This is still roughly the period denoted by dog days in modern use, but the term is often extended to mean either the late summer generally, any waning stage, or any period of stagnation or languid activity.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

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