Estimated Read Time: 5 ½ minutes Unfortunately, our doggo’s can’t back to us (Unless they’re like Bunny the Sheepadoodle, who’s learned how to communicate via buttons with her pet parents! According to Live Science, a 2007 study found that when dogs wag their tails to the right, it's a sign that they've feeling positive emotions, while wagging … note 4] is at the head of his party, and Mr. Blaine [cf. Learn a new word every day. Shortly before an election, a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join efforts to fabricate a war in order to cover up a Presidential sex scandal. “Are we witnessing an Obama ‘Wag the Dog’ moment with Boko Haram in Nigeria? Given that we’ve already gotten two distinct meanings from theater and film, it’s also possible that some future use of the phrase will be added by a music video or puppet show. The term 'wag the dog' comes from the expression that a dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter than the dog, the tail would be in control. Armed rioters storm Capitol building. But while we’ve covered the more recognizable wags, what lies beneath is rather intriguing. But if you’ve ever seen your dog wag his tail in a rapid, almost twitching motion, it can mean that he’s prepared to become aggressive if needs be. And others still appear to have come from both media. On a lighter note, it may mean lots of fur in your face or a broken vase tossed on the floor by a rapid swing of the tail. Tail wagging is also a social indicator, which means that a dog won't wag their tail unless they're around other dogs or humans. According to research Barry Popik, the variation, don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog, emerged in the 1960s to caution businesspeople against making decisions solely on the bases of tax concerns. There is a lot of information contained in the movement of your dog’s tail, which is why tail wags can mean so many things. Training a dog not to bark at strangers is not an easy task. Others have come from the world of theater, such as malapropism (“a usually humorous misapplication of a word or phrase”), from the name of a character in Richard Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals. Pups aren’t born knowing what a wagging tail means any more than a newborn baby understands words. Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., a staunch critic of Clinton, said of Thursday's military strikes: "I'd hate to think this was a Wag the Dog-type thing. President Harrison [cf. Obviously, it comes from the idea that a dog wags its tail when it’s happy. Why Do Cats Wag Their Tails? Research by Gary Martin for the UK-based website Phrase Finder first finds the expression in an 1872 local newspaper, The Daily Republican : “Calling to mind Lord Dundreary’s conundrum, the Baltimore American thinks that for the Cincinnati Convention to control the Democratic party would be the tail … The tail wagging the dog definition is - —used to describe a situation in which an important or powerful person, organization, etc., is being controlled by someone or something that … #WagTheDog”, “After a while, the negative tape starts to become a self-fulfilling prophecy and the tail starts to wag the dog.”. To wag the dog means to distract attention away from a political scandal, often through military action. Biden sworn in as 46th President, impeach Directed by Barry Levinson. Wag the dog comes from the longer expression the tail wagging the dog. Get Page and check your text using a unique Contextual Grammar and Spell Checker. Ha! But this may not be exactly true. Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times, Set your young readers up for lifelong success, Study Up With Our Official SCRABBLE Dictionary, Words From 1921: 100 Years Old and Still Around. Do you know these earlier meanings of words? Ha!— Tom Taylor, Our American Cousin, 1869. Before the film Wag the Dog and its allusive application to the Clinton scandal, the idiom wag the dog was more commonly used with or in reference to the full phrase, the tail wagging the dog, i.e., a reversal of proper roles. The joke quickly became part of our vernacular, although the theatrical origins were often omitted (the line was sometimes attributed to a real, rather than fictional, lord). [Laughter]— The Baltimore Sun, 4 May 1868, The idiom appears in a variety of forms over the next hundred years or so, typically in the sense of ‘a less important thing controlling a more important one.’, Ordinarily the resolution is of more importance than the preamble, but here the relation is reversed. The smallest or least important part of something in control of the larger or more important elements; a reversal of typical roles or dynamics of power. What does the tail wagging the dog expression mean? In 1997, a film called Wag the Dog came out, based on a 1993 novel of the same name by Larry Beinhart. Interestingly, a study done in 2013 mentions that dogs can also decipher the meaning of the direction of a tail wag in other dogs. Most people comprehend the wagging tail of a dog as an invitation to approach. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... A selection of words from the chillier parts of t... Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz! With Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Anne Heche, Woody Harrelson. House impeaches Trump again, insurrection Though indeed tail wagging can express positive emotions, tail wagging is also an indication of fear, insecurity, challenging of dominance, establishing social relationships, or a warning that the dog may bite. Just like dogs, cats move their tails to express their emotions. The tail wagging the dog is an idiom that usually refers to something important or powerful being controlled by something less so. If you say that the tail is wagging the dog, you mean that a small or unimportant part of something is becoming too important and is controlling the whole thing. The tail wagging behavior of a dog may not always be an indication of its friendliness or happiness, as is commonly believed. The meaning is quite obvious, the subsidiary part is controlling the major part. The tail wagging the dog is an idiom that usually refers to something important or powerful being controlled by something less so. Why does a dog waggle his tail? Definition of the tail wagging the dog in the Idioms Dictionary. Dogs wag their tail to communicate with humans and other animals. Wag the dog went on to develop its own specialized political meaning. note 5] is at the tail, but the recent proceedings at Cincinnati [cf. Don’t mistake a wagging tail for friendliness. Tail wagging is also a social indicator, which means that a dog won't wag their tail unless they're around other dogs or humans. It is, after all, what dogs do — alert us to situations that are outside the norm. Donald Trump seems ready to wag … It is a new version of Dundreary’s conundrum, a clear case of the tail wagging the dog, because it is stronger than the dog.