Learn English idioms | See a man about a dog

English idioms are colourful expressions we use that have a special meaning. What does it mean to say you're going to see a man about a dog? Watch this video lesson and find out more about English idioms...

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VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

If you use this expression, to see a man about a dog, what it means is you're going to do something maybe something secret or it could be something illegal or it could be something embarrassing. But it's something you don't want to say, you don't want to tell other people.

Let's say you're going to buy something which is stolen, like a stolen computer or a stolen car. You could say,  "I'm going to see a man about a dog". Obviously you're not going to buy a dog, you're going to buy a car or a computer. So what you're doing is wrong, it's illegal, it's dishonest, so you say, "I'm going to see a man about a dog".

You could also use it in a situation that you find embarrassing. So let's say you have to go to see the doctor about a problem you have. But it's a problem that's quite personal and you don't want to tell other people. It would be too embarrassing, too personal to talk about, so you can say, "I'm going to see a man about a dog".

It could also be something that you want to keep secret for a surprise. Let's say you want to buy someone a surprise present. You want to buy your wife a present for her birthday. So she says, "where are you going?" And you say: ‘I’m just going to see a man about a dog’, because you don't want to say to her: "I'm going to buy you a present for your birthday", so it's quite a funny way to keep this a secret.

So where does the expression come from? Well apparently it comes from a play, a play in the theatre some years ago. It's not a very well-known play, not a famous play. But for some reason, this particular line from the play became very popular. So people don't remember the play but they remember the line. So next time you want to do something you don't want to tell other people about, just say ‘I’m going to see a man about a dog’.

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