SOMEWHERE A DOG BARKED.

This Slate article by Rosecrans Baldwin is both the funniest and the most intriguing thing I’ve read in a while. He starts off by observing that “Novelists can’t resist including a dog barking in the distance,” and hits you with enough examples, from all levels of literature, that you accept the phenomenon as valid. But what does it mean? He says:

Trains whistle, breezes blow, dogs bark. You’re thinking, “So what if novels are full of barking dogs? The world is full of them, too.” But I don’t find it curious when actual dogs turn up in novels. Dogs that authors bother to describe, or turn into characters, don’t pull me out of my reading trance. The thing is, these so-called dogs are nameless and faceless, and frankly I doubt them; it’s the curious incident when one actually does come into view. Really, are there so many out-of-sight, noisy dogs in the world? Listen: My bet is you’ll hear a highway, an A/C unit, or another human before a dog starts yelping.
[...]
Most authors, however, employ the trope as a narrative rest stop, an innocuous way to fill space and time; since the bark is hollow, a reader can read anything into it, or nothing at all. Charlaine Harris, queen of the vampire authors, in Dead as a Doornail: “The entire parking lot was empty, except for Jan’s car. The glare of the security lights made the shadows deeper. I heard a dog bark way off in the distance.” The chief of Scandinavian crime writers, Henning Mankell: “She begins to tell him. The curtain in the kitchen window flutters gently, and a dog barks in the distance” (The Eye of the Leopard). And “genre” books aren’t the only guilty category. Take 2666, Robert Bolaño’s magnum opus: “The window looked out over the garden, which was still lit. A scent of flowers and wet grass drifted into the room. In the distance he heard a dog bark.” For all we know, these dogs are off-camera sound machines set to woof.
[...]
Martin Amis says, “All writing is a campaign against cliché.” Well, what if these dogs aren’t just cliché, but something more? What if they’re a meme? Perhaps distant dogs are a way for novelists to wink at one another, at their extraordinary luck for being allowed into the publishing club. When an author incorporates a faceless barking dog into his novel, he’s like an amateur at Harlem’s Apollo Theater rubbing the Tree of Hope—he does it because so many others have done it before him, and it might just bring him some luck.

The ending is hilarious; I won’t spoil it for you, but I hope you will visit the link and read it for yourself. (Hat tip to Dave Wilton at Wordorigins.org.)
Addendum. A nice addition to the corpus (thanks, Rick!): “Nayland Smith walked to a window, and looked out across the sloping lawn to where the shadows of the shrubbery lay. A dog was howling dismally somewhere.” (The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, Ch. 7)

Comments

  1. Good article. This seems to be a very 20th century cliche – according to Google book search the phrase “Somewhere a dog barked” occured for the first time in 1897. Then 760 times over the next 110 years.
    Dogs before 1897 barked, but they were real dogs with whom the characters interacted.

  2. A Russian antedate! From Pyatkovsky’s Наблюдатель (1894):
    Собака лаяла вдали, въ пустыне.

  3. Yeats:
    “In the nightmare of the dark
    All the dogs of Europe bark”
    Somewhere in the “Secret History of the Mongols” a qatun (queen) says “The dog’s barking is getting ugly”. She’s treating barking as an omen or as an indicator of the mood of the moment. Effectively, she is saying that the khan’s rule is in deep trouble or perhaps doomed.
    “In the silence of the dark” + Bark gets 100,000+ Google hits. I got them looking for the Yeats poem.
    I definitely have a feeling about dogs barking in the distance, a little like fire engines or emergency sirens. Dogs barking in the distance indicate silence and context the event being described in a larger space which is mostly unknown. Dogs’ barking indicates some kind of trouble or unexpected event somewhere — most dogs don’t bark when things are normal. In noisy places probably distant barking dogs are unnoticed.
    All this doesn’t mean that the meme isn’t often a cliche in fiction. But it’s a cliche developed from something powerful.

  4. In 1856, the meme was still under development; Flaubert has multiple dogs in Madame Bovary: “…au loin des chiens aboyaient.”

  5. Vance Maverick says:

    Baldwin’s preference that the dog actually play a role in the story suggests what the cliché, in its laziest form, is for. It’s an evocation of loneliness or disconnection — economically (you might say cheaply) projecting the speaker or protagonist’s awareness of a thing that inarticulately calls for an interaction that doesn’t happen. That’s part of why barks in real life are more salient than a “highway or A/C unit”. As for humans, Baldwin’s next example, they can be used in the same way — consider another cliché, children’s laughter.

