October 23, 2003

Ask Jen

Paige asks, "A hunter leaves his tent and travels 10 miles south, then ten miles east. At this point, he kills a bear, and then drags the bear 10 miles north to his tent. What color was the bear?"

I'm the first to admit math was never my strong suit, but I think it was a black bear and he's in the wrong tent. Someone will have to check my work and correct me if I'm wrong.

***Update: I knew I was wrong. Jim solved this for me in the comments.

Jim asks, "Where does the phrase 'Screw the pooch' as in 'Damn! You really screwed the pooch!' come from? Its literal meaning (having carnal knowledge of a canine) doesn't fit at all with its usage (messing things up badly)."

First of all, I have to note that Jim sent this before my bestiality post yesterday. He sent it after my "The Right Stuff" post...whether that was a factor I do not know.

Now, to answer your question. The phrase screw the pooch first came into (public) popularity after the book The Right Stuff came out. The original expression was "f**k the dog" and meant to waste time or loaf on the job. It was military slang.

"F**k the dog" appeared in print for the first time in 1935 and over time the meaning shifted (from wasting time to screwing up badly, as Jim put it) and the "screw the pooch" wording took the place of the original phrase.

Do you have a question for me? You can e-mail it. If I know the answer, I'll answer it. If I don't, I might make something up.

Posted by Jennifer at October 23, 2003 08:23 AM

The bear was white. The only place you can walk 10 miles south, 10 miles east and 10 miles north and be back at your starting point is the north pole. Of course there are no bears anywhere near the actual north pole so it's sort of a trick question.

Posted by: Jim at October 23, 2003 09:12 AM

Thanks, Jim! I knew I wasn't "getting" something there.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 23, 2003 09:14 AM

Damn that's quick, I was 1/2 way into typing the answer and I see it appear in front of me.

Posted by: Pete at October 23, 2003 09:15 AM

Pete, I know for a fact you type faster than that. But I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Everyone's smarter than me. :-)

Posted by: Jennifer at October 23, 2003 09:19 AM

With you're knowledge of history I am surprised that you missed this question. It's been around in one form or another for quite some time.

Posted by: Pete at October 23, 2003 09:24 AM

I never took History of Questions You Should Know the Answer To or Look Like an Ass 101.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 23, 2003 09:29 AM

Jen, screw the pooch is much older than the zoomies in The Right Stuff. Nor did it mean wasting time. It is a term used in the military and might have evolved into timewasting exercises but, originally when someone screwed the pooch it meant that they'd screwed up and got a bunch of their troops killed. Custer screwed the pooch.
Wasting time is another quite profane term. It's 'fucking the duck'. There is, or was, a difference. Nobody buys the farm from fuckin' the duck.

Posted by: Peter at October 23, 2003 09:33 AM

Peter, maybe I didn't make it clear that "screw the pooch" does not mean wasting time. The etymology I could find on it only says that it evolved from a phrase meaning that. In my explanation I took it for granted we all knew what "screw the pooch" actually means (based on Jim's own question).

As for the origin, it's debatable, but that's what I found. "Popularity" was meant to indicate public usage...I did note that it was military slang well before that.

And good to see you again. :-)

Posted by: Jennifer at October 23, 2003 09:39 AM

Is there any chance that "screw the pooch" comes from the term "putsch," a term referring to a coup d'etat? This would meet more with the idea of completely bungling something in a military sense and resulting in killing a bunch of troups.

I tried doing a search for "screw the putsch" and got nowhere, but one can imagine why it might happen that the phrase, as written, would always be the "pooch" variety instead of the Russian slange "putsch" variety?

Any thoughts on this?


Posted by: Nika at December 22, 2003 07:51 PM

You seem to know quite a bit, I hope you can help. I've been wondering for a while what is the true origin of the naval phrase "Hit the Head" as in I have to go to the bathroom. I've asked several people in the navy and they know the term, but not the origins, help!

Posted by: David Swartz at March 6, 2004 05:33 AM