Hair of the dog
The expression originally referred to a method of treatment of a rabid dog bite by placing hair from the dog in the bite wound. 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, and the idea of Latin: similia similibus curantur ("like cures like") dates back at least to the time of Hippocrates and exists today as the basic postulate of classical homeopathy. In the 1930s cocktails known as Corpse Revivers were served in hotels.
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 god ʾIlu becomes hungover after a drinking binge. The text includes a recipe for a salve to be applied to the god's forehead, which consists of "hairs of a dog" and parts of an unknown plant mixed with olive oil.
In other languages
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'. 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.
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. The proper Russian term is опохмелка (opohmelka, "after being drunk"), which indicates a process of drinking to decrease effects of drinking the day before.
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 Portuguese, people speak of "a hit" (uma rebatida), meaning to strike away (the hangover with more alcohol).
A similar usage is encountered in Romanian, in the phrase "Cui pe cui se scoate" (A nail (fastener) pulls out a nail); in Bulgarian, in the phrase "Клин клин избива"; 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.
In Italian, is also used the term "richiamino", which translates to "little recall": a recall is a booster shot. In this context, the booster shot consist of another small dose of alcohol to drink during the hangover to reduce the effects of drinking.
In Swedish, drinking alcohol to relieve a hangover is called having an "återställare", which translates roughly to "restorer". In Norwegian, it is usually called "repareringspils", meaning a "beer to repair". In Finnish, it is called "tasoittava" (leveling) or "korjaussarja" (repair kit) and in Czech "vyprošťovák" (extricator). In Tanzania, the equivalent Swahili phrase used is "kuzimua" which means 'assist to wake up after a coma'.
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".
In Japanese, alcohol consumed to lighten a hangover is called "迎え酒" (mukae-zake), which literally means "counter alcohol".
In Korea, alcohol (typically soju) drunk in the morning to relieve hangovers is called "haejangsul."
In China, alcohol drunk to relieve hangover is called "回魂酒", literally translates to "the drink that brings back your soul".
There are at least two theories 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", this idea is questionable as the signs and symptoms of hangover and alcohol withdrawal are very different.
In the second, hangovers are attributed to methanol metabolism. Levels of methanol, present as a congener in alcohol, have been correlated with severity of hangover and methanol metabolism to the highly toxic formate via formaldehyde coincides with the rate of appearance of hangover symptoms. 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, 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]
From the perspective of sugar metabolism, alcohol may cause a blood sugar spike, resulting in a hypoglycemic awakening "hangover". Consuming more alcohol might be a way to ingest more calories that quickly convert to sugar to raise the body's blood sugar, as well as lifting the fainting and headaches often associated with low blood sugar.
In Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror film, The Shining, the "hair of the dog" expression is used in the sequence in which Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) seats himself at the bar in the Gold Room for the second time and asks Lloyd the Bartender (Joe Turkel) for a drink:
LLOYD: What'll it be, sir?
JACK: Hair of the dog that bit me.
JACK: That'll do her.
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- Withdrawal Syndromes~treatment at eMedicine
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- 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 . PMID 15660163.
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- 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. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.alcalc.a008415. PMID 9719404.
- "The Shining Ballscene 1080p". YouTube. 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2014-03-23.
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- "Early Modern Whale: Langley Marish: Milton, and the hair of the dog" a compilation of early uses of the expression "hair of the dog".