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<   No. 4386   2020-11-16   >

Comic #4386

1 Caption: ==Mythbusters== Hangover Cures
2 Jamie: Adam has provided us with the perfect setup to test hangover cures.
2 Adam: Studio lights? Really?? 
3 Jamie: First up: “hair of the dog”. Here, drink this.
4 Adam: Bleah!!! What’s in this?
4 Jamie: Doberman hair.
4 Doberman: Woof!

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Wikipedia's page on "hair of the dog" is currently a bit of a mess, with incomplete and contradictory statements about the etymology and earliest usages. It says "hair of the dog" originally referred to a supposed cure for being bitten by a rabid dog, citing a late 19th century work, but then goes on to say that "hair of a dog" features in a 3000+ year old Ugaritic text as a cure for drunkenness.

Some wider research indicates that the phrase may come from the medieval period. But phrases.org.uk then says:

With most metaphorical phrases that have a literal origin, for example toe the line and on the warpath, the later figurative use doesn't become popular until the literal use has fallen out of use. 'The hair of the dog' is unusual in that the figurative version is recorded before any known examples of the literal meaning.

John Heywood, in his early text, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546, uses the phrase with a clear reference to drinking:

I pray thee let me and my fellow have
A hair of the dog that bit us last night -
And bitten were we both to the brain aright.
We saw each other drunk in the good ale glass.

Let me highlight a sentence there: 'The hair of the dog' is unusual in that the figurative version is recorded before any known examples of the literal meaning.

So, we have recorded usage of "hair of the dog" being used to refer to a hangover cure, from before we have any recorded usage of it being used to refer to a supposed cure for being bitten by a rabid dog? Call me crazy, but... maybe this means the hangover usage might predate the supposed rabies cure usage?? Hmmm.

Word Histories has this to say:

It is a shortening of the phrase hair of the dog that bit you, first recorded in A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the englishe tongue compacte in a matter concernyng two maner of mariages (London, 1546), by the English playwright and epigrammatist John Heywood (circa 1496-circa 1578):

I praie the leat me and my felowe haue
A heare of the dog that bote vs last nyght.
And bytten were we both to the brayne¹ aryght,
We sawe eche other drunke in the good ale glas.

in contemporary English:
I pray thee let me and my fellow have
A hair of the dog that bit us last night.
And bitten were we both to the brain¹ aright.
We saw each other drunk in the good ale glass.

(¹ bitten to the brain: drunk)

This phrase originally referred to a remedy formerly recommended as a cure for the bite of a rabid dog. The Roman statesman and scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79) described several of these remedies in his encyclopaedia of the natural and human worlds, The Natural History (Naturalis Historia – 77):

(translation: John Bostock & H.T. Riley – London, 1855) When a person has been bitten by a mad dog, he may be preserved from hydrophobia by applying the ashes of a dog’s head to the wound. All ashes of this description, we may here remark once for all, are prepared in the same method; the substance being placed in a new earthen vessel well covered with potter’s clay, and put into a furnace. These ashes, too, are very good, taken in drink, and hence some recommend the head itself to be eaten in such cases. Others, again, attach to the body of the patient a maggot, taken from the carcase of a dead dog; or else place the menstrual blood of a bitch, in a linen cloth, beneath his cup, or insert in the wound ashes of hairs from the tail of the dog that inflicted the bite.

This seems a bit more authoritative, at least.

Kids, if you're doing research for a school project, don't just go with the first hit on Google.

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