— The Detroit Free Press, 5 Apr. In 1998, when Bill Clinton’s scandal regarding Monica Lewinsky broke, he was accused of “wagging the dog.” Three days after admitting he had inappropriate relations with Lewinsky, he ordered missile strikes against two countries, allegedly to divert public attention from his sex scandal. The plot revolved around efforts to distract attention from a presidential scandal by fabricating a war. For example, the faster the speed, the more excited the dog – that’s obvious. But even if it was - and I'm not saying it was - it was the right thing to do.”— Indianapolis Star, 21 Aug. 1998. Although wag the dog was initially applied to Clinton, the sense of ‘superfluous military action to distract from domestic scandal’ has been too useful to leave in the 1990s, and has been applied to every subsequent president. ).So, we as their owners have to rely on their bark, body language… Origin of Tail Wagging the Dog This expression first appeared in the 1800s. This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. Dun Now I’ve got another. Canines know many variations of the “tail wag” and they all mean different things. A strategy can be referred to as “a real wag the dog tactic,” or you can say that “The prime minister is wagging the dog with this accusation.” It can also be used as a hashtag to call attention to a person’s use of this strategy. To 'wag the dog' means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance, to something else of lesser significance. The phrase originates in the saying "a dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter, then it would wag the dog." The phrase is also the tittle of a black comedy film from 1997. Animals, Circumstances, Dog W 1 Thought when it rains, it pours ❯❮ up a blind alley Definition: Something small or not powerful controlling something big or powerful. Since then, wag the dog has come to be used on its own and as a term for a political diversion. Lord Dundreary, a fictional British nobleman, makes a number of execrable jokes in this play. ‘Even asking whether The Superstar Effect or TLT will win in a fight is like asking whether the dog wags the tail or the tail wags the dog.’ ‘But, they persist, peddling garbage, contradicting themselves in public (as in the example I posted), asserting the illogical (e.g. Wag the Dog The phrase “the tail that wags the dog” dates to the turn of the century. The 1997 film Wag the Dog shortened the phrase and added the additional meaning of 'superfluous (military) action in order to distract from domestic scandal.' They reorganized their entire weekly schedule just because their son likes to sleep in late. By doing so, the lesser-significant event is catapulted into the limelight, drowning proper attention to what was originally the more important issue. Wag the dog can be used as a verb or an adjective. Its earliest use is in the 1858 play Our American Cousin. From the phrase, 'It's the tail that wags the dog.' Sometimes words or phrases come into English from the world of film, as in paparazzi (the plural form of a word for a type of freelance photographer) taken from the name of a character in Fellini’s 1959 film La dolce vita. Since the election split the country in two, half almost automatically disagreeing with whatever Bush decides, most of his quick actions have drawn much criticism. Definition and synonyms of the tail wagging the dog from the online English dictionary from Macmillan Education.. An example of this is the idiom the tail wagging the dog. “A tail wag which just involves the tip, with the tail high above the back, or less than 90 degrees from the back indicates high arousal. In April 2017, Donald Trump’s airstrike on Syria was referred to as a wag the dog moment. the tail wagging the dog meaning: 1. a situation in which a large group has to do something to satisfy a small group 2. a situation…. Dun Because the tail can’t waggle the dog. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. Ambassador Nikki Haley's recent warning to the United Nations Security Council that civil unrest in Nicaragua poses a threat to the stability of Central America may have set the stage for Donald Trump's "Wag the Dog" moment.— The Jackson Sun (Jackson, TN), 13 Sept. 2018. Most people look at a dog with a wagging tail and assume it is happy. F. Scott Fitzgerald used it in 1935. I say yes.”— Michael Hirsch, Politico, 12 May 2014, U.S. In the film, titled Wag the Dog, fictional political fixers orchestrate the invasion of a country in order to distract from a presidential sex scandal. Thrashing Tail Movements. Check out words from the year you were born and more! We define this phrase “used to describe a situation in which an important or powerful person, organization, etc., is being controlled by someone or something that is much less important or powerful.” As noted by linguist Ben Zimmer, the phrase originated in Tom Taylor's 1858 play Our American Cousin. It is uncertain whether the longer or the shorter form of the idiom will supplant the other, or if both will end up in use with their individual senses. The popular notion is that when a dog wags his tails, it implies a happy and friendly dog. 2001, The Obama team was focusing on the kidnapped Nigerian girls in order to divert attention from the congressional probe, West wrote. In fact, a wag of the tail is one of the best methods of communication in the canine kingdom. It did not take long for the form to change slightly, and wag was substituted for waggle. 