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

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)


  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.
    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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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).

  98. From Nekrasov and Panaeva’s 1848-49 Три страны света [Three parts/regions of the world]: “Отдаленный лай собак изредка нарушал тишину; эхо звонко раздавалось и медленно замирало в чистом воздухе.” [The distant barking of dogs broke the silence from time to time; an echo rang out and slowly died away in the clear air.]

  99. From Serafimovich’s Железный поток (The Iron Flood, 1924): “Далеко собаки лают в разных концах, упорно, без устали, на разные голоса.” [In the distance dogs bark in various quarters, stubbornly, tirelessly, in different voices.] (I was tempted to translate упорно as “doggedly” but resisted heroically.)

  100. George Gibbard says

    I remember далеко́ from my Russian teacher, but I not in Blok’s
    Тебя, Офелию мою,
    Увел далёко жизни холод
    is this at all normal Russian or poetic (spell check: peptic) license?

  101. They’re given as equal variants in my Oxford dictionary; I’ll let actual Russians speak to whatever social/psychological differences they exhibit. I myself would say далеко́, and my guess would be that далёко is more how they say it back in the village, but that’s just my guess.

  102. Далёко is either poetic or folksy if you ask me. An example of the former in Balmont’s Безглагольность:

    Недвижен камыш. Не трепещет осока.
    Глубокая тишь. Безглагольность покоя.
    Луга убегают далёко-далёко.
    Во всем утомленье – глухое, немое.

  103. From Pisemsky’s 1858 Тысяча душ [One Thousand Souls]: “В целом городе хотя бы в одном доме промелькнул огонек: все уже мирно спали, и только в гостином дворе протявкивали изредка собаки.” [In the whole city perhaps a spark flickered in a single house: everyone was already sleeping peacefully, and only in the bazaar did dogs yelp from time to time.]

  104. From Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Moose“: “A dog gives one bark.”

  105. “The Gates of Damascus”, for those who care.

  106. ‘Twas linked way up there.

  107. From Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest: “The distant bark of a dog brought him back to reality.”

  108. ‘Oh keep the dog far hence, that’s friend to men’ (Eliot, The Waste Land)

    A late entry via Browning’s door to a splendid thread.
    As psychic punctuation the far off bark of a dog has the quality of an omen. Something is coming.

    Quite suddenly Blackie’s ears shot up and he gave a yip. He looked at me as if to say, ‘Did you get that’?
    – ‘What’ I said
    – His head between his paws told me
    – ‘Next time bark for yourself’.

  109. Excellent quotes; I’m glad you found and appreciated the thread!

  110. “Tinnitus can become recognized as a meaningful sound in the brain the same as the bark of a dog is recognized as a meaningful sound. Try telling yourself that you will never listen to the bark of a dog again. Tell yourself the next time a dog barks that you just won’t hear it. I bet you it doesn’t work.”

    —J. L. Mayes, Tinnitus Treatment Toolbox

  111. From Zhitkov’s 1929 Viktor Vavich (chapter Стенка [The wall]): “Далеко звонко лаяла одинокая собака” [In the distance a solitary dog barked resoundingly].

    Unrelated to barking, but I can’t resist quoting this sentence as well (chapter Морошка [Cloudberry]): “Она стояла, свежая от воды, в лучшем своем розовом платье с пунцовым поясом, и розовые руки розовели из розовых коротких рукавов” [She stood, fresh from the water, in her best pink dress with a crimson belt, and her pink arms shone pinkly from the short pink sleeves] — it loses in English because there’s no verb that can be used for розовели (‘they pinked’). The kindly but unsentimental old lady Grunya is visiting tells her on her departure “Только пояс этот перемените – невозможно!” [Just change that belt — it’s impossible!].

  112. “He brushed away bits of bark, which clung doggedly to his nankeens.” —Kris Tualla, apparently by sheer accident, in a 2010 novel called A Prince of Norway

  113. Ha!

  114. ktschwarz says

    From Stephen King’s The Dead Zone (the Slate article already called out It and Christine):

    It was one of those insidious things that had crept into modern life almost unnoticed over the last ten years or so. Once upon a time the fellow on the other end would simply have said, “Hold the phone, willya?” and set it down. At least in those days you were able to hear faraway conversations, a barking dog, a radio, a crying baby. Being on hold was a totally different proposition. The line was darkly, smoothly blank. You were nowhere.

    The scene takes place in 1970, apparently before music-on-hold took over.

  115. Most people’s home or cell phone don’t have music: the point is that they now have hold buttons which effectively suppress what the caller hears, as opposed to just putting the phone down.

  116. From Doctor Zhivago (part 9, section 2): “И в окрестностях, одна за другой, надолго разлаются собаки” [And in the vicinity, one after the other, dogs start barking and keep it up for a long time].

  117. From Tao Qian’s “Return to the Field,” tr. Arthur Waley(?):

    Steady the smoke of the half-deserted village,
    A dog barks somewhere in the deep lanes,
    A cock crows at the top of the mulberry tree.

    Hat tip to Lars (the original one).

  118. I struggled frantically with the oxygen valve, my gloved hands slipping and panic beginning to rise in my belly. I no longer felt like I was floating a mere cord’s length from the shuttle – instead, I had the sensation of falling in every direction at once, the void of space pulling at me. The radio crackled in my ear.
    ‘I’m bringing you in,’ said Friedman.
    ‘No,’ I gasped. ‘No time.’ The valve shifted a millimetre or so. ‘Almost…’
    ‘Taylor, I’m bringing you in.’ I felt a tug as the cord went taut. Then, nothing. I lifted my arms out of the way and looked down. The frayed end of the cord was floating away from me. I grabbed at it, but it was already beyond my reach. I kicked my legs uselessly, as if I could swim towards it. The effort made my lungs burn.
    ‘Taylor,’ said the voice in my ear. ‘Taylor. What happened?’ I wouldn’t have said anything even if I’d had the breath. I felt a numbness spreading through my body. For what felt like minutes, I just floated there, completely alone in the emptiness of space. Somewhere far off, a dog barked.

    —Joel Stickley, “Generate atmosphere by using dogs”, How to Write Badly Well

    (I would have included a link, but the comment filter did not seem to take too kindly to it.)

  119. That made me laugh loudly.

  120. I find this interesting, because the barking of dogs is one of the most common kinds of mild auditory hallucinations that people may experience.

  121. From p. 82 of the Vintage paperback edition of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: “Then in the distance he heard a dog bark.” As pure an example as you’re likely to find.

  122. Japanese has the expression 犬の遠吠え inu no tōboe ‘distant barking of a dog’. This isn’t actually the barking of a dog in the distance. It refers to the occasional habit of dogs of barking at something in the distance, where you can’t figure out what they are barking at.