  6. Alexandre Dumas, Le Collier de la Reine (1886): “Un chien aboyait, ou plutôt hurlait, dans le petit enclos du couvent…”
    Jean Lartéguy, Les baladins de la Margeride (1962): “un chien aboyait, un autre lui répondait.”
    Someone writing in Audace (1965): “Derrière les docks, un chien aboyait.”
    And the pure statement in Henri de Régnier’s Le trèfle blanc (1899): “Un chien aboyait.”

  7. Vance Maverick says:

    “bellte ein Hund” gets us back to 1796 at least — and it’s an atmospheric dog.

  8. marie-lucie says:

    Somewhere a dog barked could be suggested as an alternative or adjunct to It was a dark and stormy night (you could not hear the dog if the night was so stormy, or alternately the dog was barking so furiously that it could be heard over the storm).
    Usually it seems that a single dog heard barking signals quiet and loneliness around the protagonist, while life goes on elsewhere, or a pause in the activities going on in the novel, (perhaps during a tense conversation which makes a protagonist uncomfortable and cause them to try to escape it), otherwise the bark would not be noticed. Dogs barking in noisy cities are much less noticeable, unless the dog is close by and will have some role in the story. A persistently barking dog (or dogs) may contribute to a character’s feelings of restlessness and resentment.
    Baldwin’s first name is somewhat ambiguous, but at the end of the article fellow author “Nic” addresses Baldwin as “Dude”. References to Baldwin on Google are to “him” and “his”.

  9. If the dog isn’t distant and unknown the whole point of the trope or whatever it is is lost.
    Actually, the Mongol example may have been nearby, known, dogs, and thus a different kind of thing. But the use of dogs barking as an omen (= setting a mood) is similar.
    Owen’s “The Omen of the World” (In “Traditional Chinese Poetry and Poetics”) says that things which we take as subjective impressions (moods or atmospherics) were taken in traditional China as real, publicly communicable, truths about the world, and it is for that reason that poems could be part of the political and governmental processes.

  10. The only problem I have with this article is that I fail to find any mention of dogs in The Death of Ivan Ilyich (the very first book on the list from the second paragraph). Am I missing something?

  11. Oh, somewhere in this favored land
    The stars are shining bright,
    And somewhere men are laughing,
    And somewhere hearts are light,
    And somewhere bands are playing,
    And somewhere children shout,
    But there is no joy in Mudville —
    Mighty Casey has struck out.

  12. The Bible, of course, has the dogs that don’t bark.

  13. Quid latrent nocte silente canes?

  14. I believe the Slate writer is the same as this one and, therefore, is a man.

  15. David Gerrold wrote this passage in his novel The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son back in 2002:
    “I turned to Dennis. ‘Do you know why I named [my dog] Somewhere?’
    Dennis shook his head.
    ‘Because I read a lot. And sometimes people write stories where they say, “Somewhere a dog barked.” and I always thought it would be fun to have a dog named Somewhere, so I could say, “Somewhere, a dog, barked.”‘
    ‘Does he bark?’
    ‘You know what? He doesn’t bark at all.’”

  16. The Bible, of course, has the dogs that don’t bark.
    As, of course, does Conan Doyle.
    Thanks to those who pointed out the gender of the author; I have no idea why I assumed a Rosecrans was female, but I’ve fixed the pronouns.

  17. I fail to find any mention of dogs in The Death of Ivan Ilyich
    You’re right; I’ve searched both the Russian and English texts without success. He must have been thinking of another Tolstoy text.
    David Gerrold wrote this passage in his novel The Martian Child: A Novel About A Single Father Adopting A Son back in 2002
    What a perfect quote; too bad Baldwin wasn’t aware of it, or I’m sure he would have been delighted to use it!

  18. Following vanya, I remember once reading some novel, set in the American South, I believe, in which a dog was called Moreover because it was a Biblical name for a dog (Luke 16.1.21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.)
    That evidently made more impression on me than the entire rest of the novel, which I have no recollection of.

  19. dearieme says:

    “I have no idea why I assumed a Rosecrans was female”. My old English teacher would have been appalled. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; I think you can work those out for yourselves.” But then he was a man who could explain “country matters” with a meaningful look.

  20. dearieme says:

    “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on” is said to be “an Arab saying”. Is it? When did it reach English?

