Give a dog a bad name and hang him
Give a dog a bad name and hang him is an English proverb. Its meaning is that if a person's reputation has been besmirched, then he will suffer difficulty and hardship. A similar proverb is he that has an ill name is half hanged.
The proverb dates back to the 18th century or before. In 1706, John Stevens recorded it as "Give a Dog an ill name and his work is done". In 1721, James Kelly had it as a Scottish proverb – "Give a Dog an ill Name, and he'll soon be hanged. Spoken of those who raise an ill Name on a Man on purpose to prevent his Advancement." In Virginia, it appeared as an old saying in the Norfolk Herald in 1803 – "give a dog a bad name and hang him".
The observation is due to negativity bias – that people are apt to think poorly of others on weak evidence. This is then reinforced by confirmation bias as people give more weight to evidence that supports a preconception than evidence which contradicts it.
- Philip V. Allingham (2 January 2016), "James Mahoney", Victorian Web
- John Simpson, Jennifer Speake, ed. (2009), "Give a dog a bad name and hang him", The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780191727740
- Peter Goldie (2004), On Personality, Routledge, pp. 56–57, ISBN 9781134406326
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