Submitted by anita on October 10, 2004
Does anyone know the history of the phrase “screw the pooch” and exactly what it means? Thanks.
jimmy james (unregistered)
November 6, 2004, 11:01pm
This is a less vulgar way of saying "dicking the dog", which is Naval expression dating back to the 1800's- used often in todays Navy.
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December 12, 2007, 4:43am
Just wanted to make sure that we didn't confuse the two phrases:
Screw the Pooch = messing up, making a mistake, to fail the mission.Dicking the Dog = wasting time, slacking
Although they look similar, we definitely use them in different scenarios in my Navy. ;-)
For instance, this is an appropriate sentence:
You screwed the pooch because you were dicking the dog. ;-)
December 21, 2008, 6:57am
I first heard the expression as a kid in the middle 50s. It was the punchline of a joke that went something like this:
A man came home drunk one night. He was in an amorous mood so he crawled into bed and started making love to his wife. Next morning he said to her, "Honey, that sex we had last night was the best I've ever had in my life." She said, "You didn't have sex with ME last night!" He said, "Well it was SOMEONE in our bed!" She said, "You must have screwed the pooch."
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August 13, 2005, 11:38pm
October 11? No one is going to read this. But I'll post anyway.
This expression is prevalent in "The Right Stuff", by Tom Wolfe (sp?). It means to screw up an exercise (usuallly a costly one)---it is something no test pilot or astronaut wants to do. It's like "makin' a jerk outta..." somebody in charge.
In one scene in the factitious story, an astronaut is accused of "screwing the pooch" for opening a hatch too early, or something to that effect. This happened to be a purely factual event, and just a few years ago the capsule that sunk (ostensibly because of the astronaut's error) was discovered and the astronaut (don't remember his name, offhand) was proven to have been right about a defect in the hatch and it was therefore proven that he hadn't "screwed the pooch" at all. An engineer f***ed up the design on the emergency hatch.
October 22, 2004, 6:34pm
Thanks for the info.
"Screw the pooch" is really becoming prevalent around here. I am in the law feld.
In the sense of, "Here' this nice, white, fluffy, kind-hearted thing and you are befouling it." I.E. you were given a gift and instead of accepting it gracefully, you lowered it's value.
July 17, 2009, 12:03pm
Screw the pooch does, indeed, come from pre-apollo days. But it doesnt have anythingto do with a sexual act. It merely means that by some mistake on the part of anengineer or a pilot, he has inadvertantly doomed a mission to failure. In the early space race, we sent dogs into space to test suits, environment materials, etc. If one of theengineers 'screwed the pooch', it meant that his experiment or calculations failed, and that he has 'doomed the dog to death'. I think the military jumped on it and turned theexpression into something more vulgar. In the end, it does just equate to a FAIL.
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August 13, 2006, 10:37am
The phrase screw the pooch, meaning to mess up, commit a grievous error, was made famous in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff. The phrase is a euphemism from US military slang. The original expression was fuck the dog and meant to waste time, to loaf on the job.
Fuck the dog dates appears in print for the first time in 1935, but in 1918 another euphemistic version, feeding the dog, appears. The original sense dates to 1918. Over the decades, the meaning shifted to the current sense and the screw the pooch wording took the place of the original phrasing.
October 20, 2005, 6:16pm
While I can offer no proof, I was always of the opinion that the origin of the expression was an old ethnic joke (please no one take offense):
Q. How do you know when a <insert your favorite stereotypically stupid ethnic group here> burglar has broken into your house?
A. Your dog has been screwed and your wife has been shot
Hence the juxtaposition implied by screw the pooch as symbolizing a mistake. Actually, since most ethnic jokes are created when a particular group emigrates en masse, then the WWII timing seems appropriate.
August 1, 2006, 6:58pm
I'd heard that it was a Naval Aviation term and originally refered to a "ramp strike" on an aircraft carrier. The relative positions of aircraft and carrier resemble sexual activity "doggy style."
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August 11, 2005, 1:23pm
Screw the Pooch. To make a major mistake, particularly one that will have serious ramifications.
October 14, 2004, 8:39am
That's fine, rob honey. You keep on believeing that, and we'll tell you why the girls always seem to, well, not come back for a second date.
December 3, 2009, 1:06am
I agree with Dave B. I just gone watching a movie with James Woods about the Mercury7 days .... there was a part where they referred to the dogs that died during the Russions space tests... It dawned on me then as to whether that is where the expression "don't screw the pooch" came from (making a mistake that will result in another killing of a dog) ...especially since it seems to be tied space jargon... I immedietley googled to see if my assessment was correct... a lot of speculation.. but Dave B validates my assumption.