  21. Somewhere in the “Secret History of the Mongols” a qatun (queen) says “The dog’s barking is getting ugly”. She’s treating barking as an omen or as an indicator of the mood of the moment. Effectively, she is saying that the khan’s rule is in deep trouble or perhaps doomed.
    interesting
    i think i wrote about it before, but i’ll repeat it here maybe
    our people love to use various proverbs and sayings in their talk, so there are all kinds of proverbs out there involving dogs too
    and sure who am i to doubt the scholars translators of the Secret History, but sayings about dogs are usually not that ominous, cz dogs are considered the closest human friend and ally along with horses
    so there is a saying “nokhoin duu oirtokh” which means that “dogs’ barking sound is getting closer” which means some human settlement is close
    so it’s always a good sign, it’s promising that other people are close and one’s journey is going to finish and one can have some rest and expect hospitality
    so the saying is used now in all contexts of approaching something, a deadline, a graduation, some closure and, of course, reaching one’s destination
    another saying is “esgii khiikh gazar khuukhed nokhoi khereggui” which means “there where felt is made there is no need for kids and dogs” b/c they would mess up the process
    so it’s used now for all kinds of self-excuses to not participate in something
    i,for example, often excuse myself from commenting on LH threads now, saying that to myself :)
    these are sure not the literary meme discussed, just thought it could be interesting for others and sorry to disrupt the thread

  22. Bathrobe says:

    Amy Lowell
    After the Storm
    You walk under the ice trees.
    They sway, and crackle,
    And arch themselves splendidly
    To deck your going.
    The white sun flips them into colour
    Before you.
    They are blue,
    And mauve,
    And emerald.
    They are amber,
    And jade,
    And sardonyx.
    They are silver fretted to flame
    And startled to stillness,
    Bunched, splintered, iridescent.
    You walk under the ice trees
    And the bright snow creaks as you step upon it.
    My dogs leap about you,
    And their barking strikes upon the air
    Like sharp hammer-strokes on metal.
    You walk under the ice trees
    But you are more dazzling than the ice flowers,
    And the dogs’ barking
    Is not so loud to me as your quietness.
    You walk under the ice trees
    At ten o’clock in the morning.

  23. Bathrobe says:

    Then there is Lowell’s translation of a Chinese poem:
    A dog,
    A dog barking,
    And the sound of rushing water.
    How dark and rich the peach-flowers after the rain.
    Every now and then, between the trees, I see deer.

  24. Bathrobe says:

    In Mongolia, dogs are not distant creatures. They are ever-present and obvious, and Mongolian dogs are very handsome and lovable dogs at that.
    Every yurt (or ger) in the countryside has one or more dogs around. If you visit, I understand that you are supposed to wait at a respectful distance and wait for the owner to come out and call his dogs in (Read would know much more about this than me).

  25. Thanks, B, so great poems
    and you are right about our dogs except they are not allowed inside the gers, to an animal the animal’s like attitude, so our khashaany bankharuud – are not house/room dogs
    so the custom is to call out the owner saying – nokhoi khori – which means hold your dog, so the owner comes out of his ger and holds his dog to allow a guest inside his place
    last year on my vacation i saw a small white decorative dog abandoned on the streets of UB, it’s a very cute breed with long white hair like a small hairy ball
    so cruel are people to bring and abandon the dog not suitable for our climate outside, the dog looked so so miserably, how she so learned all the tricks of the stray dogs to avoid people at the slightest sign of that, perceived hostility i guess, to ask for food, i wanted to catch it and bring it to my father’s place outside UB, but couldn’t catch it and it disappeared very quickly around the corner
    i hoped the dog was a half-breed so perhaps got pretty adapted to the cold winters

  26. The context in the Secret History is that the Naiman Khan and his son are arguing and the son has just insulted the father. Genghis Khan is approaching with his army and the two disagree about how to fight him. The saying isn’t a general statement about dogs barking, but particular to the moment and perhaps the particular way the dogs were barking.

  27. okay, got it
    dogs stray pretty quickly if they lose their owner and become not that different in behavior from wolfs, going in packs, attacking cattle and people
    they are treated as just like wild predators and are hunted, poor creatures
    so, sure, it could be that stray dogs’ barking would sound uninviting and hostile

  28. I have been told that in Mongolia and Tibet it’s not only impolite to approach a man’s door without speaking to him first, but also unsafe, since the dogs are watchdogs and very fierce. You have to wait for him to call them off.