    But as an idiom it has a different meaning. It refers to a person who will badmouth someone behind their back but not to their face. Like a dog that is brave enough to bark from the distance but runs away when you get close.

    In 2010 I quoted нохойн дуун ойртохуй nohoin duun oirtohuy ‘the sound of dogs is getting closer’ from the Secret History of the Mongols. Нохойн дуу ойртох is still current in Mongolian today in the meaning ‘something is imminent’, ‘something is just around the corner’, ‘it won’t be long now’ (till a long-antipicated event). The expression derives from nomadic life. All Mongols living in yurts (or gers) keep dogs as guardians and as working animals, so if you are travelling and hear the sound of dogs it indicates that human habitation (or the goal of one’s journey) is near.

  123. It is often joked that the most common Mongolian greeting is “call off your dogs!”

  124. From Ivan Bunin’s “Антоновские яблоки” [Antonov Apples] (1900): “Тявкнула где-то вдалеке собака” [Somewhere in the distance a dog barked]. It doesn’t really count, because the context is a hunt with dogs, but how could I resist?

  125. Another Bunin story, “Учитель” [The teacher] (1894): “Лай собачонки с того боку деревни звонко отдавался в чистом воздухе…” [The bark of a small dog from the other side of the village resounded clearly in the open air…].

  126. I just finished reading A Visit from the Goon Squad and found this on the last page:

    “Alex closed his eyes and listened: a storefront gate sliding down. A dog barking hoarsely. The lowing of trucks over bridges. The velvety night in his ears.”

    This example lacks the distance element of the pure form, but the setting is Manhattan so allowances must be made.

  127. Yes, in these parts a dog barking in the distance would be inaudible against truck rumbles, sirens, construction sites, and yelling New Yorkers. A dog barking on the staircase of my building, however, is distressingly audible, as is its owner screaming at it to shut up.

  128. Whatever passes for God in these parts has favored us with household dogs on both sides of our house. They all bark annoyingly, but fortunately not at the same time. The ones on the right don’t seem to interest themselves in the concerns of those on the left, and vice versa.

  129. David Marjanović says

    The velvety night in his ears.

    Velvety? In a place as light-polluted as Manhattan?

  130. There are still places that are as dark as a cow’s [inside]. In any case, the protagonist’s eyes are shut, so he is hearing rather than seeing it.

  131. From The Gameplayers of Zan (1977) by M. A. Foster, chapter 7:

    “Later, alone in the parent sleeper, settled in the heavy winter comforters, with an additional blanket wrapped around himself for double warmth, Morlenden lay, isolated in the silent yos, listening into the spare density of the night sounds of winter, which were even fewer here: somewhere off in the distance, he thought he could hear a dog barking, rather disinterestedly.”

  132. A.B. Yehoshua, Early Summer, 1970: “The stoplights flashed yellow. A hooker walked slowly toward Mugrabi Square. A dog barked somewhere. There was fog. But all this won’t go on any more. I was accepted by the Great Oklahoma Circus! I leave a wasteland, to come to a civilized place.”

    From a story by Asher Reich, in the collection Man with a Door (2004): “And the moon shone fully, a dog barked somewhere and Yehoshua looked around, searching for it. He stopped and stood in place to listen and see from which direction the bark came. He looked up at the sky and thought to himself that that barking dog is hidden in the full, round moon which lit up the night.”

    Miriam Bernstein-Cohen, Firestorm (1947): “A dog barked in the distance, and was the only sound which tore through the morning silence.”

    (All sloppy translations from the Hebrew are mine.)

  133. I know, this is preposterous, but imagine if Yehoshua of the second quote is the author of the first one. This creates all sorts of possibilities for recursion. For example, ” “The candle went out, stars moved closer, a dog barked in the distance”, Ian closed the book, somewhere a dog barked.”

  134. It sounds better with the name translated into English:

    “Somewhere a dog barked and Jesus looked”

  135. Yehoash Biber, The Druze Rebellion (1967): “All around was silence. Naught was heard but the distant bark of a dog, the howl of a jackal, the cry of a hyena, the call of a night-bird, and the heavy cough of a congested mare. At times the boots of the watchmen rapped on the stones, or the metal parts of their rifles rattled together.”

    I nominate this for something, I don’t know what.

  136. (Not Hebrew)

    Ha Jin, War Trash (2007): “Stars were rubbing one another in the indigo sky while the moon resembled a face grinning and baring its teeth. A dog yapped in the distance, and a ship sounded its horn from the sea like a crazed bull.”

  137. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    A dog barking on the staircase of my building, however, is distressingly audible, as is its owner screaming at it to shut up.

    No dogs in this building (as far as I’ve noticed). On the other hand there is a woman on the 4th floor who sometimes screams for several minutes at her husband, with her husband telling her to calm down. It doesn’t disturb us much, as we’re far enough away, but it’s a serious problem for some other neighbours, who sometimes wonder if they ought to call the police. The husband seems to be more or less normal when you meet him, but he has a habit of parking his car in very abusive places, making a serious problem for elderly and infirm pedestrians.

  138. its owner screaming

    They don’t seem to mind loud shouting but dogs’ hearing is so sensitive. When they’re out in the garden at night, after 5 minutes I can call our three dogs back by whispering their names. It’s become a habit; nowadays I nearly always only whisper to them.

  139. AJP ‘Dog Whisperer’ Crown

  140. Stu Clayton says

    They don’t seem to mind loud shouting

    César Millán says dogs want to understand what is expected of them. I have found this to be true of our dog Sparky. A firm calm voice is enough, crazed shouting communicates nothing the dog can wrap his head around.

    Dogs simply don’t heed shouting, just as people don’t. I suspect there’s a general lesson here but I haven’t quite figured it out.

  141. I tried whispering to horses but they ignored me.

    Stu, I’ve discovered that different breeds of dog (eg the borzoi) respond quite unlike terriers to many things, but here I agree with César Millán, the Mexican dog whisperer.

  142. I know, this is preposterous, but imagine if Yehoshua of the second quote is the author of the first one.

    That was my first thought as well. I think someone should write a story in which Asher Reich hears a dog barking and looks around.

    I really appreciate the additions of the Hebrew examples!

  143. You’re very welcome, Hat!

    Glad to open the world to my people’s contributions to clichéd literature.
    (This is one of the few occasions where Google Books snippet view is actually useful.)

  144. “Shadows were strong , and the brooding identity of everything I passed so powerful that I kept nervously looking back. The silence was vast, different in quality from the foggy silence of the morning, punctured now and then by an owl’s cry or the barking of a distant dog.” (from The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch)

  145. Excellent! (And I’ll have to read that novel.)

  146. I have stumbled on a variation of this important trope. This is from Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book, p. 196 of the Vintage paperback:

    “There was a short silence. A dog was barking, not far away. Galip could just hear the hum of the city under the snow.”

