Perro Muerto

Idiom: “Hacer perro muerto”
Translation: “To make [like] a dead dog”
Meaning: When you leave a restaurant without paying the tab. It is the equivalent of the American “Dine and Ditch”.

This idiom has origins in Spain, as explained by Hector Velis-Meza, a scholar, etymologist, writer, university professor and radio personality at Radio Cooperativa hosting a show that covers Chilean language, culture and history. This is the first time he is used as a reference here in Fundi2’s Paremiography Series, and it looks like he will be referenced in the future, since among his 32 publications he has several language origin books. In Antartica’s lists of books, are titles as:  Malas Palabras Con Historia; Supersticiones Y Creencias Con Historia; Historia Secreta de la Navidad Y El Ano Nuevo; Chilenismo Con Historia; Dichos Frases Y Refranes Con Historia (Quinta Edition); Amor Y Sexo Una Mirada Traviesa E Indiscreta and; Buenas Maneras en el Siglo 21 (Nueva Edition). Making him the top dog of this topic in Chile and his introduction required at this moment. Even though he is an animal lover, a real cat lover, and this article is dog related, the below interview covers a bit of who he is. It shows that he does not lead a dog’s life and excuse us for the English idiom (but now that we are on a dog track), there’s life in the old dog yet.

De donde viene "perro muerto" - Las Últimas Noticias - Sección Economia June 21, 2013 Aclaran duda histórica : El perro muerto lo paga el garzon
De donde viene “perro muerto” – Las Últimas Noticias – Sección Economia June 21, 2013
Aclaran duda histórica : El perro muerto lo paga el garzon

He was consulted as a source for the origin of this saying. For an article by Joaquin Riveros in a publication called, Las Ultimas Noticias. He completes the origins of the phrase as being, “el perro del muerto” (the dog of the dead) and it was used when someone in the neighborhood died. If the deceased had a dog, the dog was taken care of by the neighborhood. It is fair to say that the dog lived off charity. The good charity of the neighborhood. (Since it may be that no one there had heard of the following Spanish proverb:Quien da pan a perro ajeno, pierde el pan y pierde el perro.) This version of it’s origin only explains the source of the phrase but not it’s application as to why it is currently used in Chile and Peru to mean what it currently means.

Doggedly splattered throughout this article are dog idioms in English. making it necessary to define what an idiom is at this doggone moment. From, an idiom is: “an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements.”  Fundi2 theorizes its current application has to do more with the aspect of the relationship of getting donated food, charity. In agreement with Hector Velis-Meza, the twist in meaning, that this now represents acts at the expense not the charity of another is a polarity. With it must be added, this twist resting on the other aspects of the idiom – the true nature of a dog and the relationship between pet and owner.  Further polar difference clarification explains the current act now as the result of actions by dirty dogs – at the economic expense of a fellow dog (or worse, un perrin – un amigazo) that generate on one end full bellies and/or a moment of adrenaline “fun”  while on the other end, slighted or ill feelings and possible economic hardship(s).

It could be fair to say that once a dog is dead…. ya no es fiel, hay perdido esa capacidad, porque esta muerto…. (s)he is no longer loyal, (s)he has lost that capacity, because (s)he is dead. A dog is generally considered to be loyal to its owner and relies upon his or her owner for food. A relationship of inherent trust and loyalty. In art, as quoted from Gardner’s Art Through the Ages “[dogs] symbolize fidelity (the common canine name Fido originated from the Latin, fido, ‘to trust’)”. A symbol of loyalty in art, the written and spoken word dogs are the only domesticated animals in which trust is involved in the equation. Loyalty and trust which extends to honesty and goodness, the complete opposite of the act of “hacer perro muerto“. Which does carry an air of morphing or is it mendacity?

Mendacity, lies in the world of lying, deceit. Like beating the check, skipping out or ducking – in the end it’s all basically stiffing. These acts occur in all places – in the US as well as Chile. In the US, there is some type of relief (?) for the waiter or waitress whose boss is making them foot the bill (because this shouldn’t happen to a dog!). They can call the US Department of Labor to file a complaint, against their boss – not the deadbeat dogs.

Recently in June 2013, the original article in which the above origin’s box was published by Las Ultimas Noticias with a headline that announced the triple increase of (hacer perro muerto) cases since the ruling of the La Nueva Ley de Tabaco (New Law of Tobacco). Which became effective as of March 1, 2013.

To finish competing the Las Ultimas Noticias headline: They go outside for a smoke and leave. For fun, as a diversion, or out of need or maliciousness – to eat and run, no matter where in the world, is always considered bad manners. Anywhere or anyhow, to do it so – over and over again – at the expense of someone else, is an indicator that your civility has gone to the dogs.

Marcelo Escobar again produced the great image that Fundi2 is using for this blog post. You can also visit Marcelo’s blog ” Tinta Chilena” for more of his art.


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