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Until the last dog is hung

  • Until the last dog is hung is first found in print in the 1860s, though the idiom may be older. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom until the last dog is hung, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    Until the last dog is hung describes staying somewhere long after others have left, to stay very late at a party when others have gone home, to attend a concert, sporting event or social gathering and be the very last to leave, to persevere until the end. The idiom until the last dog is hung has been in use since at least the mid-1800s, though it may be older. The word dog, in this case, refers to a human. Petty thieves and indigents have been referred to as dogs since the fourteenth century. It is tempting to believe that to stay until the last dog is hung is a reference to a massive execution event, in which criminals are hung in succession.

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    Examples

    We’re going to fight this action until the last dog is hung. (The New York Sun)

    The father, Frederick Plauman, said, “I will follow this thing through until the last dog is hung.” (The Buffalo News)

    ” I told him he could leave and said I wouldn’t sign until the last dog was hung.” (CBC)

    Fulfilling his duties “until the last dog is hung” is the way Russell Van Syckle described his enforced retirement on March 31, end of the month that saw his 70th birthday. (The New Jersey Herald)


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