    A more astute critic than I will have to propound the differences between dogs barking in the distance versus close at hand.

  147. A fine addition! I’ve actually read The Black Book, but it was before I had become aware of this important trope, so I didn’t notice it at the time.

  148. You all can laugh at ‘somewhere a dog barked’ but to me it’s an echoey spatial description. It’s probably night time too, but it’s definitely outdoors and probably in an area of suburban housing or a parking lot or possibly on a farm. But not on a military camp because army dogs don’t bark unless they’re working. You don’t get ‘somewhere a dog barked’ in a cinema or a library or an apartment building (somewhere a hamster wheel span) or an office building on Sixth Avenue. It’s a shorthand spacial description and could be shortened to SADB.

  149. It depends on the apartment building.

  150. But not on a military camp because army dogs don’t bark unless they’re working.

    There’s the germ of a mystery story there — the counterpart to the dog that didn’t bark in the night-time.

  151. Stu Clayton says

    Somewhere in the distance, a sergeant barked.

  152. Somebody had probably called him a son of a bitch.

  153. In Seán Ó Faoláin’s three-page story The Trout are two instances of a distant dog “saying bark-bark”. Compare and contrast.

  154. Talking about shouting at dogs, does anyone remember “The Far Side”? There was one about “What we say to dogs and what they hear”, and later one about cats.

  155. Stu Clayton says

    I sure remember those !

    Barsotti saw it differently, though: Hello, Sainsbury’s?

  156. John Cowan says

    I too have a great fondness for the Far Side. “Man, we’d be the grizzlies from hell” and “Cow tools” are among my favorites, but really they’re all priceless.

  157. The complete, two-volume coffee table set of Far Side books is great, including a lot of interesting commentary on the comics from Larson, presented year by year. My favorite parts are when he talks about his best friend Ernie, who is an entomologist. As Larson put it in the earlier Prehistory of The Far Side, “Ernie’s sense of humor makes mine look normal.”

  158. The complete, two-volume coffee table set of Far Side books is great

    Just added it to my wishlist!

  159. I remember how the Far Side blew my mind when I discovered the cartoons as a teen… makes me feel old now…

  160. Just come across this fascinating thread. Occasionally animal noises (particularly dogs) are used by writers to indicate either a disturbance of peace or simply to emphasise normality by referring to everyday sounds, or if they’re not good writers, just for padding. T S Eliot’s Gerontion mentions a (probably metaphoric) goat coughing “at night in the field overhead” and I’m pretty sure there will be other examples of whinnying horses, lowing cows, cawing rooks etc. Dogs are in the lead, though. (Sorry – no pun intended).

  161. From Red Iron Nights: A Garrett. P.I., Novel by Glen Cook (1991): “Somewhere a cat meowed.”

    From Deadly Heritage – A Horse Mystery by Toni Leland (2014): “Somewhere, a horse whinnied and another answered.”

    From Swallow’s Tail: Book Two of the Rone Cycle by William Carson (2014): “Somewhere a cow lowed.”

    Don’t know why I never thought to try species variation!

  162. Amanda Adams says

    I had to read out to my husband about the peninkulma — we had just watched a film by the other Kaurismaki brother…the dogs were expressing themselves…
    He told me that in Lao-tze there is a definition of a peaceful kingdom: so peaceful that you can hear the dogs barking in the next small kingdom along. It sounded so lovely. & despite it being gone midnight, he went & found the reference immediately:


    In a little state with a small population, I would so order it, that, though there were individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men, there should be no employment of them; I would make the people, while looking on death as a grievous thing, yet not remove elsewhere (to avoid it).
    Though they had boats and carriages, they should have no occasion to ride in them; though they had buff coats and sharp weapons, they should have no occasion to don or use them.
    I would make the people return to the use of knotted cords (instead of the written characters).
    They should think their (coarse) food sweet; their (plain) clothes beautiful; their (poor) dwellings places of rest; and their common (simple) ways sources of enjoyment.
    There should be a neighbouring state within sight, and the voices of the fowls and dogs should be heard all the way from it to us, but I would make the people to old age, even to death, not have any intercourse with it.

    The best state would be small, with few people.

    Though there be individuals with the abilities of ten or a hundred men,
    there would be no employment of them.

    The people would regard death gravely, and have no thought of travel.

    Though they have boats and carriages,
    they would have no occasion to ride in them;
    though they have armour and sharp weapons,
    they would have no occasion to use them.

    There may be a neighbouring village within sight,
    and the voices of its fowls and dogs may be heard,
    but the people will grow old and die without knowing it.

  163. Wonderful — thanks very much for that!

  164. Re: animal sounds

    This puts in mind for an old odd poem I spotted sometime somewhere

    To err is human, to forgive is divine.
    To oink is porcine, to meow is feline,
    To neigh is equine, to howl is lupine,
    To moo is bovine, to bleat is ovine.

    Teeing off of that we can establish a line of “somewhere a human erred”, which seems to be a new one.

  165. I don’t have a The Unix Way and Its Power rendering of the above (#61 in traditional numbering), so here’s #60:

    Run a big project like you fry a small fish.

    By using the Unix Way
    to control the project,
    its bugs will lose their power.

    Not only will bugs lose their power,
    but their power can no longer harm the users.

    Not only can their power no longer harm the users,
    but the geeks can no longer harm the users either:
    truly, neither of the two can do harm.

    Thus unified power is restored.

  166. “somewhere a human erred”
    Somewhere, in the distance, a pirate arred.

  167. Trond Engen says

    “Somewhere in the distance a god forgave” would be a glorious ending.

  168. From Cheyenne Song by Georgina Gentry (2003): “Somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled.”

  169. From Louisiana Moon by Lani Rhea (2014): “Somewhere, a bull gator bellowed.”

  170. David Marjanović says

    Which fits particularly well because bellen is what dogs do in German.

  171. Stu Clayton says

    The author of an article I just read used the nice old word belfern.

  172. PlasticPaddy says

    @dm, stu
    This is one of the dutch-german false friends.
    Dutch dogs blaffen. Bellen is when you phone a friend.

  173. Stu Clayton says

    What is it called when you phone an enemy ? There might not even be a word for that, because it happens so rarely.

  174. For me, the quintessential animal sound disturbing the quiet is this passage from Tolkien:

    And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the city, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of war nor of wizardry, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns, in dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the north wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.

    It is evocative, in part, because the audibility of the rooster’s cry implies that, in spite of the horrors of war that surround the Tower of Guard, a momentary silence has fallen, as Gandalf (with Pippin as his squire) faces off against the Black Captain of Morgul, who has just ridden through the shattered gates. In the text, this paragraph is preceded by a blank line*, indicating a scene change, as the narration pulls back from the confrontation between the wizard and the Ringwraith, to the broader situation on the battlefield.