Dave B... how did you know that is where the expression came from
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October 12, 2005, 7:45am
"Screw the pooch" is to mess up badly because one panicked and didn't follow their training or knowledge.
June 26, 2010, 10:15pm
Actually, in the black ghetto of Denver Colo. (circa1949) there was an old story of two horny, poor men who went to a whore house in town. They were met by the madam and her ugly bulldog who was dripping saliva from his mouth and snarling. The first man asked how much for a woman and the madam responded that the 19 year old was $20.00, the 30 year old was $10 and the 50 year old was $5. The first man said I only have $3. The madam said, "Hey Bertha, greese up the cat's ass. " Reluctantly, the man went to a room with the cat. Afterwards, he met up with his friend and said, "that was the worst night of my life." "I couldn't catch the cat and when I did it scratched me all over." "How did you make out? The second man said, "you think you had a bad night." "I only had $2 and I had to screw the pooch." To screw the pooch means that bad circumstances lead you to make a poor decision that leads to terrible consequences.
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November 8, 2004, 7:44am
Yeah, Jimmy, that's what I was avoiding... :)
January 8, 2010, 11:32pm
The phrase originates from the following story. A man has a beautiful house overlooking the ocean. He will be out of town for a few weeks and tells a friend he can have the full use of the house. Tells him that he can swim in the pool, watch the TV, sleep in the master bedroom, eat all the food he wants from the well stocked kitchen, and drink all the liquor he wants from the well stocked bar. The guy can do whatever he wants with one exception: don't screw the pooch.So to "screw the pooch" means to really mess up a sweet deal. Also from "The Right Stuff", one astronaut is telling the other about bringing some souvenirs into space (a practice NASA forbid). The other says: "Well just be careful you don't screw the pooch". In other words, don't do anything so bad that you are going to mess up a sweet deal.
November 10, 2008, 5:52pm
I've used the phrase "Screwed the Pooch" for years, and just heard it this past Sunday night on "Desperate Housewives" (yes, I am in the same room while my wife watches it); I guess the FCC allows the substitution (or doesn't know the origin/derivation), right? Great commentary/history here, guys. All we need is an old wood stove, a pool table, and some decent coffee and I could be reliving my younger days. All of you stay the hell away from my dog and my wife, though!
October 14, 2004, 8:40am
(slaps own hand for mistyping... Dyske, can we have a preview-before-posting, please?)
March 22, 2013, 10:05am
According to my grandfather who was a soldier in World War-II, the phrase became popularized from when soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines during the wartime would be drinking at a bar or dance hall while on leave, usually on a Saturday night. All the single guys would of course try to pick up women to get laid. The term "dog" has long been used as a derogatory term to call an ugly woman, and a nicer was to put that was to call her a "pooch". Besides, the phrase "screwed the pooch" has a rhyme to it. Anyway, the poor schmuck who got way too drunk for his own good and ended up going home with the ugliest girl at the dance hall after closing time and boinking her was said to have "screwed the pooch"... sometimes getting her pregnant in this one-night-stand and thus having to marry her. From this type of situation came the notion that "screwing the pooch" morphed into general meaning of messing up (anything) in a bad way, usually due to one's stupid actions.
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December 3, 2008, 4:14am
To "screw the pooch" is more than just a mistake. Its a mistake that you knew was a mistake before you did it. An example would be literally screwing the pooch...an act that is wrong on several levels, that you went ahead and did anyway.
A very special kind of mistake indeed.
Like when a criminal says he made a "mistake" by robbing the bank, with a water pistol...no, he didn't make a mistake...he SCREWED THE POOCH
Canadian Version. (unregistered)
July 26, 2007, 11:18am
Not to do your work. Just screwing around.
Screwing the pooch, eh.
January 15, 2010, 8:40am
While I was acting as if I really knew what I was doing, as a 19 year old Squid, perched at -the-ready to jump out of a perfectly good helocopter into the pitch-black abyss below, of which, sharks called, "The Hood" , and was very, very, shrinkable cold ! I'm going to jump down there and put a donut on that JG who's "screwed the pooch," even if I have to hit him with his own flashlight in order to pick-up this "washout." Ergo: "JG" never gets "LT" if he, "screws the pooooch!"Very few are lucky enough to live through, "screwing the pooch !"
August 14, 2006, 12:21pm
Thanks for the info, RicFo, but instead of just a list of dates, could you provide some actual references so we can see the original context?
