HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
that portrays Sir Roger Curtis as Lord Howe's dog
The association between man and dog is an ancient one,
perhaps even extending back beyond the birth of language as we know it. But the
words used to describe our canine companions, have changed and evolved, every
bit as much as the dogs themselves. My next couple of blog posts consider some
of the terms used to refer to dogs over the centuries.
The earliest way of referring to canines was either as a dog or hound.‘Dog’ is one
of a group of old English words ending in ‘-g’ that refer to animals – such as pig,
hog, stag and even earwig! ‘Hound’ has common roots in a number of European
countries – such as German ‘hund’ and the Dutch ‘hond’. In the Middle Ages
especially, there were a number of disparaging terms for dog. According to the
Oxford English Dictionary a ‘cur’ is defined as:
dog: a worthless, low-bred, or snappish dog. Formerly (and still sometimes
dialectally) applied without depreciation, esp. to a watch-dog
or shepherd's dog.
recorded usage of ‘cur’ is in by Chaucer in 1385, and mentions crop up in
literature from pretty much every century.
‘The most Staunch and best Hunting Hounds;
(all babling and flying Curs being left at home).’
1684 R. Howlett
‘I am hunted away..by every barking Curr
about the House.’
1712 J. Arbuthnot
From around the 17th century, the word ‘cur’ became
used as a term of contempt for certain people:
ill-bred, low, or cowardly fellow OED,
As cited is
this quote from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
‘Out dog, out curre: thou driu'st me past
the bounds Of maidens patience’
And also ‘Coriolanus’
‘What would you have, you Curres, That like
nor Peace, nor Warre?’
Somewhat confusingly, the OED definition states that a ‘cur’
could also mean a guard dog.
Cur, a good, sharp
watchdog. The word does not refer, in the least to low breeding.
1884 R. Holland –
Words from the County of Chester.
alternative word dating from the Middle Ages with similar meaning to cur is ‘tyke’
– this was especially associated with the Yorkshire dialect, where a ‘tyke’
could be used interchangeably with ‘dog’. Other counties were not so forgiving
and the term was largely disparaging.
A dog; usually in depreciation or contempt, a low-bred or coarse dog, a cur, a
can be found in writings from the 15th century onwards.
‘He barkis lyk an midding tyk’
1513 W. DUNBAR
and my favourite;
‘The mad randy gipsy, that had..been hounded
like a stray tike from parish to parish.’
it is interesting to reflect that more modern expressions such as dog-sitter,
dog-napper and doggy-day-care imply a similar importance to a child. So next week,
I look at some of the affectionate language used through the centuries to refer
to our lap-dog companions.