    The line is also memorable to me because John Houston delivers it (slightly modified) quite well. In The Annotated Hobbit, Douglas A. Anderson takes some swipes at the Rankin-Bass cartoon version of The Hobbit for its changes and elisions. However, the two Rankin-Bass television movies were clearly made by people who had a great admiration for Tolkien’s work, and they take far, far fewer liberties than the more recent live action films directed by Peter Jackson. (Notice, for example, the images of Minas Tirith in the linked video clip, appearing just as it is described in the book; the retention of the rather uncommon word recking is also notable.)

    * Is there a name for this kind of blank line in running text? If so, that’s a piece of typographical terminology that I never picked up, probably because those kinds of blank spaces are never used in newspaper copy. (A quick Google search does not turn up a name for it either.)

  175. I think you’re right, that wins the prize for quintessential animal sound disturbing the quiet. However, your quote looks odd to me because I know it in a slightly different form, with a full stop after “Horns, horns, horns.” As a sentence on its own, that was striking. Here is the passage from the Ballantine paperback:

    Gandalf did not move. And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn.

    And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.

    I’ve read that Tolkien made revisions for the Ballantine paperback in order to secure copyright, and even some further changes to later hardcover editions, but these are actually a lot more differences than I expected: a sentence added, a paragraph break added, a sentence split in two, word order changed. (Also, in the Ballantine, this passage starts at the top of a page, so there’s no chance to use a scene-change blank line.) Which edition is your quote from?

  176. @ktschwarz: I copied it from an online source, here, without checking its correctness. Every printed version I have read though does have, as you say, the fragmentary, “Horns, horns, horns.” I should have caught that. In fact, my current printed copy agrees completely with your text, although the page breaks are such that the blank line before the last two paragraphs of “The Siege of Gondor” is evident.

  177. Only in the 21C do we have a proper critical text of The Lord of the Rings: the 2004-05 Hammond/Scull text plus these corrigenda. Or of The Hobbit for that matter.

  178. Thanks, good to know!

  179. From Wreckage: Seven Studies, by the marvelously named Hubert Montague Crackanthorpe: “In the distance a dog barked, then all was again still.”

  180. From Kauwgomkind (2012), by Doeschka Meijsing: “In de verte blafte een hond.”

  181. Stu Clayton says

    We’re moving off the beaten track here with bläffen, if this is the German equivalent of that Dutch word. It means yipping or yelping – making short high-frequency sounds. I think of barking as lower-frequency. Also, I have always understood “a dog barked” to mean barked once, or at most a few times in quick succession.

  182. Faux Freund! In Dutch, blaffen is just ‘to bark.’

  183. Stu Clayton says

    You’re bläffin’ me !?

  184. Lars Mathiesen says

    Danish puppies and small dogs in general bjæffer, while proper dogs gør with a closer vowel, as opposed to gør which means ‘do’ (vb), not least in the bushes.

    (Bjæffe would be onomatopoietic, cf bow wow, blaffen I don’t know).

    EDIT: Danish orthography does mark vowel length, but not at the end of words — hence the homography. Long vowels are rare outside initial syllables, so monosyllables are the main source of ambiguity here — and since imperatives have no ending, they are a good place to look. (The ‘do’ verb is irregular, gøre / gør / gjorde / gjort, ‘bark’ is weak as can be: gø / gør / gøede / gøet).

    MORE EDIT: Both verbs now have a short vowel in the present tense, but different vowel qualities.

  185. David Marjanović says

    Never encountered bläffen, only kläffen and blaffen, the latter only of people: “suddenly blurt out in an aggressive way” or something.

  186. bläffen [ugs.] [bellen] to bark

  187. Otto Julius Bierbaum, Der bunte Vogel von Achtzehnhundertundsiebenundneunzig (1896): “Ein großer schwarzer Hund bläffte”

    Helmut Höfling, Pingo, Pongo und der starke Heinrich (2013):

    „Deswegen braucht ihr nicht gleich in Ohnmacht zu fallen“, bläffte der Hund. „Bringt mir lieber was Ordentliches zu essen. Ein Spanferkel, ein Hühnchen und eine Schüssel voll Bier.“

    Alfred Schirokauer, Gegen Mensch und Schicksal (1928):

    Ihm blieb keine Zeit zu denken. Der Weg, die Hunde, der Schlitten forderten seine ungeteilte Aufmerksamkeit, die Mühe des Weges seine ganze Kraft. Stunde um Stunde wanderten sie lautlos dahin. Keiner sprach. Kein Hund bläffte.

  188. “Kein Hund bläffte” suggests an alternative (apophatic) meme.

  189. kläffen

    Reminds me of håll klaffen. In Russian, that would be варежку закрой ‘shut your pie hole’.

  190. David Marjanović says

    Huh. de.wiktionary does not have an entry for bläffen, though it does for blaffen (“kurz bellen“) and of course kläffen (“unangenehm laut und schrill bellen“).

    Klaffen means to gape, said of wounds or clam shells.

  191. David Marjanović says

    håll klaffen

    *lightbulb moment*
    Halt die Klappe! 🙂

  192. Little Yan cut the engine. The gravel crunched under my feet as I stepped from his Audi SUV. We had entered town along a quiet, dusty street. I was in Xinghuacun, Apricot Blossom Village, Middle of Nowhere, Shanxi Province. This was not a one-horse town; it was a town so small it has to share its horse with the next town over. A rooster crowed in the distance. The wind rustled. The absence of tumbleweed was palpable.

    —Derek Sandhaus
    Drunk in China: Baijiu and the World’s Oldest Drinking Culture

  193. The poultry variant! (And apophatic tumbleweed.)

  194. Somewhere my shins barked.

  195. “Kein Hund bläffte” suggests an alternative (apophatic) meme.

    O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    Alone and loit’ring in the dark?
    The sedge is withered from the lake,
    And no dogs bark.

  196. Stu Clayton says

    <* applause *>

  197. John Cowan says

    I don’t think Tolkien’s rooster really belongs to this class. I think he is a part of the foreground plot, not mere atmosphere.

  198. From Warren R. B. Dixon’s When the Little Toy Dog Was New (2010): “Off somewhere a dog barked twice.” I guess the double bark makes up for one of the apophatic missing barks.

  199. I fell asleep last night after reading the updates on this comment thread, and somewhere in that intermediate ground between wakefulness and slumber, I came to the conclusion that a very strong expression of the stillness of an indoor scene would be, “The serrated leaves whispered,”—with the important proviso that the potted plants present had to have previously been established as succulents.

  200. From Kataev’s Трава забвенья: “Далекий лай собак.” [A distant bark(ing) of dogs.]

  201. From Kataev’s Белеет парус одинокий (A White Sail Gleams): “Где-то очень далеко на обрыве лают собаки.” [Somewhere very far away on the bluff dogs are barking.]

