Idiom to Idiot: Sometimes It’s Not That Much of a Stretch

Just ask my wife.


Or any number of other people, for that matter.

Seriously, though, I got to thinking of the ol’ saying yesterday when I was seriously sicker ‘n a dog, as we’re wont to say here on the Upper Great Plains, which, ironically, kept me from taking the dogs out for our daily walk.

A post about idioms starting with "sick as a dog" or, as we say where I come from, "sicker 'n a dog."

Not a big deal, usually, but Echo, Lucky & I are currently engaged in an October fundraiser for the BISSELL Pet Foundation called the Walktail Challenge. Our goal is to walk 2.2 miles per day every day of October for a total of 68.2 miles. Now we might not make it. So it goes.

Meanwhile, like I said, it got me to thinking about sicker ‘n a dog and its origins. So I Googled it. Or, as many right-wingers are wont to say, “I did my own research”.

The idiom sick as a dog first appeared in the late 1500s, according to “Sick as a dog seems to have first appeared in print in 1592 in Harvey’s Works; ‘Now sicke as a dog,’ predating the Oxford English Dictionary’s first attestation of 1705.”

Grammar Monster, however, defaults to the OED citation: “The term sick as a dog’ originates from the 1700s, when dogs typically lived outside in poor conditions, causing them to be far mangier, dirtier, and sicker than today’s well-groomed show-pieces.”

Now, my dogs aren’t especially well-groomed, and they most definitely are not show pieces, but that’s neither here nor there. We love them to the moon and back, anyway.

Author with his two rescue dogs, Echo (l) & Lucky (r). takes a continental perspective: “In the UK, we refer to vomiting as ‘being sick,’ and some etymologists believe this is the original meaning and origin of the ‘sick as a dog’ phrase… Dogs are notorious for being merrily unselective in what they choose to munch, and are equally notorious for the after-effects of their feeding-fests. Nothing like cleaning up puddles of dog vomit after your pup found an unlocked snack drawer, or decided to eat that painted pasta-necklace your little sister made you last summer.”

Well, they always have spoken a bit differently over there. Even so, while we are talking about the 1700s, Great Britain and the USA, there’s really no call for getting rebellious/revolutionary, a.k.a., bent out of shape, about the language. Right? I mean, we’d be getting worked up over nothing, really.

Regardless, I haven’t been able to nail down how sick as a dog evolved into the sicker than a dog, or sicker ‘n a dog as it’s typically expressed here in the great northland. 

None of this should be confused with sick puppy, which carries a distinct undertone of creepiness:

  • – A person who is sick (mentally disturbed) in a morbid or gruesome way.
  • Merriam-Webster – A person who is crazy, cruel, or disgusting.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I was under the weather yesterday and slept most of it away, so we weren’t able to hit the bricks. We’ll have another go tomorrow and on subsequent days to make up the lost miles.

Today I felt a little better, though, thank you very much.

A sick dog with a cold compress on his/her head
Image from

At this point you’re no doubt dog tired of this pointless departure from the fundraiser update, so we’ll just get on with it. 

By the way, the subhead to this piece is a twist on the ol’ idiom by no stretch, which is usually accompanied by of the imagination, and which, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “used to describe things that are definitely not possible or correct.”

Which applies unconditionally here. As I said…

Just ask my wife.

Or any number of other people, for that matter.

At least I’m not a sick puppy.

#WalktailChallenge: PLEASE DONATE a few bucks to help homeless pets and the shelters/rescues that care for them while finding forever homes.


Let me know what you think!