Dog In The Manger

Meanings of “Dog In The Manger”

The phrase “dog in the manager” means having an attitude that is very mean and spiteful; are a vengeful person.

Origin of “Dog In The Manger” 

The phrase “dog in the manager” is stated to have appeared from Aesop’s stories circa 600 BC. However, in English, it first appeared in A Dialogue Against the Fever Pestilence written by William Bullein. It was published in 1564 where the phrase has been given in archaic spellings as “like vnto cruel dogges liying in a maunger, neither eatyng the Haye theim selues ne sufferyng the Horse to feed thereof hymself.” The phrase was used in the same sense at that time and is still used in the same sense except for standardization in its spellings.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Dog In The Manger by Eche Ononukwe

Standing like an iroko tree
on that high, high hill,
peeping thro’ to spy on that monst’r,
sucking and tearing blood and flesh
like a hungry and angry lion,
eating to glory himself for the lost battle

This poem shows a metaphorical representation of this phrase in the shape of a mean or spiteful person who does not do anything but becomes jealous of standing on the fence. He compares him with an “angry and hungry lion” but he only “eats glory” by which he means that he just feels jealous of others. The use of the simile to compare the person with the lion is apt.

Example #2

The Dog In The Manger by Aesop

Aesop’s fable about this phrase goes thus; it happens that a dog is standing in the hay-filled room when the cattle awakens him after coming from the field, dying with hunger and tiredness. However, the dog does not let the cattle come near the hay and barks at them. One of them points out his selfishness that although the dog himself does not like to eat hay, he also does not like others to enjoy it when they are hungry. Ultimately, the farmer comes to teach him a lesson for his mean-spiritedness. That is why the phrase has been coined as the dog in the manger.

Example #3

Dog in The Manger by Ben Belitt

Thunder has driven us
Where darkness interprets the animal
Under the shears and the picture frames,
The gardening-gear in the cellar –
To a furnace in banded asbestos
Ticking its water-drop sounds,
Mop-cords of hardening naphtha,
Pulverized ramshorn dung.

There, lives the crazed unkillable
Gift of her vigilance, the creaturely
Feat that tightens the line of her jawbone,
While her fangs in their tortoise-shell
Markings draw me into her skull
In a shine of bitumen,
And we know ourselves frightened. We are stopped.
We look back toward the pillars.

The poet has beautifully related the story of childhood discovery of the bitch that does not let them enjoy the curiosity and search near the pillars. The reason is that when the thunder drives them toward that corner of the building, the bitch terrifies them, snarling and growling at them. That is why Ben Belitt has presented this metaphorical representation of the phrase.

Example #4

A Dog in the Manger by Skyclad

“2 A.M. a southbound junction – innocence takes flight
Common sense has lost all function – stranded in the night.
The albatross has flown the nest – he’s breaking family ties
He recalls his mother weeping with her hands held to her eyes.
His alcoholic father was too drunk to know or care
The rod not spared had spoiled this child – his only son and heir.”

Taken from a lyric,  these lines shed light on the postmodern reality where people do not enjoy life and let not others enjoy it even if they are family members as like the singer who not only sees the loss of common sense but also sees albatross breaking family relations. That is why he thinks that modern reality has made people dogs in the manger. The phrase finds its true metaphorical representation in these lines.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “I have told Sandy several times that he is a real dog in the manger, but he has not changed his habits despite my insistence.”

Example #2: The attitude Ronnie has adapted, seems like he is a dog in the manger though he denies this and becomes quite generous in his dealings. He then again adopts the same attitude toward others and thinks that he is superior.”

Example #3: “After having gone through political upheavals, Jason has adopted the attitude of a dog in the manger. It scares us sometimes but we can hardly do anything.”

Example #4: “Most probably, the change in my friend, Sam is due to some ailment; otherwise, he is not really a dog in the manger as I have lived with him.”

Example #5: “When Charlie comes to the office, he is like a dog in the manger, but when he goes home, he is a completely different person. We have never been able to figure him out.”