  202. From Valentin Rasputin’s Живи и помни [Live and Remember]: “Где-то насвистывал бурундук, далеко на горе лаяла собака…” [Somewhere a chipmunk was whistling, far off on a hill a dog was barking…]. An interesting chipmunk/dog combo. (“Whistling” probably isn’t the right translation, though it’s the usual meaning, but I’m not sure what chipmunk noise is intended.)

  203. Chipmunks whistle (sorry, I just couldn’t resist).

  204. (“Whistling” probably isn’t the right translation, though it’s the usual meaning, but I’m not sure what chipmunk noise is intended.)

    My first thought was “shrilling”, but on looking up chipmunk vocalizations, I see that researchers, at least, call the recorded sounds “chip-trilling”, “chunking”, and “chipping”. On the other hand, I see that chipmunks are mostly endemic to North America, but there is also a single species of Siberian chipmunk, whose vocalizations are:

    […] a fast “cheep” that sounds a lot like a bird call. This is used when frightened, and lasts only 1/5 of a second. It is often used 3 to 6 times in succession. The second sound is a deep croaking sound. It is unknown what this croak is used for, although it is believed to be related to mating.

    This Siberian chipmunk makes sounds that the owner calls singing but I would suggest sound like trilling, and perhaps other people would have their own words for the sounds.

  205. Fascinating! (I’m not sure which word I prefer, chipmunk or бурундук [burundúk] — they’re both splendid.)

  206. Outside my window a pigeon is cooing.

  207. Stu Clayton says

    Somewhere, a dog barfed. (It’s barely audible. No fuss. Quite civilized.)

  208. бурундук

    Медведь и бурундук

    Живут на свете медведь и бурундук. Один из них обитает в одном уголке тайги, второй — в другом. Бурундук живёт-поживает, ничего не боится, по разным деревьям лазает, то тут, то там появляется. Так, носясь однажды по лесу и прыгая с дерева на дерево, видит: кто-то там по земле передвигается. Бурундук поспешил туда. Приблизился, смотрит: медведь! Подошли они друг к другу, и началась у них беседа, нет ей ни конца, ни края. Долго ли говорили, коротко ли, вдруг заспорили . Один из них говорит: — Я первый увижу появление солнца над горизонтом! А другой отвечает: — Нет, я увижу первым! (Где уж такому маленькому зверьку , как бурундук, победить в споре! Медведь большой, и ума у него немaло.) Долго ли спорили, коротко ли, наконец решили так: «Сядем и будем ждать, кто из нас раньше увидит восход солнца» Бурундук огляделся кругом и говорит: — Я сяду лицом к той высокой горе. -Медвeдь отвечает: — А я сяду лицом к тому широкому полю. (Садитесь, садитесь, посмотрим, кто из вас победит!) Сели, упёрлись друг в друга спинами. Долго ли сидели, коротко ли, ничего не видно. И вот наступил рассвет. Раскрыли они глаза пошире, ждут: кто же из них раньше другого увидит восход солнца. Так посиживая, бурундук вдруг закричал: — Какая радость! Я вижу солнце! Медведь вытаращил глаза, смотрит на поле: нет никакого солнца. Обернулся назад: бурундук такой радостный, прыгает, пляшет, изгибается, кривляется. Медведь говорит: — Где ты видишь солнце? А бурундук, прыгая, танцуя, показывает на гору и говорит: — Гляди ту да, ту да! Золотой луч солнца блестит вон там, на той горе! Посмотрел медведь наверх: и правда солнце появилось, его лучи осветили вершину горы. А бурундук ещё больше стал прыгать и скакать перед самым его носом. Медведю это надоело, даже в глазах зарябило. Протянул он лапу, схватил бурундука за шиворот. Тот рванулся изо всех сил. Однако целым уйти не удалось, когти медведя полоснули его по спине. Спасся он от смерти и побежал. Увидел яму, бросился туда. Успокоился, слизал кровь, лечится. Раны вскоре зажили, но на шкурке когти медведя оставили следы: вдоль всей спины тянутся пять тёмных полосок. Раньше, их у бурундука не было. С тех пор, как бурундук испытал страх смерти, всего начал бояться. Где что ни увидит, где что ни услышит, сразу прячется в яме между корней, сидит там и дрожит. Такой стал трусливый. Так он и до сих пор живёт.

  209. Замечательно!

  210. tikutaku
    < Tiku ja Taku, the Finnish name of the Disney chipmunk characters Chip 'n' Dale.


    Usage notes
    This term was proposed in 2008 by a committee that intended to create consistent naming system for all mammals. The problem with the currently used term maaorava is that it translates verbatim as “ground squirrel” into English and is thus apt to produce confusion. However, the new term has not gained significant acceptance (as of 2014).

  211. Why on earth do they care if it might produce confusion if translated into English?? If you adopt that standard, a whole lot of the world’s nomenclature is going to have to change. For that matter, a lot of English nomenclature produces confusion in English itself! When will people stop trying to make everything logical and consistent?

  212. David Marjanović says

    That is, in fact, a group the chipmunks belong to. What confusion?

  213. I wouldn’t be so indecent as to suggest alternatives to hamburger meat.

  214. John Emerson says

    The squirrel is a songshu “pine rat” on Chinese. I endorse the designation.

    When we lived in the woods a million years ago, our house was invaded by a “bushy-tailed wood rat”, which was NOT a squirrel, though much like one. He (or she) chewed up paper to make their nest, and among the things he chewed up was my New Directions Montale book (which remains readable, however.

  215. The squirrel is a songshu “pine rat” on Chinese.

    As it turns out, there are many more terms in Chinese for the humble rodent:

    Map of Chinese dialectal equivalents for 松鼠 (“squirrel”)
    Note: This map may not be well-supported on mobile devices. Please view this page on a computer.

  216. I love the terseness of “Burunduk pospeshil tuda. Priblizilsya, smotrit: medved’!” Google Translate isn’t able to cope with the second sentence at all and just translates it word by word.

  217. The Hour of the Dragon (known incorrectly for a long time as Conan the Conqueror) has a dog setting the scene of the opening reanimation sequence.

    The other lifted a quick hand for silence. Somewhere a dog began howling dolefully, and a stealthy step padded outside the barred and bolted door. But none looked aside from the mummy-case over which the man in the ermine-trimmed robe was now moving the great flaming jewel while he muttered an incantation that was old when Atlantis sank.

    Unlike many examples though, Howard’s narration returns to follow up on the dog at few paragraphs later.

    Again a trembling finger warned for silence. The hound outside was no longer howling. He whimpered, as with an evil dream, and then that sound, too, died away in silence, in which the yellow-haired man plainly heard the straining of the heavy door, as if something outside pushed powerfully upon it. He half turned, his hand at his sword, but the man in the ermine robe hissed an urgent warning: “Stay! Do not break the chain! And on your life do not go to the door!”

