Phrase: Hair Of The Dog

If you’re feeling a little delicate after a night of drinking last night, someone may have recommended that you try the ‘Hair of the dog’; more alcohol the day after heavy drinking – but why is it called that?

The phrase is short for ‘Hair of the dog that bit me’; to find the origins of this phrase we have to look way back to around 400BC, the time of Hippocrates; where the prevailing medical theory at the time was encapsulated by the phrase ‘Similia similibus curantur’ meaning ‘like cures like’.

The phrase ‘Hair of the dog’ itself first appeared in writing in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in 1898, and referred to the application of ‘Similia similibus curantur’ to the treatment of persons suffering from the symptoms of rabies following the bite from a rabid dog. Doctors would apply hairs from the offending dog to the bite wound, needless to say it didn’t work. The phrase was then applied widely to the idea of ‘like cures like’, most of these systems of treatments have fallen out of favour as they were found not to work, but for some reason, in relation to alcohol, it strives on. Possibly because the prescriber quite likes the idea of a drink anyway.

If you’re wondering if it works, unfortunately it doesn’t, although there is some evidence to show that the alcohol reduces the intensity of the symptoms by spreading them over a longer period.

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