see a man about a dog

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From the 1866 Dion Boucicault play, Flying Scud, in which a character knowingly breezes past a difficult situation saying, "Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can't stop; I've got to see a man about a dog."

Verb[edit]

see a man about a dog

  1. (idiomatic) Used as an excuse for leaving without giving the real reason (especially if the reason is to go to the toilet, or to have a drink).

Usage notes[edit]

  • The most common variation is to "see a man about a horse".
  • Almost any noun can be substituted as a way of giving the hearer a hint about one's purpose in departing.
  • The inversion to "see a dog about a man" eliminates any lingering uncertainty about whether the hearer is being put off.
  • A shorter variant is to "see a man".

Related terms[edit]