  218. John Cowan says

    I would say that was a plot-dog, like the Mongolian example and like Tolkien’s rooster.

  219. Just got to this, in Rasputin’s Прощание с Матёрой [Farewell to Matyora]:

    Где-то на другом конце деревни, как нанялась, гавкала давно и безостановочно собака — устало, беззлобно, лишь бы не дать о себе забыть.

    Somewhere at the other end of the village a dog barked for a long time and without stopping, as though it were his job — wearily, without any ill feeling, just so he wouldn’t be forgotten.

    It’s more filled out than the standard somewhere-dog sentence, but I still think it fits the template and he is not a plot dog.

  220. From Makanin’s 1983 Где сходилось небо с холмами: “слышались ночные шаги, то вдруг собачий лай” [he could hear footsteps in the night, then suddenly the barking of a dog].

  221. From the last chapter of Sokolov’s 1985 Палисандрия: “тявкали где-то собаки” [somewhere dogs were yelping].

  222. From Viktor Pelevin’s 1991 Хрустальный мир [The crystal world]: “Где-то неподалеку завыла собака” [Somewhere not far off a dog began to howl].

  223. And from later in the Pelevin story: “Где-то снова завыли псы” [Somewhere dogs began to howl again].

  224. From the last chapter of Mark Kharitonov’s 1992 novel Линии судьбы (Lines of Fate): “…и где-то залаяла собака.” […and somewhere a dog began to bark.]

  225. A proto-DBITD in Vagabond Jack, an English translation, published in 1881, from the original French of Henry de la Madelène. “In the calm silence of the serene night the distant barking of a dog arose from the plain”, indeed, but the dog is not anonymous, as regulation would have it be.

  226. I was about to give up on finding the original, but assiduous googling turned it up: “Jean des Baumes,” in the Revue des Deux Mondes, Vol. 101, No. 4 (15 Octobre 1872), pp. 897-936. On p. 927 we find:

    You’re right, it’s not canonical — the dog is a character in the story, named Maripan — but still, a good find.

  227. Lars Mathiesen says

    Lets see you guys antedate Tao Qian’s anonymous dog above. 1600 years and counting…

  228. Well, they only developed the ability recently. Isaiah tells us (56:10): “they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark.”

  229. Stu Clayton says

    There seems to be uncertainty about what dogs do do instead:

    King James Bible
    His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

    New American Standard Bible
    His watchmen are blind, All of them know nothing. All of them are mute dogs unable to bark, Dreamers lying down, who love to slumber;

    Amplified Bible
    Israel’s watchmen are blind, They are all without knowledge. They are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; Panting, lying down, they love to slumber.

    Brenton Septuagint Translation
    See how they are all blinded: they have not known; they are dumb dogs that will not bark; dreaming of rest, loving to slumber.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    His watchmen are all blind, they are all ignorant: dumb dogs not able to bark, seeing vain things, sleeping and loving dreams.

  230. Lars Mathiesen says

    Maybe they could in China. Even 2600 years ago.

  231. True. Barking, like movable type, may have been imported from the Middle Kingdom.

  232. David Eddyshaw says

    True. Proper traditional dogs don’t bark.

  233. Stu Clayton says

    Hey, Sparky and I know such a dog from the park ! Her name is Marley, because Bob. She yodels instead of barking.

  234. an amateur at Harlem’s Apollo Theater rubbing the Tree of Hope

    In Moscow people rub the dog’s nose at the station Площадь революции.

  235. From Mikhail Shishkin’s Всех ожидает одна ночь (Записки Ларионова): “…вечера у огня с томиком Дюкре Дюминиля под комариный писк и дальний лай собак.” […evenings by the fire with a volume of Ducray-Duminil, accompanied by the whine of mosquitoes and the distant barking of dogs.]

  236. Весь день дождило. Ночь прохладна и влажна.
    Густая темнота, глухая тишина.
    Но крепнут голоса собачьей перепалки,
    И жидкий свет цедит по капельке луна

    Олег Львович Хаславский

  237. Somewhen a dog barked.

    (An antidote to all the seasonal schmaltzy ‘music for kids’.)

  238. John Scott, Sketches of Manners, Scenery, &c. in the French Provinces, Switzerland, and Italy: With An Essay on French Literature, 1821. Here:

    Never have I felt the fascinating power of nature so strongly, as on the evening when I first visited these beautiful wells. The sun was setting in splendour behind the lofty rocks, which on all sides enclosed the valley. The path that led down to it was steep in the extreme; the goats were feeding on the shelves of the rock; children were hunting them from steep to steep with their shrill cries; a single priest, in his sacerdotal robe, was walking slowly, with an umbrella under his arm, along a winding path, through some low wood; a feeble and bent peasant woman was ascending the hill painfully, with a white sack on her back; a dog barked at the bottom from the door of a cottage, and a black lamb suddenly started off down the rock, playing a thousand fantastic freaks as it ran, pursued by two beautiful children.

  239. Byron, Don Juan, 3:28.

    He saw his white walls shining in the sun,
      His garden trees all shadowy and green;
    He heard his rivulet’s light bubbling run,
      The distant dog-bark; and perceived between
    The umbrage of the wood so cool and dun
      The moving figures, and the sparkling sheen
    Of arms (in the East all arm)—and various dyes
    Of colour’d garbs, as bright as butterflies.

  240. “The distant dog-bark” would have been a good alternate title for this post.

  241. More early distant dog-barks (particularly shepherd dogs). To the Romantics, these were like catnip.

    (Not suitable for diabetics.)

    John Carr,Poems (London, 1809):

    Here, on this winding garden’s sloping bound,
    ’Tis sweet to listen to each rustic sound,
    The distant dog-bark, and the rippling rill,
    Or catch the rippling of the water-mill.

    Anon., Switzerland, Ancient and Modern, in The Poetical Register, and Repository of Fugitive Poetry (London, 1804):

    […]No busy hum of men his bosom cheers;
    No distant watch-dog’s bark delights his ears;
    All things seem dead; he only left behind
    The last survivor of the human kind.

    T. Hurst, The Wildly-devious Morning Walk, in Trifles; or, Friendly Mites. Towards Improving the Rising Generation (London, 1800):

    […] we are not yet out of hearing of the murmuring stream, except when the barking of the distant dog, or the noise of the carter’s whip, interrupt the sound; […]

    Anon. (“Albert”), To the Midnight Hour. In The Historical, biographical, literary, and scientific magazine, conducted by R. Bisset with the assistance of other literary gentlemen, vol. 1 (London, 1799):

    Lone hour! amid thy stillness of repose,
      Sleepless I list the distant watch-dog’s bark;
      And oft, as flit the gloomy vaours, mark
      The brilliant stars appear;—soon lost, and dark,

    Ann Ratcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho (Boston, 1795):

    In scenes like these she would often linger alone, wrapt in a melancholy charm, till the last gleam of day faded from the west; till the lonely sound of a sheep-bell, or the distant sound of a watch-dog, were all that broke on the stillness of the evening.

