The Rise of Doggo.

Andrea Valdez has a nice write-up for Wired about a modish word that makes people smile:

The only way to explain the reaction to Merriam-Webster’s year-end announcement that “doggo” was one of the dictionary’s “Words We’re Watching” is to use another colloquialism: Twitter lost its damn mind.

It wasn’t the first time Merriam, the hippest dictionary that ever was (sorry, Oxford), incorporated internet-beloved words into its corpus; it recently added definitions for the terms “troll,” “woke,” and “hashtag.” Nor was it the first time social media reacted strongly to such a move (see: the Great “Shade” Elation of 2017). But for the prestigious lexical arbiter to acknowledge doggo’s place and popularity was a win for practitioners of “DoggoSpeak,” a specialized vernacular used primarily in memes extolling the cuteness of dogs. (DoggoSpeak includes fun-to-say made-up words like doggo, pupper, flufferino, and doge. You probably don’t have to be fluent to translate, though NPR did a thorough deep-dive on the vocabulary.)

The announcement was also a recognition by Merriam that its original entry for “doggo”—defined as “in hiding—used chiefly in the phrase to lie doggo”—was out of step with its more current incarnation. “The nature of lexicography in general is that it always lags behind language, and that’s the case with doggo,” says Merriam-Webster associate editor Kory Stamper. “The real swell of the modern doggo wave came in 2016 and 2017 with the popularization of the WeRateDogs Twitter account.”

She explains that “there’s a strong case to be made that the word originated in Australia”:

To start, doggo first gained traction on a Facebook group called Dogspotting, a 10-year-old community that became quite popular in Australia, says internet linguist Gretchen McCulloch.

“Australian English has this tendency to make cute pet-names, what’s known in the literature as hypocoristics,” McCulloch says. “Like ‘afternoon’ becomes ‘arvo,’ or ‘avocado’ becomes ‘avo,’ or John becomes ‘John-o’.”

She gives a timeline for the modern use, some reasonable hypotheses as to why it became so popular, and the news (sad but inevitable) that there’s been “a fall in the term’s popularity”; it’s a good piece of popular linguistic journalism, and I for one approve.


  1. One of the foundational texts of the doggo meme:

  2. It’s interesting that the suffix chosen for this is “-o”. There’s a similar suffix in French and German – “Jacquot” or “Timo”. “Kuno”, etc. It’s interesting to find it in Englsih. There’s another suffix, probably unrelated, in Irish that gives us “daideo” and in Hiberno-English “boyo”.

  3. The word “boyo” automatically brings this to my mind (still one of my favorite Clash songs).

  4. lie doggo. verb phrase. To stay in hiding; secrete oneself; lay low •Chiefly British: You better lie doggo a while till it blows over. [1893+; probably fr the silent and unobtrusive behavior of a hunting or herding dog when stalking]

    Still about dogs, so I think it’s much the same.

    Boyo makes me think of Nogood Boyo in Under Milk Wood, but I think it’s older than that. Old enough to have created a backslang version yobbo.

  5. I have always taken for granted that the Australian -o derives from the Irish -o. But in truth the suffix is really pan-anglophone: Anglo is Canadian, righto and milko are English, and wino, wacko, cheapo are American by origin.

  6. “Anglo is Canadian”

    Maybe in Canada. In the US it’s a euphemism for “gringo” or worse yet “gabacho”, rather like “English” became the euphemism for “Saxon” all those centuries ago.

  7. Would Anglo really be Angle with an -o suffix anyway? In Canada, wouldn’t it be short for anglophone?

  8. More information about doggo gives a date of 1882.

  9. Keith Ivey: you’re probably right about Anglo.

  10. David Marjanović says

    There’s a similar suffix in French and German – “Jacquot” or “Timo”. “Kuno”, etc.

    Timo is simply short for Timotheus; its long /iː/ shows it can’t be routed through Tim.

    Kuno, like Otto, is something ancient that hasn’t been productive in a thousand years.

  11. Smoke-o is Australian for a tea break.

  12. Sure. When you see a truncation (or just a short word) followed by -o, the betting is that it’s Australian, or failing that Irish. But some such words are not, that’s my only point.

  13. Where I come from, the inhabitants of Brisbane are called ‘Brizzos’. (For some reason, the city is also known as Brizvegas, perhaps because it has a casino.)

    I Wish I Was a Brizzo

  14. John, I can think of loads of short words ending in O that came into English from or via England. Lotto, grotto, bingo and beano for a start awf.

  15. Smoke-o is Australian for a tea break.

    I’m glad you brought that up, because it gives me a chance to link this Aussie-kiddie-punk video. I’m on smoko, so leave me alone!

  16. Only fatso has the -o suffix, though: the etymology of bingo is not known, and the other three have organic o (from dipsomaniac, order, Cohen respectively).

    But whatever happened to “Beer, beef, business, bibles, bulldogs, battleships, buggery and bishops”? Granted, that was invented by an Irishman.

    AJP: Lotto, grotto, bingo and beano

    I should have mentioned beano, yes. Lotto and grotto are straight from Italian, though it’s grotta in modern Italian.

  17. Many of the o-words are decompositional (from Greek or pseudo-Greek), e.g. homo, hetero for ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’, respectively’, logo ‘logograph’, psycho ‘psychopath’, photo ‘photograph’, dino ‘dinosaur’, disco ‘discotheque’, etc. Since they are (or were originally) colloquial, it wouldn’t be difficult for the final -o to be interpreted as an expressive (hypocoristic) suffix like the more traditional -y/-ie. I’m not saying that this is the source of words like arvo or boyo, but abbreviations of learned words may at least have made the pattern stronger.

  18. I think that’s probably right.

  19. Aussie kiddie punk

    My people!

  20. Trond Engen says

    The J stands for “kiddie”? I never would have guessed.

  21. Lazar, had I known that Tesco had a Latinlike motto and a badger coat of arms I might have bought more household cleaning products there. Probably not, though.

  22. They’re all-purpose initials.

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