If you’ve been out for a long night of drinking, you may know what it’s like to wake up hungover the next day. Some people say that hair of the dog cocktails work to cure a nasty hangover.
(It doesn’t. Perhaps it works in the moment, but it’s just delaying the inevitable.)
What I’ve always been more curious about though, is why it’s called “hair of the dog”.
A phrase that’s shortened from the longer phrase “hair of the dog that bit you”, it apparently originates from a supposed cure for rabid dog bites. To treat the bite, a person had to place hair from the dog onto the bite wound.
Apparently at some point, dog hairs were used in a salve to treat hangovers. The recipe for the salve called for dog hairs, some plant and olive oil! This salve was then supposed to be applied on one’s forehead.
It’s fascinating how these phrases are added into our shared language database and come to mean the same thing to a large enough set of people.
I am reminded of the phrase “top of the morning”, which I read about recently in Butter: A Rich History by Elaine Khosrov.
The top part of the churned milk was apparently the best part. So when someone said “top of the morning” to you, what he meant to do was wish you the best of the morning.
The way food and how its processes change our language is a long story for another day. If you’re a food nerd, I write sporadically about things like that on Curious Eaterish.