Hair of the dog

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"Hair of the dog", short for "Hair of the dog that bit you", is a colloquial expression in the English language predominantly used to refer to alcohol that is consumed with the aim of lessening the effects of a hangover.


The expression originally referred to a method of treatment for a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound.[1] Ebenezer Cobham Brewer writes in the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898): "In Scotland it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves. 'If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.'" He also cites two apocryphal poems containing the phrase, one of which is attributed to Aristophanes. It is possible that the phrase was used to justify an existing practice, as the idea of "like cures like" (Latin: similia similibus curantur) dates back at least to the time of Hippocrates. It exists today as the basic postulate of classical homeopathy. In the 1930s cocktails known as Corpse Revivers were served in hotels.[2]

The earliest known reference to the phrase "hair of the dog" in connection with drunkenness is found in a text from ancient Ugarit dating from the mid to late second millennium BC, in which the dog ʾIlu becomes hungover after a drinking binge. The text includes a recipe for a salve to be applied to the dog's forehead, which consists of "hairs of a dog" and parts of an unknown plant mixed with olive oil.[3]

An early example of modern usage (poil de ce chien) can be found in Rabelais' 16th century pentology Gargantua and Pantagruel,[4] literally translated by Motteux in the late 17th century.[5]

In other languages[edit]

The phrase also exists in Hungarian, where the literal translation to English is "(You may cure) the dog's bite with its fur", but has evolved into a short phrase ("kutyaharapást szőrével") that is used frequently in other contexts when one is trying to express that the solution to a problem is more of the problem.

Among the Irish and Mexicans, the phrase 'The Cure' ("curarse la cruda", in Spanish) is often used instead of 'hair of the dog'.[6] It is used, often sarcastically, in the question "Going for a Cure?".

In Costa Rica (Central America), the same expression is used but it refers to a pig, as in: hair of the same pig ("pelos de la misma chancha" in Central America) referring to the same method to cure the hangover.[citation needed]

In some Slavic languages (Polish, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian and Russian), hair of the dog is called "a wedge" (klin), mirroring the concept of dislodging a stuck wedge with another one; hence the popular Polish phrase "[to dislodge] a wedge [with] a wedge" – [wybijać] klin klinem – which is used figuratively both with regard to alcohol and in other contexts. In Bulgarian, the phrase is "Клин клин избива" (using the "wedge" metaphor common in other Slavic languages).

A similar usage is encountered in Romanian, in the phrase "Cui pe cui se scoate" (A nail (fastener) pulls out a nail); in Italian, in the phrase "Chiodo scaccia chiodo"; in Spanish, in the phrase "Un clavo saca otro clavo" (A nail pulls out another nail); and in Turkish, in the phrase "Çivi çiviyi söker". In all five cases, the English translation is "a nail dislodges a nail", though these phrases are not exclusively used to refer to the hangover cure.[citation needed]

The proper Russian term is опохмелка (opohmelka, "after being drunk"), which indicates a process of drinking to decrease effects of drinking the day before.[citation needed]

In German, drinking alcohol the next morning to relieve the symptoms is sometimes described as "having a counter-beer" (ein Konterbier trinken), whereas in Austria people talk about having a repair-beer (Reparatur-Seidl).

In Norwegian, it is usually called "repareringspils", meaning a "beer to repair", and in Estonia, "peaparandus", which literally translated is "head-repair".

In Danish, a beer the day after drinking, is called a "reparationsbajer", which translates to "repair beer". There is also a saying: "One must rise at the tree where one fell".[citation needed]

In Finnish, it is called "tasoittava" (smoothening) or "korjaussarja" (repair kit) and in Czech "vyprošťovák" (extricator).

In Swedish, drinking alcohol to relieve a hangover is called having an "återställare", which translates roughly to "restorer".

In Portuguese, people speak of "a hit" (uma rebatida), meaning to strike away (the hangover with more alcohol).[citation needed]

In Tanzania, the equivalent Swahili phrase used is "kuzimua" which means "assist to wake up after a coma". The phrase also exists in (Sheng) Swahili Slang: In Kenya taking alcohol to relieve a hangover is called "kutoa lock", translated into "removing the lock".

In Japan, drinking alcohol in the morning after drinking too much is called 迎え酒 (mukae-zake), which roughly translates as "counter drinking".

In Korea, alcohol (typically soju) drunk in the morning to relieve hangovers is called "haejangsul",[7] which literally translates as "a drink of wine (on) the morning after."

In China, alcohol drunk to relieve hangover is called "回魂酒", which literally translates to "the drink that brings back your soul".[8]

In Puerto Rico, drinking alcohol as a remedy for a hangover is called "matar al ratón", or "to kill the mouse".

