Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Hair O' the Dog"

Ever been advised to have a drink the day after the night before to relieve symptoms of a hangover (as in "here, have a bit of the hair o' the dog that bit you last night")?  First of all, let me be quite clear: there is no scientific basis for said practice - it can only make your hangover worse.  That said, variations of not only the saying but also the practice are numerous, widespread and ancient.  The origin of the phrase comes literally from a (useless) folklore practice of trying to cure a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the same dog in the wound.  It's metaphorical use in the treatment of a hangover in the English language was popularized by the Scots (surprise, surprise!): "if this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day".  Note here that the Scot has bitten the dog, not the reverse.  (For a scary similarity see my bizarre-labeled post of several weeks ago - yikes, my Scottish genes express themselves!)  Etymology: the idea of "like cures like" (Latin: similia similibus curantur) can be traced back to Hippocrates, the seminal ancient Greek physician.  The phrase "hair of the dog" thus appears in Greek literature, notably in a poem by Aristophanes.  The Greeks may not be good at budgeting but we should remember their many other contributions to mankind.  Anyone out there got a hangover cure that works?  Not for me, you understand.