  29. Quid latrent nocte silente canes?
    Quod latret nocte silente, cur est ? [Cur quis non prandeat, hoc est ?]

  30. Cur quis non prandeat, hoc est ?
    “Why shouldn’t somebody have a mongrel for breakfast ? Is this [a good] one ?”

  31. A musical diversion to 1725…H.C. Robbins Landon on the second part of the second movement of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons:
    “In an incredible stroke of genius, the entire rest of the music is given to the violas […] which describe il cane che grida, the dog which many of us have heard barking or howling at the moon on a still, moonlit night in a solitary northern Italian landscape. Vivaldi has even caught the dog’s rhythm – woof-woof, woof-woof, woof-woof, woof-woof. It is an eerie moment and, in my opinion, it reveals a private side of its composer’s personality in a rare discolosure. This is genuinely lonely music, of a profound beauty but also with a deep sense of sadness.” (Vivaldi: The Voice of the Baroque, page 60)

  32. Noetica says:

    Der Ursprung ist wie immer Tabellion:

    Stockmarkets crash on the horizon. Somewhere far away a dog barks; a shot rings out, and a yelp is heard. One cliché too many bites the du … another shot rings out. All eyes swing from Le Cimentier Martien to the grassy knoll; then back to Le Cimentier Martien.

    All else is derivative.

  33. “The dogs bark but the caravan moves on” is said to be “an Arab saying”. Is it? When did it reach English?
    ‘The dog barks but the elephant moves on’ is sometimes said to indicate the superiority of the great to popular clamour, but the best form of the phrase is, ‘Though the dog may bark the caravan (kafila) moves on.’
    [1891 J. L. Kipling Beast & Man in India ix. 252]

  34. Moreover, the dog
    Evidently an old joke.

  35. The humor of every era is a world of its own. The ponderous manner of telling of the two jokes cited by MMcM seems terribly archaic to me. I’m not at all bothered by contemporary just-barely-OK jokes, but the archaic 19th century ones are tedious.
    I’ve had the same experience with “Cap’n Billy’s Whiz Bang” from around 1920. Even when I could tell what the funny part was supposed to be, it was like field identification of punchlines, not like laughing at a funny joke.

  36. Just rereading the Baldwin passage cited, it’s as if he’s actually never heard a dog barking in the distance. he seems to doubt their existence, or the audibility. His basic premise strikes me as just wrong, like a blind spot.
    It does seem like a sort of prefab building block of writing which is always there for a certain kind of effect, and capable of becoming a cliche if lazily used, but it’s also a kind of unavoidable archetype of the human world, liek the wind in the trees, rippling water, the dawn, the sunset, etc. But only in relatively quiet places with dogs off in the distance.

  37. Even the saucy and resourceful Lorca resorted to distant dogs. From La casada infiel:

    Sin luz de plata en sus copas
    los árboles han crecido,
    y un horizonte de perros
    ladra muy lejos del río.

    A horizon of howling hounds, no less. We also get crickets, a mare, and startled fish (well, they’re thighs; but this is surrealism, right?). Hyacinths (sc. breasts piqued to arousal), blackberries, lilies, mother of pearl, …

    No quiero decir, por hombre,
    las cosas que ella mi dijo.
    La luz del entendiemiento
    me hace ser muy comedido.

    Was our versatile poet as capable of a discreet cismanence as he was of the transgressions that led to his destruction at the hands of mindless fascists?

  38. After living in close proximity with many neighbor dogs who barked reliably in the evening, I don’t have any problem accepting random dog noise inserted in the fictional flow. I heard those dogs when I went to bed every night, more clearly in the winter when A/C and locust noise was gone. I often thought that if I lived closer to any of the dogs I would have had trouble sleeping. It gave me a strong sense of the neighborhood and the placement of our house in it. I’m glad we live near fewer (and/or quieter) dogs now.

  39. The “somewhere” implies distance and unknown-ness, though. It’s sort of a question mark or pause rather than a comforting component of a known neighborhood.

  40. Also, there are many, many background noises that are frequently heard, and yet you don’t find many novels with lines like “Somewhere, a car honked” or “Somewhere, a bird tweeted.”