In Cape Afrikaans, drinking alcohol to cure a hangover (babbelas) is called "kopskiet", or "shot to the head". [9]

Scientific background[edit]

There are at least two hypotheses as to how "hair of the dog" works. In the first, hangovers are described as the first stage of alcohol withdrawal, which is then alleviated by further alcohol intake. Although "...Low [ethanol] doses may effectively prevent alcohol withdrawal syndrome in surgical patients",[10] this idea is questionable as the signs and symptoms of hangover and alcohol withdrawal are very different.[11]

In the second, hangovers are partly attributed to methanol metabolism.[12][13] Levels of methanol, present as a congener in alcohol, have been correlated with severity of hangover[14][15] and methanol metabolism to the highly toxic formate via formaldehyde[16] coincides with the rate of appearance of hangover symptoms.[17] As both ethanol and methanol are metabolised by alcohol dehydrogenase – and ethanol is a much better substrate for this enzyme – drinking more of the former then effectively prevents (or delays) the metabolism of the latter. As pure ethanol consumption has also been found to increase endogenous levels of methanol,[18] presumably for this reason, this suggests that if "hair of the dog" works in this way it effects a temporary hiatus rather than a cure.[clarification needed][original research?]

In popular culture[edit]

In the videogame The Curse of Monkey Island, the main character Guybrush Threepwood needs to make a hangover remedy, which literally includes "the hair of the dog that bit you" as an ingredient.[citation needed]

In the Stanley Kubrick film The Shining, Jack Nicholson's character uses the phrase in reference to the consumption of bourbon on consecutive nights.[citation needed]

In the spinoff series Cells at Work! Code Black Chapter 2, the body receives more alcohol when the human takes the hair of the dog during hangover, much to the cells' dismay. This was also portrayed in the anime.

The Modest Mouse song “The Good Times Are Killing Me” includes the line “Enough hair of the dog to make myself an entire rug.”

In House MD, season 4 episode 1, Dr. House uses the expression while trying to cure his patient from potential alcoholism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hair of the dog definition - Medical Dictionary definitions of popular medical terms easily defined on MedTerms". 2012-06-14. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
  2. ^ "Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail - The Cocktail Spirit with Robert Hess - Small Screen™ Cocktail Recipes, Bartending and Mixology and Cooking Videos". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
  3. ^ Pardee, Dennis (1997). ʾIlu On A Toot (Context of Scripture 1.97). Leiden: Brill. pp. 304–5. ISBN 978-9004106185. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  4. ^ Rabelais (1823). La Vie de Gargantua et Pantagruel Book 5. p. Chapter XLVI.
  5. ^ Rabelais (1694). Gargantua and Pantagruel Book 5. p. Chapter XLVI.
  6. ^ "How to talk about alcohol in the Republic of Ireland". Retrieved 2014-03-23.
  7. ^ "해장술" (in Korean). Kumsung Publishing Co. 2010.
  8. ^ "回魂酒有用嗎?醫:僅限於酒精成癮者". 健康醫療網. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Kaaps Afrikaans: Cape Flats Dictionary".
  10. ^ Withdrawal Syndromes~treatment at eMedicine
  11. ^ Wiese, Jeffrey G.; Shlipak, Michael G.; Browner, Warren S. (2000). "The Alcohol Hangover". Annals of Internal Medicine. 132 (11): 897–902. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-132-11-200006060-00008. PMID 10836917.
  12. ^ Jones, A. W. (1987). "Elimination Half-life of Methanol During Hangover". Pharmacology & Toxicology. 60 (3): 217–20. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0773.1987.tb01737.x. PMID 3588516.
  13. ^ Calder, Ian (1997). "Hangovers: Not the ethanol—perhaps the methanol". BMJ. 314 (7073): 2–3. doi:10.1136/bmj.314.7073.2. PMC 2125562. PMID 9001463.
  14. ^ Chapman, Loring F. (1970). "Experimental induction of hangover". Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol. 5 (Suppl 5): 67–86. doi:10.15288/qjsas.1970.s5.067. PMID 5450666.
  15. ^ Pawan, GL (1973). "Alcoholic drinks and hangover effects". The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 32 (1): 15A. PMID 4760771.
  16. ^ Marx, Christopher J.; Van Dien, Stephen J.; Lidstrom, Mary E. (2005). "Flux Analysis Uncovers Key Role of Functional Redundancy in Formaldehyde Metabolism". PLOS Biology. 3 (2): e16. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030016. PMC 539335. PMID 15660163.
  17. ^ Ylikahri RH, Huttunen M, Eriksson CJ, Nikkila EA. Metabolic studies on the pathogenesis of hangover. Eur J Clin Invest 1974;4:93–100
  18. ^ Bendtsen, Preben; Jones, A. Wayne; Helander, Anders (1998). "Urinary excretion of methanol and 5-hydroxytryptophol as biochemical markers of recent drinking in the hangover state". Alcohol and Alcoholism. 33 (4): 431–8. CiteSeerX doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.alcalc.a008415. PMID 9719404.

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