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'. The tail wagging the dog - Idioms by The Free Dictionary. rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of wag the dog While this is usually true, there are times when a dog wags its tail just before it becomes aggressive. To wag the dog means to distract attention away from a political scandal, often through military action. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? This is the British English definition of the tail wagging the dog.View American English definition of the tail wagging the dog.. Change your default dictionary to American English. Its earliest use is in the 1858 play Our American Cousin. Here's a fun fact: The direction your dog is wagging their tail is a tell-tale tell (try saying that ten times fast). The answer to a riddle, “Why does a dog wag his tail?” is answered by an English nobleman, who says it is “because the dog is stronger than his tail. The tail wagging the dog is an American idiom that dates back to at least the 1870s. Learn more. wag the dog to cause a persuasive movement in any large body of influence, i.e., a mass of people, through means by which a lesser influence is utilized. inaugurate, inauguration that will help our users expand their word mastery. As the movie was released shortly before President Clinton was embroiled in a real-life sex scandal, the title began being used in an attributive fashion, applied to military actions. A 1997 film, directed by Barry Levinson, brought about a shortened version of the idiom, and added a new meaning. the tail wagging the dog phrase. The speed, amplitude, and looseness of the tail are all informative when assessing a tail wag, as is the height of the tail. Redefine your inbox with Dictionary.com updates. The tail wagging the dog is an American idiom that dates back to at least the 1870s. It’s important to keep a close eye on a tail held high or over the dog’s back, Radosta says. 1  Often, it seems fairly obvious what the dog is trying to tell you when it wags its tail. Like human infants, dogs must learn their language. The phrase in discussion is the shorter version of the same. The perception was that Trump was using the attack to wag the dog, or direct attention away from his low approval ratings, the ongoing investigation about his connections to Russia, and his other conflict of interests. There is a popular saying which goes "a dog is smarter than its tail, but if the tail were smarter, then the tail would wag the dog". So what does it mean when a cat wags its tail? Research by Gary Martin for the UK-based website Phrase Finder first finds the expression in an 1872 local newspaper, The Daily Republican: “Calling to mind Lord Dundreary’s conundrum, the Baltimore American thinks that for the Cincinnati Convention to control the Democratic party would be the tail wagging the dog.” For the tail to wag the dog, then and now, indicates a backwards situation where a small or unimportant entity (the tail) controls a bigger, more important one (the dog). Let’s take a look at the different “wagging” tail movements and what they mean. If he wasn’t the tail would wag the dog.” Sharp reasoning, that.— The Union Democrat (Manchester, NH), 12 May 1863, ”Why,” says his lordship, “the reason is because the dog is greater than the tail.” “If it were otherwise,” says that profound thinker, ”the tail would wag the dog.” [Laughter.] Delivered to your inbox! I, along with many political experts, believe that this action by Bush was a classic case of "wag the dog" syndrome.— Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), 2 Mar. A higher tail usually means a dog is confident, while a lower tail indicates a more timid or nervous dog. Here was an instance, Mr. Speaker, where the smallest kind of a rat terrier’s tail attempts to wag a New Foundland dog. Definitions by the largest Idiom Dictionary. The phrase “tail wagging the dog” predated the movie, but it took on its current specific meaning in the political lexicon—concocting a national security crisis … Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! THE TAIL WAGS THE DOG. It stems from the generic use of the term to mean a small and seemingly unimportant entity (the tail) controls a bigger, more important one (the dog). Flo Upon my word, I never inquired. “Will someone teach @realDonaldTrump how to wag the dog without actually going to war?”, “My fear is that Trump is doing this so that in our outrage we miss what his real agenda is. Using 43 pet dogs of differing breeds, the study showed videos of dogs wagging their tails in both right and left directions to see how they reacted, using a vest to monitor their heart rate. In 1907, it appeared in Von Arnum’s Fraulein Schmidt. Some presidents, when they get into trouble before an election, try to “wag the dog” by starting a war abroad. What does wag the dog mean? The complexity of the tail wag is immense, and while many people unfamiliar with dog behavior think that a tail wag means a dog is This is not meant to be a formal definition of wag the dog like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is Wag the dog is, in politics, the act of creating a diversion from a damaging issue. the tail wags the dog said to mean that a small or unimportant part of something is becoming too important and is controlling the whole thing To avoid the impression of the tail wagging the dog, the prime minister cannot be seen to be giving in to the wishes of a minority party. 1874, There was no compromise promised and no alteration of the tactics the Communists have adopted from the first of reserving the right of the tail to wag the dog.— P. J. Philip, The New York Times, 7 Dec. 1936. This can be seen when a dog begins to wag it's tail, and it's body then follows. Dog Tail Wagging Meaning. 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