I am in the car, traveling down a country road, with one of the best people in the world. We are on a mission while traveling through small town America. We have to find a shoe store and almost like an oasis, a billboard appears from the quintessential middle American landscape. I write almost merely because we are moving along at a rather quick clip and the appearance is more of a flash than an appearance.  It is a quick appearance like an A – lister movie star in a B movie, but I read it and lo and behold like the nod of the genies head, you know which genie I am referring to right? The one found by Captain Tony Nelson, in the wildly popular  television show I dream of Jeannie.  Well like the magic from the nod of the Genies head The signs appears or flashes and it reads “Barking Dogs footwear”. The advertisement is for a shoe store. The words barking dogs are an obvious play on words from the old, maybe clichéd english idiom “my dogs are barking”.  Me and one of the best people in the world get to talking about said idiom and contemplate its creation and use in our culture. She points out that feet are usually only called dogs when they are sore or tired and we end the conversation thread with more questions than answers.

Being the crazy person that I am I seek the answers to this idioms etymology. Who was the mastermind that put together these odd words to describe a phenomena that befalls on many the weary traveller?  The phrase has been used in many settings and by many people. I would challenge you to find any man or women (raised in north america) over the age of 24 that doesn’t know of this idiom. 

Well from some limited research, also called  the Oxford English Dictionary,it seems the origin of the idiom comes from Rhyming slang.  

Also from some research I have found that the owners of “The Barking Dog” are not the only ones to use the clever idiom to create a clever name for a business.

The Hush Puppies name and mascot were coined by the brand’s first sales manager, James Gaylord Muir. Initially, the company’s advertising agency recommended naming the product “Lasers.” Then, on a selling trip to the southeast, Mr. Muir dined with one of his regional salesmen and the meal included hush puppies, traditional fried southern cornballs. When Mr. Muir asked about the origin of the name, he was told that farmers threw hush puppies at the hounds to “quiet their barking dogs.”
Mr. Muir saw a connection to his new product. “Barking dogs” in the vernacular of the day was an idiom for sore feet. Mr. Muir surmised his new shoes were so comfortable that they could “quiet barking dogs.”

Stories like that always do two things to me. First they make me smile and second they help me realize that successful business owners or really successful people understand how complex systems like oh the english language or the consumers mind work. Not only do these successful people understand how they work they understand their place in these systems and find a way to carve out this place and make an impact. Wether it be a clever name, a different high quality product or service, or just a wonderful experience successful business owners make it happen and that’s something kind of like magic right?





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