  41. Archetype or cliche?
    Back on the veldt, the barking of dogs….

  42. you don’t find many novels with lines like “Somewhere, a car honked” or “Somewhere, a bird tweeted.”
    That may be because “car” and “bird” are too general. I vaguely remember more specific clichés in the spirit of “distant and solitary”, for instance “an ambulance/train wailed in the distance”, “the hoot/scream of an owl/ferret”, “the watery rustling of a shark fin”. Similarly to Nimble and JE in their comments, the barking of a dog suggests to me other people living nearby. It is a cliché of loneliness, not of physical solitude in a wilderness. As JE says, dogs don’t bark when things are normal. A city dog lost in the woods might whimper when the light fails, but it would have to be a very stupid dog to bark at the dark. A wild dog would go about its night business quietly, if it had any such business – more likely it would be snoozing in a hollow.
    There’s a poem with an uncanny-atmosphere phrase: “[in the desert ?] something piping like a bird, yet not a bird”. I can’t remember the line precisely. I think the poem is a longish one by Browning.

  43. Noetica says:

    Pas un oiseau ne passe en fouettant de son aile
    L’air épais ou circule un immense soleil.

  44. Noetica: nice ! There was a TLS review devoted to him recently. What I’m trying to remember is by a English/Irish poet.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    you don’t find many novels with lines like “Somewhere, a car honked” or “Somewhere, a bird tweeted.”
    Perhaps one difference with somewhere, a dog barked is that a barking dog is usually tied or confined to one spot, while honking cars are more likely to be in motion, and wild birds are the epitome of freedom.

  46. dearieme says:

    Thank you, des von bladet. So it’s perhaps Indian rather than Arabic in origin?

  47. It is universal in the Middle East and nearby regions (I was quite surprised when I ran into it in Georgian), and I doubt it is possible to determine where it originated.

  48. I finally read the linked piece, and it reinforced my feeling that Baldwin either never has experienced a dog barking in the distance when everything else was silent, or else he rather exceptionally does not respond to (or even notice and remember) that experience when he has it.
    Second, “in the distance” or “somewhere” is part to all of his citations except one and is necessary to the figure.
    Third, I’m pretty sure that the distant barking only works if the breaking a prior silence is assumed. The bark is not part of a noisy mix.
    Fourth, dogs’ barking is a omen of disturbance, ucertainty, or trouble.
    Fifth, it’s an archetype, and only a cliche in the context otherwise mediocre writing.
    This is about what I said above, I suppose. This has been, for me, an especially interesting thread.

  49. We aim to please.

  50. universal in the Middle East
    It rhymes in Turkish: it ürür, kervan yürür.
    I’m not 100% convinced that the senior Kipling and M. de Charlus and so on all think it means the same thing.

  51. Heh. I looked up ït in my Древнетюркский словарь [Old Turkic dictionary] and the first citation is: ït ürdi ‘the dog barked’ (from Mahmud al-Kashgari).

  52. Albert Vogler says:

    Stu: The line about a bird piping is from a poem by James Elroy Flecker. I don’t know the poem; Agatha Christie used it as the epigraph in one of her Tommy and Tuppence novels: “Four great gates has the city of Damascus…. Pass not beneath, O Caravan, or pass not singing. Have you heard that silence where the birds are dead yet something pipeth like a bird.”

  53. Thanks a million, Albert and Hat ! I knew the line only from Don’t Point That Thing At Me, in which most of the quotes and epigraphs are from Browning. For some reason I associated it with Childe Roland:

    Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
    His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
    I smell the blood of a British man.

    After one reading, I find that The Gates of Damascus has a whiff of Shelley and Ogden Nash about it, though good lines too – octameters ! There’s a use of “botched” unfamiliar to me:

    Take to Aleppo filigrane, and take them paste of apricots,
    And coffe tables botched with pearl, and little beaten brassware pots:
    And thou shalt sell thy wares for thrice the Damascene retailers’ price,
    And buy a fat Armenian slave who smelleth odorous and nice.

