See a Man About a Dog

return video tapes

To see a man about a dog (or see a man about a horse) is an English language colloquialism, usually used as a way to say one needs to apologize for one’s imminent departure or absence – generally euphemistically to conceal one’s true purpose, such as going to use the toilet or going to buy a drink (particularly during Prohibition). The original, non-facetious meaning was probably to place or settle a bet on a racing dog.

The earliest confirmed publication is 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.’ In a listing for a 1939 revival on the NBC Radio program ‘America’s Lost Plays,’ ‘Time’ magazine observed that the phrase was the play’s ‘claim to fame.’

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