The Spectator

What does it mean to be ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’?


Boris and the butcher’s dog

Who first coined the phrase ‘as fit as a butcher’s dog’? It has been traced to Lancashire. It is not the only quality attached to butcher’s dogs, however — such animals were perhaps widely observed as a result of customers having to entertain themselves somehow while the butcher prepared their cuts, and a dog gave them something to watch. A variant has someone as ‘happy as a butcher’s dog’. John Ray, in his collection of English proverbs from 1670, describes the expression ‘as surly as a butcher’s dog’. John Camden Hotten, in his Dictionary of Modern Slang (1859), mentions ‘to lie like a butcher’s dog’ — in other words to keep still while surrounded by temptation — a quality perhaps less associated with our Prime Minister.

Worth a shot

Up to half the UK population, according to a poll, could refuse to take a Covid-19 vaccine. How does that compare with the take-up of other vaccines in 2018/19?

DTaP/IPV/HiB (diphtheria/tetanus/polio) by 12 months | 92.1%

by 24 months | 94.2%

DTaP/IPV pre-school booster | 84.8%

MMR1 (measles/mumps/rubella) by 24 months | 90.3%

MMR2 | 86.4%

PCV (pneumococcal disease) | 92.8%

HiB/MenC (haemophilus influenzae B/ meningococcal disease) | 92.0%

Source: NHS Digital

The need for speed

Who breaks the speed limit?

28% of male motorists admit to driving at more than 100 mph on the road network, while 9% of female drivers admit to the same offence. The age group most likely to speed are 25- to 34-year-olds, 33% of whom admit to driving at more than 100 mph.

Source: Brake

Zero tolerance

The government announced a ten-point plan to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. What are Britain’s carbon emissions?

— According to the basis used for the Climate Change Act (which is done on a ‘territorial’ basis, including carbon emitted physically in Britain but excluding emissions embedded in imported goods), UK emissions in 2016 were 460m tonnes, a 40% fall compared with 1990.

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