    More surprises even: I thought I had read everything by Christie in olden days, yet I don’t remember the Tommy and Tuppence characters. The WiPe article makes them sound like adherents of the English literary tradition of doing without women except where unavoidable:

    Tommy and Tuppence are two fictional detectives, recurring characters in the work of Agatha Christie. … They started out their life as blackmailers (all in search of adventure and money), but the detecting life soon proved more profitable and much more exciting. … Unlike many other recurring detective characters, including the better known Christie detectives, Tommy and Tuppence aged in time with the real world, being in their early twenties in The Secret Adversary and in their seventies in Postern of Fate. In their early appearances, they are portrayed as typical upper middle class “bright young things” of the 1920s … As they age, they’re revealed to have raised three children — twins Deborah and Derek and an adopted daughter, Betty. Throughout the series they employ a man named Albert, who first appeared as a lift boy who helps them in The Secret Adversary, and in Partners in Crime became their hapless assistant at a private detective agency; by Postern of Fate he’s their butler and has been married and widowed. In Postern of Fate they also have a small dog named Hannibal.

  54. use of “botched” unfamiliar to me
    The transition from repair to repair incompetently to mess up generally leaves some echoes in Henry V’s speech against the three traitors (a part usually cut — Olivier and Branagh included, IIRC — in favor of a fight):

    All other devils that suggest by treasons
    Do botch and bungle up damnation
    With patches, colors, and with forms being fetched
    From glist’ring semblances of piety;

  55. marie-lucie says:

    botch and bungle
    Both these words seem to have evolved pejoratively, if they were not already slightly pejorative.
    I can see why these lines would be omitted from a performance with live actors (if watching a movie, we see people acting in real time, from our own point of view). One obscure word or even line in Shakespeare will soon be forgotten among the clearer words or lines that follow, but a sequence of four obscure lines (even though most of the individual words are quite understandable) is too long for the audience to try to process.
    After puzzling about these lines for a while, it seems to me that they refer to hypocrisy – traitors are incited by devils putting on some of the appearances of piety – but I am not sure about “that suggest by treasons”.

  56. I take your point. But if we limit ourselves to what seems to be clear, then we take the risk of mistaking something on account of its modern meaning. While by no means a foreign language, we have to accept that there have been changes.
    suggest had more the sense of ‘tempt to evil’ then. Like when the Queen finds out that Richard II has been deposed (and again with an “Another fall of man”):

    What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested thee
    To make a second fall of cursed man?

  57. mistaking something on account of its modern meaning
    The classic silly example.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, thank you for your contribution. I was not suggesting omitting a lot of Shakespeare’s words, but trying to understand why these particular ones were said to be often omitted in performance.
    Perhaps “suggest” was an intransitive verb then, equivalent to “make (an evil) suggestion” ? (eg “suggested thee” = “suggested TO thee” ?
    I watched “the classic silly example” but could not tell what the problem was ( I am not familiar with that play).

  59. I’m not going to watch a ten-minute YouTube clip in the hope of catching a silly example. Could you provide a clue, MMcM?

  60. Actually, I linked to a specific second in the playback (or at least tried to), “If this fall into thy hand, revolve.”
    The OED’s II. Senses in which mental activity is primary. 8. b. intr. To deliberate or consider; to meditate or think on (also upon) something. Now rare.
    No spinning is required.

  61. Actually, I linked to a specific second in the playback (or at least tried to)
    So you did, and I was too impatient—mea culpa! In my defense, it’s miserably hot here today.

  62. I bet I can make Hat even more irritable – by reminding him that “mea culpa” = “my fault !” is a nominative, weak-chested relative of the ablative wail “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa” and the spooky, grovelling “felix culpa !”.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly, why do you think the “mea culpa” here is a nominative and not an ablative as in “mea maxima culpa” (in context)? in both cases the person is taking the blame for something that happened.

  64. If a dog barked, I always thought that some one which is not like us is just around

  65. why do you think the “mea culpa” here is a nominative
    I defined it to be so, by interpreting the last part of Hat’s sentence “So you did, and I was too impatient—mea culpa!” as an elliptical version of the English “[it was] my fault!”.
    But that’s nugatory. My comment was essentially styrofoam packing material for the expressions “ablative wail” and “spooky, grovelling ‘felix culpa’”. I thought of them first, then stuffed the comment around them.

  66. I went to school with Felix Culpa.

  67. … Dogs before 1897 barked …
    I guess Oliver Cromwell doesn’t count: the dog did not bark :-)

  68. Grumbly, what do you mean by “doing without women”? Tuppence is a woman, and indeed the second strongest woman in Christie’s writings.

