When searching the Internet for anything, one finds practically the same version of what has been said or written about any particular subject, over and over again, cut-and-pasted to the nth degree, and never getting down to the bottom of things. It’s quite frustrating, really.
The way I would describe how I’ve been feeling since this past Tuesday is “sick as a dog,” which brought me to questioning the origin of this idiom and sent me hopefully on my Inter-Web quest to gain some insight.
The most quoted root for this saying stated the first found usage dated back to 1705 and is “probably no more than an attempt to give force to a strongly worded statement of physical unhappiness.” OK, I can live with that; but who said it? Had I continued my search, certainly hundreds of the same example would have come up repeatedly without any substantiation as to where the simile was published and by whom.
According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: E. Cobham Brewer, 1894; the idiom was in common usage at the time, but that was it. No further reference was given.
One of the wiki-answer sites claimed the saying dated back to the 1500s, but again, no reference as to where, what, and by whom was given.
At least one quotation was found, however, attributed to John Banks in 1797, from his referenced publication: The Albion Queens, or The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots. Further investigation before committing myself to the fact found John Banks, an English playwright, had written actually what was entitled The Island Queens, or the Death of Mary Queen of Scotland in 1684 and published it in 1686, which was banned on political grounds. Twenty years later, it was staged as The Albion Queens and was quite a success, dating the quote in question close to 1705 as originally documented in this essay. That just goes to show you, one cannot always believe the validity of what is found on our beloved Internet. Before stating something as truth, it’s best to research further before sticking one’s foot in their mouth.
At any rate, the quotation allegedly reads as follows: “Ay, but thou knowest he’s as uncertain as the wind; and if, instead of quarreling with me, he should grow fond, he’d make me as sick as a dog.”
Notice I said “allegedly” before quoting, as I got fed up with trying to substantiate anything from the Web and wasn’t about to look any farther to gain its authenticity. Had I been in a major library, the quotation would have been verified readily by using the Dewey Decimal Classification System.
As a further note with regards to this long-winded topic, for which I feel less sick as a dog as time passes, thank goodness—having had a terrible bout with bronchitis which isn’t completely over yet—being sick in America is a generic term for having just a cold, flu, or even a migraine headache. In England, that would be considered “feeling ill.” Being sick across the pond refers to vomiting, which adheres more appropriately to a dog’s tendency to puke-up at the most inopportune times, like on the kitchen floor as everyone is eating dinner, or when company is seated for tea, after the animal’s having ingested a rabbit, or some other dead delicacy it caught or found previously outside in the back garden.
Having been the most ill that I’ve been in years, although not having vomited or felt nauseous during this past episode, I’ll refrain from using sick as a dog, cat (for repetitious fur-ball expulsion—which to me is close to bronchitis), or any other creature for describing my horrendous malady. Thanks to modern medicine and lots of bed rest, I hope to be my true, cynical self in no time.