  242. Goodness, that certainly is an unexpected (and yet unsurprising) subcategory!

  243. Macpherson, Fingal (London, 1762 [1761]):

    The distant dog is howling from the hut of the hill. The stag lies on the mountain moss: the hind is at his side. She hears the wind in his branchy horns. She starts, but lies again.

    Macpherson purported to translate this from Gaelic, but probably wrote most of it himself.

  244. PlasticPaddy says

    Here are two dogs (gadhar and madra), in the second text the dog barking in the night is the poor man’s banshee…
    Bhí gadhar ag tafann áit éigin, sa chóngar.
    Aiseirí, A. Hijmans, Cois Life, 2011
    ‘Luann Maitiú Ó Duiliúin cuid de na droch-chomharthaí gur tuar báis iad, mar snag breac amháin, giorria, madra ag tafann i lár na hoíche, nó, dhá fhiach dhubha ag grágaíl’.
    Léirmheas, B. Mac Géarailt, Feasta 60(5), 2007

    In older texts, the distant dog barking is a trope used to show liveliness and productivity (e.g., presence of game for hunters).

  245. So a dog barking in the middle of the night is a sign of death. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  246. Just as I was looking at this page, a friend texted me this. The blog it’s from is mostly about pen-and-paper role-playing game design, but that post is short fiction (or maybe an adventure hook for something like Cthulhu Now).

  247. That would fit with Mac Géarailt.

  248. Or perhaps Gearóid mac Géarailt, the earl of Desmond—born 1335, disappeared 1398.

  249. He heard the dog in the distance.

  250. Not suitable for diabetics

    They don’t trouble me, at least in small doses.

  251. These days, overly-sweet poetry uses saccharine.

  252. From Vladimir Sorokin’s Роман [Roman (name of protagonist)/Novel]: “Деревня замерла: ни голосов, ни шума работы; только лаяла где-то далеко собака…” [The village came to a standstill: no voices, no noise of work; only a dog barked somewhere far away…]

  253. I forgot to add that that story I posted seemed particularly resonant to me, since my brother spent a year during graduate school studying the vocalizations of wild baboons in a park in Cape Province, South Africa, with microphones positioned all around the park.

  254. After the tabukuk in the first chapter, I didn’t read any more of Laumer’s A Plague of Demons for about a week. However, I have picked it up again, and in chapter 8, there is another dog in the distance.

    I came to shore in a tangle of water hyacinth rooted in the soft mud of a river’s edge. For a long time I lay flat on my face, waiting for the sickness to drain away. There were far-off sounds of life: the rumble of a monorail, the hoot of a tug out in the harbor. Nearer, a dog barked. Mosquitoes whined insistently.

    However, while this passage sounds like it could easily appear in almost any scene-setting paragraph, this instance of a dog in the distance also seems to be playing off the fact that the protagonist is on the run from the dog-like alien demons of the title.

  255. From Pelevin’s Чапаев и Пустота: “Вокруг было равнодушное оцепенелое лето, где-то лениво лаяли псы…” [Around me was an indifferent, torpid summer, somewhere dogs were barking lazily…]

  256. From Pelevin’s Generation «П»: “Было слышно, как где-то наверху постукивает от ветра незакрытая дверь; этот же ветер принес далекий собачий лай.” [He could hear from somewhere up above an unclosed door banging in the wind; the same wind brought the barking of a distant dog.] (Not necessarily just one dog — the Russian is literally “canine barking,” and in fact the published translation by Andrew Bromfield has “the distant sound of dogs barking” — but I prefer to think of it as a single dog, and have exercised my translatorial prerogative accordingly.)

  257. Cape Inubō

    Cape Inubō (犬吠埼, Inubōsaki) is a cape on the Pacific Ocean, in *Chōshi, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. The cape is near the midpoint of the Japanese Archipelago on the island of Honshū.

    Origin of name
    The name of the cape is constructed from two Chinese characters, the first (犬) meaning “dog”, and the second (吠) meaning “howling”. Various traditions exist as to the origin of the name, one being that when Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s pet dog Wakamaru was left behind on the peninsula, he howled for seven days and nights. Another explanation is that the region was home to numerous Japanese **sea lions, whose barking voice resembles that of a dog. The name may also be of ancient Ainu origin.

    *Chōshi is a suggestive name:
    ちょうし7【銚子】 ローマ(chōshi)
    〔徳利〕 an earthenware [a ceramic] serving vessel; a sake bottle; 〔ひしゃく〕 a sake holder.
    **I’m reminded of Câmara de Lobos, Madeira, in Past Caring by Robert Goddard.

  258. ktschwarz says

    No donkeys on this page yet. Here’s one:

    The coffin dived out of sight, eased down by the men straddled on the gravetrestles. They struggled up and out: and all uncovered. Twenty.


    If we were all suddenly somebody else.

    Far away a donkey brayed. Rain. No such ass. Never see a dead one, they say. Shame of death. They hide. Also poor papa went away.

    Ulysses, “Hades” chapter

  259. From Dmitry Bykov’s Оправдание [Justification], the absence of barking: “Ни в одной избе вокруг не горели окна, не слышалось даже собачьего лая во дворах.” [There were no lights burning in the windows of any of the houses; there wasn’t even the sound of dogs barking in the courtyards.]

  260. From the English translation of Murakami’s ノルウェイの森.

    “Even now, eighteen years later, I can still picture the meadow with amazing clarity. Several days of drizzle had washed away the last speck of that summer dust, bringing out a deep, vivid green in the hills. Tall stalks of pampas grass were swaying in the October breeze, thin trailing clouds frozen precisely in place against the blue overhead. The sky reached such heights it hurt your eyes just to look at it. Her hair stirred slightly with each puff of wind that swept across the meadow and passed on to the woods. Leaves rustled in the treetops, and far off somewhere a dog was barking. Tiny muffled cries that seemed to issue from the threshold of another world. Other than that, all was silent. Not a sound reached our ears. Not a soul did we encounter. Just two bright red birds we chanced to see fly up startled from the grass, only to disappear into the woods. And as we walked, Naoko told me about a well.”

    Excerpt From: Haruki Murakami. “Norwegian Wood Vol 1.” Apple Books.

  261. Excellent!

  262. Today’s blog quote was prompted by a scene in Mississippi Burning,* in which Gene Hackman’s character is sneaking into the back entrance to the hair salon run by Frances McDormand, late in the evening, to convince her to provide the key piece of the evidence the agents need to crack the case. As he approaches the door, there is a scene-setting yowling from somewhere off screen.