  69. I was confused by that as well.

  70. marie-lucie says:

    Tommy and Tuppence: taken on its own, the paragraph quoted by Grumbly can be misleading. It is not clear from it that T&T are a traditional (heterosexual) married couple. That they have “raised” three children does not make it clear that they also produced those children.
    I have read two of the books where these characters appear, and indeed from what can be gathered of their relationship they might be sharing a flat for convenience rather than being a couple. This is one of the things I find unsatisfactory in Agatha Christie: the romantic relationships all seem very stiff, even when they are supposed to be passionate.
    I see from the Wikipedia page that one of their stories has been adapted for a French film, in which the characters are called Bélisaire and Prudence. “Prudence” has never been traditional as a French name (any more than Faith, Charity, etc), and “Bélisaire” (the name of a Byzantine general) seems ridiculously inappropriate as a substitute for the run-of-the-mill “Tommy”.

  71. It’s one of those cultural differences. Anglo-Saxons never express their emotions and, if they ever have sex, don’t admit it. The French, by contrast, are impetuous, seductive, and so on.

  72. marie-lucie says:

    I like British mystery stories, many of which are written by English women. Agatha Christie is at one extreme. Judging from her writing alone, one would think that she had been a stiff old maid all her life, watching others incomprehendingly. My favourite is Ruth Rendell, whose novelistic world is entirely different and encompasses a lot more societal and individual experiences.

  73. Найманы Таян ханы эх Гүрбэсү өгүүлрүүн: «Ван хан эртний өтгөс их хан бүлгээ. Тэргүүнийг нь авчрагтун! Мөн бөгөөс бид тахья» хэмээх Хори сүбэчид элч илгээж, тэргүүнийг нь огтлож авчруулж, таньж, цагаан толог (эсгий) дээр тавьж, бэрээдээ бэрлүүлж, сархадлуулж, хуурдуулж, аяга барьж тайжухуй. Тэнд, Ван ханы тэргүүныг тийн тайж байтал инээжээ. Инээв хэмээн Таян хан хилэгнэж, хэмх гишгилүүлжүхүй. Тэнд Хөгсэгү сабраг өгүүлсэн нь: «Үхсэн хан хүний тэргүүнийг нь та нар огтолж авчраад, дараагаар нь бас та нар хэмхлэх чинь хэрхэн зохино? Бидний нохойн хуцах дуун муухай болов».
    Guerbesue, the mother of Tayang Qan of the Naimans, said: “The Ong Qan was formerly the great old Qan. Bring in his head. If it really is his, we will make an offering to it.” She sent an emissary to Qori-suebechi and had him cut off the head and bring it to her. When the head arrived, she recognised it and placed it on a white felt carpet. She got her daughters-in-law to perform the rites of a daughter-in-law. Ceremonial wine was offered and the qu’ur was played. Holding a cup, she made an offering to the head. The head smiled in response to the offering. “It smiled,” said Tayang Qan, and trampled the head to pieces. Koekse’ue-sabraq then said: “You have had the dead Qan’s head cut off and brought to you, yet you trample it to pieces. How can you justify your action? The sound of our dogs’ barking foretells misfortune.” (Footnote: For dogs to bark without obvious cause was taken as a bad omen).
    Perhaps John Emerson remembered the sentence about the dogs because it was the most innocuous in the whole gruesome sequence of events!

  74. Oops, the passage goes on:
    Урьд Инанча билгэ хан өгүүлсэн билээ.
    «Эм минь залуу
    Эр би өтлөв.
    Энэ Таяныг
    Илбээр төрүүлэв.
    Ай! Дорой төрсөн хүү минь
    Төрөлх олон түмэн
    Доромж муу улсыг минь
    Асарч барьж чадах уу?»
    хэмээлээ. «Эдүгээ нохойн дуун ойртохуй хуцал хуцмуу.
    Хатан бидний
    Гүргэсүгийн засаг
    Хурц болвай…
    Inancha-bilge Qan said:
    “My wife is young
    And I am growing old.
    I begot this Tayang
    By means of prayers.
    My son was born stupid.
    Will he be able to look after
    And keep together my many people
    With their many bad qualities?
    The dogs’ barking is getting closer.
    The rule of Guerbesue, our Qatun, has turned harsh…

  75. The sons of at least two of Genghis Khan’s Mongol rivals (Inancha-bilge Khan and Ong Khan) were portrayed as impetuous but not tough and unworthy to succeed their fathers, with the implication being that Genghis was their true heir. I can’t remember whether the birth of Ong Khan’s son Senggum was also attributed to sorcery or not; I vaguely think so. Both sons would have been devil-children and not sons of the Khan in that case.

