The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives


A poet who writes in Romansch arrives for a day; we all listen to him read with his Dutch translator. The two of them sound like strange birds, chippering and swooping. I don’t need to understand a word to know I like the poems a lot.

—Martha Cooley (Guesswork, ch. 11)

I was reading along in one of those books, those perennially available books in the library ebook app (citation above), and encountered the following: ‘I have no dog in this race, as we say in English’ (ch. 4.) – and I wondered: Do we, in fact, say that in English? It’s certainly not something I would say; if pressed to that sort of folksiness, I suppose I would say ‘a horse in this/that race’ or a ‘dog in this/that fight’. ‘Dog in this race’ was new to me, though; I am seldom up for a wager, so I wouldn’t lay odds on one phrase being more common than another.1

One thing I did find interesting, though, was the context in which the author used the phrase. A native English speaker, she was living in a small town in Italy for a long-ish span of time, a time in which she was busy ‘practicing wordlessness’ (ch. 5) – at least in terms of speaking (she was working on several writing/translation projects) – and she repeats the phrase ‘as we say in English’ several times throughout the book, always as sort of verbal crossing guard for an idiom. In each case, the words seem to be set down with particular care (like the cat in the poem) and strain towards a concrete, quotidian simplicity: a dog, a race, a bet or stake – and wouldn’t a horse be too large, or a dog fight too cruel?

In any case, not my circus, not my monkeys, as the saying goes.

  1. According to Google Ngram viewer (with all appropriate gesticulation about its limitations, etc. – and here it does make more of a difference as there are many examples about concrete animals in races that actually occurred, rather than cute phrases.), some people clearly do use it. []


ego hoc feci mm–MMXXIV · cc 2000–2024 M.F.C.