    * A language-related note about the movie: The film takes many liberties with the story of FBI investigation into the deaths of three civil rights workers in 1964. A lot of stuff is fictionalized, including the names of all the major characters. Although many of them are manifestly based on specific individuals, the investigators and the criminals are all given pseudonyms. However, presumably out of respect for their memory, the three men who were murdered, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are not renamed. Instead, they simply go nameless throughout the entire film, and even in the credits, they are only identified by descriptors, not by name.

  263. Or perhaps out of respect for their families’ lawyers.

  264. From Aleksei Varlamov’s Мысленный волк [The spiritual wolf]: “где-то сонно брехала собака” [somewhere a dog yelped/barked sleepily].

  265. David Marjanović says

    and even in the credits

    Good. I hate it when the credits suddenly introduce names (or parts of names) that never appeared in the film.

  266. James Franklin says

    Oh, I think that’s quite helpful for critics, amateur ones especially. Instead of talking about “that guy in the scene in the office, you know, the one with the yellow jacket” even if supplemented by “played by <obscure actor>” you can refer to him as “James Franklin”.

  267. Stu Clayton says

    “James Franklin became widely known for being obscure”. I like it!

  268. @John Cowan: I rather doubt the families of the slain civil rights workers could have complained about their depictions in Mississippi Burning. The movie probably gave the FBI more credit than the agency deserved and had lots of other historical inaccuracies, but it is very clear that the three young men who died that night were heroes. Legally, I think the events following their deaths (and the dead have no rights, including protection against defamation) had in any case made them newsworthy public figures, even though the film was made long before they were each awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    @David Marjanović: LOST was known for giving characters names in the credits even when the roles were very minor. Part of the reason was supposedly to help the actors who played those parts. The role of “Tom” would look better listed on the back of a headshot than “bearded Other.”

  269. John Cowan says

    In case it isn’t obvious from the style, I am James Franklin.

  270. David Marjanović says

    A fox just near-barked in the middle distance. It’s a warm and quiet night, slightly cloudy, plenty of light pollution.

  271. Ted Hughes, Full Moon and Little Frieda.

    A cool small evening shrunk to a dog bark and the clank of a bucket —
    And you listening.
    A spider’s web, tense for the dew’s touch.
    A pail lifted, still and brimming — mirror
    To tempt a first star to a tremor.

    Cows are going home in the lane there, looping the hedges with their warm wreaths of breath —
    A dark river of blood, many boulders,
    Balancing unspilled milk.
    ‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly, ‘Moon! Moon!’

    The moon has stepped back like an artist gazing amazed at a work
    That points at him amazed.

    (The distance is implied.)

  272. I thought of another playful example, from The Secret of Chimneys, one of Agatha Christie’s lesser novels:

    He went on up the drive. Presently, as the drive curved, he slipped into the shrubbery and so continued his way unseen from the house. Suddenly he stood still, peering out through the leaves. Some distance away a dog was barking, but it was a sound nearer at hand that had attracted Anthony’s attention.

    His keen hearing had not been mistaken. A man came rapidly round the corner of the house, a short square, thickset man, foreign in appearance. He did not pause but walked steadily on, circling the house and disappearing again.

  273. That’s a good one; I like the use as a transitional element.

  274. An example of the Absent Dog in Ivan Bunin’s 1930 short-short Ужас [Terror]: “даже не залаяла собака” [not even a dog barked].

  275. The poultry variant!

    We can do both:

    I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.

    A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
    Beatrice, of Benedick about 0:30

  276. I had forgotten she gave him the bird.

  277. From Bunin’s 1906 poem Апрель [April]: “далёкий лай собак” [the distant barking of dogs].

  278. Was Bunin channeling Byron?

  279. I don’t think anyone needs Byron for dogs. In his 1938 story of the same title, he has “На дворе залаяли собаки” [In the yard dogs were barking]. (Those are not anonymous distant dogs, however; they get food tossed to them.)

  280. And somewhere else in the building a dog barked, somewhere else a baby was crying in automatic gasps.

    – Rober Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

  281. Excellent! A classic trope in a classic novel.

  282. Stu Clayton says

    … On Collins Avenue, she went to the car rental with the biggest billboard.
    … Her Connecticut driver’s license had long since expired. Oh, wasn’t she becoming the schemer !
    … In the lot she found her enormous chariot, all silver and light blue and chrome and freshly glistening with the dewdrops of its recent hosing-down. She threw open its front door with the carefree strength of a much younger woman and sat herself down regally behind the wheel and pulled her door closed and inserted her key. Somewhere, an engine started. Her driving skills were still intact.
    Larry Kramer, “Mrs Tefillin”

  283. Nice!

  284. I’m reminded of the hopeful speculation (alas untrue) that a potter in ancient Rome inadvertently recorded the sound of a barking dog, when they touched their stylus lightly to a still-wet clay pot rim as it spun on the wheel.

  285. I remember hearing a report on the radio some point in the late 80s or early 90s that told a similar story about Ancient Egyptian pottery; they even played a bit that sounded like “wa-wa-wa” and was supposed to be a song that the potter sang while producing his pot. I never came across that claim again; if it would be true, we probably would have albums of “The Top 10 Egyptian Pottery Songs” by now…

  286. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    The incarnation of this in Denmark had hitech whatchamacallits replaying sound from brushstrokes on old paintings. IIRC, this was “revealed” as fake a month or so later, but of course that got much less airtime than the initial news.

  287. My wife and I have been watching that fine old BBC series The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries with subtitles (which include identification of sounds), and I was pleased beyond measure when one of them read “dog barking in distance.” (For those who don’t know, Alleyn is pronounced exactly like Allen, just as — in jolly old England — Davies is pronounced exactly like Davis. Yanks always get tripped up by those excrescent letters.)

  288. From Joseph Roth’s The Radetzky March, a variation: “They could hear the fluttering of the mosquitoes around the lamplight and, through the open window, the frogs, the crickets, and, intermittently, the nearby barking of a dog.”

  289. David Marjanović says

    “There’s a dog barking in the background that’s squelching his snide and bitter comments.”

  290. in the subtitles of netflix movie: (dog barking in the distance) For the hard of hearing that use this facility it would probably not be heard so therefore I submit it as a tropish genuflection or pret a porter atmosphere.

  291. Good point.

  292. Jonny Sweet (2024) The Kellerby Code:

    The night was continuing around him. It blankly refused to answer any query … Somewhere unseen a car alarm began.

  293. I’m reading Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel to my wife at night (it’s a very funny book) and tonight we got to the line “A dog barked far off in the distance and though that reminded me of life, it did more to make me fear death.” I suppose that doesn’t really count, because it’s not a random, otherwise pointless dog but one who makes an impact on the protagonist, but of course I had to commemorate it here.

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