Etymology of the phrase "hunt you down like a dog"
February 3, 2005 7:18 PM   Subscribe

What's the origin of the phrase "hunt you down like a dog?" I can seem to find the origins of other phrases involving dogs pretty easily but not this one.
posted by DyRE to Education (16 answers total)
The first mention on Usenet I can find is in this awfully quaint and droll debate over whether the U.S. should drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:37 PM on February 3, 2005

I know it's referenced in Back to the Future - but Biff misquotes it, in the 3rd film. He says duck.
posted by filmgeek at 8:04 PM on February 3, 2005

Since the meaning is "hunt you down as if I was a dog", not "hunt you down as if you were a dog", I would say it comes colloquially out of hunting terms.
posted by smackfu at 8:06 PM on February 3, 2005

"dog - will - hunt" Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2
posted by joelf at 8:11 PM on February 3, 2005

Yes, smackfu's right, it's "I'll hunt you down like a dog [would hunt you down]." I'm sure it goes way back, I'd be surprised if you could find a clear origin for it.
posted by kindall at 8:57 PM on February 3, 2005

"You’ll be hunted down like a…well, dog!"

Which makes that usage all the funnier for being incorrect.
posted by weston at 9:33 PM on February 3, 2005

smackfu, that makes a lot more sense and I'm really surprised I never saw it that way. It always hit me like the person being hunted was like a dog, which seemed odd and psychotic to me, because who would hunt a dog, which would probably be more apt to be social (and easily hunted down) than standard prey, so it seemed kinda sick to hunt one.
posted by DyRE at 10:04 PM on February 3, 2005

Thanks, by the way.
posted by DyRE at 10:07 PM on February 3, 2005

weston linked to the only instance I can recall. It's Wallace & Gromit, in case you didn't know.
posted by tommasz at 6:16 AM on February 4, 2005

Wait! Don't accept that half-assed Googling as research. Here are some true citations. Also, smackfu's reading is wrong: the person being hunted is treated as a dog. The hunter is not hunting like a dog. Think of a rabid animal, perhaps, or one that has taken to killing chickens as a habit, and so must be killed. Dogs, though much loved as pets by some, have often been (and still are) treated as nuisances, low creatures, and something not worth attaching a lot of sentimentality to. I've included some citations for "like the dog you are" to illustrate this point.

23 May 1878 Indiana (Pa.) Progress "A Close Shave", p. 2: "A man will come after me who will hunt you down like the cowardly dogs you are. He will never rest until you are driven out of the country."

28 Feb. 1896 Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate "A Creole Romance" p. 3: "It is you who who have disgraced her and ruined their home. Old Dominique Farge will kill you. He has sworn to hunt you down like a dog."

4 Apr. 1905 Elyria (Ohio) Evening Telegram "Woman Threatened To Kill N.Y. Lawyer Is In Charge In Letter" p. 4: "I tell you with malice and premeditation that unless you do, I will come to New York and disgrace you publicly first, then shoot you like the dog you are."

5 Apr. 1929 (Lincoln, Neb.) Evening State Journal "Beau Ideal" p. 14: "You [...] have taken French gold and would use it to bribe a servant of France [...] if I live, I will command the firing party that shall shoot you like the dog you are."

4 Aug. 1929 Los Angeles Times "The Wandering Gentile" p. F8: "Try any of that sort of vileness in my district, Savaran, and, in spite of all I owe you, I'll hunt you down like a dog."
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:01 AM on February 4, 2005

Nice job -- where'd you find those?
posted by Miko at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2005

Newspaper databases and Proquest Historical Newspapers. The free Internet, Google included, is very shallow.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:31 AM on February 4, 2005

Aha, my original reading of the phrase was right. Interesting. Seems like it was already a spread-around phrase in those quotes, but I don't really know for sure obviously. Thank you though.
posted by DyRE at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2005

Newspaper databases and Proquest Historical Newspapers.

Damn. I was hoping you knew of some free internets treasure trove for phrase-finding (a favorite hobby).
posted by Miko at 1:28 PM on February 4, 2005

Mo Nickels citations are earlier (and closer in phrasing), but:

Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, 1906.
posted by rafter at 5:09 PM on February 4, 2005

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