October 16, 2012, 6:17pm
I guess it dates to 1920 Germany where - Putsch, pronunced PUCH - is defined as
: a secretly plotted and suddenly executed attempt to overthrow a government
November 20, 2008, 10:58am
steal the peach! meaning to rip someone's testicles off
October 11, 2004, 12:44pm
Oh, Christ, is that ever vulgar. :)
Origin? You probably know the expression "to screw (something) up." In order to intensify the idea, someone came up with the bright idea of adding a word that shared its vowel sound and sounded vulgar/funny as well.
Meaning? "You really messed up big this time, didn't you."
October 11, 2004, 12:47pm
More information (tyou really needed more information on this, didn't you) can be found in this blog post:
She explains that the expression is a milder form of another, even more unbelievably vulgar, expression used in the miltary since 1935.
I see no reason to disbelieve her.
NEXT subject? lol
October 13, 2004, 10:56pm
I'm sure he meant "make love".
November 5, 2007, 2:39pm
The dog has tree'd something vicious and desperate and the hunters are too tired, drunk and/or lazy to finish what they started.
May 12, 2010, 8:03pm
It sounds from these various stories that not only is "screwing the pooch" making a bad mistake, but that you're so dumb you didn't even realize you were making a mistake while you're doing it (the guy who had sex with a dog thinking it was his wife.) Or the next morning, for that matter, until someone clues you in.
Or, it's got so many origin stories they're all wrong and we can go on speculating forever! Hurrah! Break a leg, everyone.
March 9, 2010, 11:27pm
Origianlly, the term "screw the pooch" was -- feed the dog OR feeding the dog. Later, it was militarized and it became f*ck the dog -- meaning someone messed up what they were supposed to do. Finally, a writer -- in his book changed the term -- "F*ck the dog" to "Screw the pooch" so It can be used in a general conversation and wouldn't offense anyone
Screw the pooch only means not doing what they were supposed to do or doing a very lousy job.
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August 10, 2012, 2:35pm
A friend invites you to dinner. You are sitting in the living room with his wife and their two children and the family dog. Suddenly, without warning, you jump up, pull out your dick and fuck the dog in front of all of them. The children scream, the wife faints and the friend throws you out of the house. Do you think you will be invited back?
That's how the phase was explained to me. Kind of hard to forget, isn't it? "Screw the pooch" simply means a mistake that there is no coming back from. Losing the capsule was one of those mistakes
April 12, 2012, 8:36pm
My great grandfather was born in 1890 - he went to fight in world war 1 in june 1918 - while there he talked about how the men were out of there minds horny for French women, however , these women were not particularly fond of Americans - he said that due to the lack of available women, men were looking for anything they could find, and there was an abundance of French poodles - as the men satisfied their needs with these available animals the term "screwed the pooch" was born.
A Concerned Citizen! (unregistered)
October 6, 2006, 12:55am
And here I always thought I was the just "odd man." I never realized this catchy little epithet perplexed anyone but me!Thanks all.
August 15, 2006, 12:08pm
This abusive but stupid guy has a really tough day at work. When he gets home, he's so blinded and confused by his anger, he kicks his wife and screws the pooch. Get it? Sort of like Anonymous's burglar story.
October 14, 2011, 12:21am
@wiley witch- The astronaut's name was Gus Grssom. He died in a tragic accident in 1967. I had never heard that the cause of the early hatch opening had been determined. Grissom had adamantly maintained that he had not activated it though that supposotion had dogged his career.Thanks for bringing that to light.
November 19, 2008, 1:56pm
old military saying if your standing around on standby waiting for orders your f ing the dog . thomas wolf the right stuff cleaned it up to screw the pooch however it means you did a major screw up and are stationed in wind over nev. with all the other dumb f ups.
March 30, 2008, 1:52pm
RicFo has it completely right!
January 10, 2009, 11:41am
The last post seems the most logical, in terms of explaining the current meaning of the phrase. "Screw the pooch" carries the idea not only of making a massive error, but one that can't be recovered from ... the final straw .. "Now you've gone and done it." The only way that makes sense is if, in the original context, the act of screwing a pooch was the ultimate wrong move.
November 20, 2006, 11:42am
Jeesh... it is pretty obvious... It would be something bad that you should try to avoid. If you do it, you messed up big time. Why over analyze? It is simply vulgar... enjoy it for what it is.
September 9, 2013, 10:54pm
I heard long ago that the expression comes from WWI aviators whose air battles were called dog fights (hence Snoopy the dog's penchant for aviator outfits and delusions) If you got shot and your plane spiraled down into the water or the ground, you had indeed "screwed the pooch"
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