  76. Wow, this is like honey for my ears, I mean, eyes
    thank you, B and JE!
    More citations in my language and translations, please
    is it your translations, B? very accurate, I didn’t realize you know my language this well, I wish I could show you mine, just some of my favourite songs’ lyrics

  77. Bathrobe says:

    No, it’s not my translation. It’s from a translation I have. Unfortunately, my Mongolian hasn’t got past first base.

  78. “Honey for my ears”. Ha, ha. A vivid image.

  79. A reader wrote me to point out that the exact sentence “A dog barks in the distance” occurs in Ulysses, at the top of p. 593 in my old Random House edition and near the bottom of this page in an e-edition. (It’s in one of the italic “stage direction” paragraphs.)

  80. Well, I don’t see the point of that dog barking. Take it out.
    “A reader”? Who’d prefer to remain anonymous?
    It’s nice to come back to a new comment on an old post and it isn’t some spam.

  81. passer-by says:

    I hope it’s not too late to point out that the lines “”In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark” are *not* by Yeats, but by Auden, from his poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”.

  82. jamessal says:

    I hope it’s not too late to point out that the lines “”In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark” are *not* by Yeats, but by Auden, from his poem “In Memory of W.B. Yeats”.
    Not too late but
    embarrassingly late. Seriously, nobody fucking caught that till now? I knew that, and I ain’t Hat or Conrad or Cowan or even Emerson, the sinner himself!

  83. Bathrobe says:

    True, embarrassingly late, but consider that the title of the poem is “In memory of W.B. Yeats”. An extenuating circumstance, although not an excuse.

  84. Somewhere a duck quacked: a satire on pulp writing by Peter de Vries and a science-fictional satire of the satire by Randall Garrett.

  85. Thanks, those were enjoyable reads, though the Garrett was far too long, and lumbering in the typical manner of ’40s-’50s sf. For anyone curious about original publication, as I was:
    “The Irony Of It All”: The New Yorker, October 20, 1956
    “Look Out! Duck!” Astounding Science Fiction, September 1957
    Also, I’m astonished Garrett managed to get this past the hypervigilant puritanism of ASF: “‘Duck excrement,’ said Dumbrowski, answering two questions with two syllables.”

  86. jamessal says:

    True, embarrassingly late, but consider that the title of the poem is “In memory of W.B. Yeats”. An extenuating circumstance
    Of course. It’s just that after four or five years of commenting myself, always being beaten to the punch when wanting to correct some petty mistake made by another commenter, I now discover that a poem I know well was misattributed in a thread I read, I missed it, and the mistake lay dormant for two years . . . I pulled a muscle kicking myself!

  87. True that the Garrett is long, although that’s partly because it has a plot. I don’t think Campbell minded jokes like that.

  88. Campbell may not have, but Kay Tarrant certainly did.

  89. I just found this in the Strugatsky brothers’ Сказка о тройке (Tale of the troika): “Луна, звуки в просторе несутся, и далеко-далеко воют собаки…” (“The moon, sounds spread through open space, and far away dogs howl…”).

  90. Can’t resist sharing these lines from a short story, First In, First Out, by Mark Mobley, who’s always imaginative and funny. Here’s how to play the cliché:

    His father stopped turning a screwdriver. In the distance, a dog barked. . . .
    The boy nodded. The far-off dog barked, then re-barked. . . .
    The dad let out a deep breath and finished installing his new license plate. The bark on a nearby tree clung doggedly. . . .

  91. Wonderful! (It’s nice to see a new comment on this, one of my favorite posts — and one of my wife’s as well; she frequently cites it.)

  92. A tall tale: “Why, the mosquitoes are so big around here that a good many of them weigh a pound, and they sit on the leaves and bark when people go by.” And all quite true, if we take “a good many of them” collectively and “bark” in the sense of tree bark.

  93. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I believe your story. I was a very inefficient beekeeper once, and with the help of a much more experienced friend I once collected a swarm in a (large) cardboard box. It was quite impressive to feel the weight of 30000 bees.

  94. Apparently a pound of mosquitoes is about 180,000 of them.

  95. marie-lucie says:

    A pound of mosquitoes! Perhaps they estimated the number of insects in a pound from weighing a smaller number of them and extrapolating?

  96. Just so.

  97. From Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway: “And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking” (p. 40); “while far away on shore he heard dogs barking and barking far away” (p. 139).

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