So what’s the difference between a dog’s breakfast and a dog’s dinner?
I was asked this the other day at a pub quiz. Sadly, it wasn’t actually one of the quiz questions. Instead, it came from one of two former colleagues who, out of the blue and in a thoroughly discombobulating* way, had popped up in my local. There should be rules against this kind of thing. The last thing you want when you have two months to go before your enforced return to the rat race is another civil servant – or two, for that matter – bringing the whiff of Whitehall into the red-wine soaked leisure time of your home turf. Plus, they’re probably going to whip you at the pub quiz.
So, like I say, this wasn’t a quiz question, just the kind of riddle with which civil servants like to occupy their downtime.
Gamely, I thought I’d give it a go. Perhaps, I ventured, it had something to do with the times of the meals? Is there still time after a dog’s breakfast to return the mess to some kind of order, whereas by dinner time, that’s it for the day?
Was it maybe a regional thing, I suggested, noting that I’d never actually come across the term “dog’s breakfast” where I grew up. My former colleagues exchanged glances. Did I come from The North? No, Wales. They exchanged glances again: same thing, apparently.
Clearly I was a lost cause. They explained…
A dog’s breakfast is indeed a mess, they said, whereas a dog’s dinner is something that is over-elaborate. Like food cooked for a dinner party, or the way guests dress for dinner. Apparently.
Well, I accepted this at the time but on reflection, I’m not convinced. I mean, what’s happened to the dog in this description of dinner? Despite what those adverts for Cesar would have us believe (and come to think of it, if it’s so posh, why isn’t its name spelled properly?) I find it hard to imagine many owners delicately placing a sprig of parsley atop Fido’s lamb in jelly, or drizzling a port and rosemary jus around the edge of his dish. And I don’t suppose even pooches in Hampstead dress for their evening meal.
The Urban Dictionary – yes, that again – tells me that both “dog’s breakfast” and “dog’s dinner” actually mean exactly the same thing. Maybe it’s right. Or maybe it was written by Northerners.
But enough of this. I know you’re on the edge of your seats for a Genuine Quiz Question, so here goes:
What liquid is known as the Wine of Islam?
My husband’s inspired answer – Sex on the Beach – was apparently incorrect. I thought we should have at least got a point for creativity. We didn’t. The answer – if you still care – is coffee.
There were seven teams. We came sixth. And despite their unparalleled knowledge of animal-related idioms, the Other Civil Servants only managed fifth. Not so much a whipping as a light spank.
Next time, Gadget, next time…
*Discombobulating appears here by kind permission of the Campaign for the Preservation of Delicious Words.