Dion Boucicault first used the expression in his play "The Flying Scud or, A Four-Legged Fortune, written in London (Sept., 1866), a few months before before the dramatist emigrated to New York:

Quail [the lawyer]: I have just heard that the bill I discounted for you bearing Lord Woodbie's name, is a forgery. I give you twelve hours to find the money, and provide for it.

Mo [Davis, follower of the turf]: [Looking at watch] Excuse me, Mr. Quail, I can't stop; I've got to see a man about a dog. I forgot all about it till just now. [Act 4, Scene 1]

Since the lawyer then attempts to prevent the cockney Mo from leaving the room, we can assume the appointment with the dog-owner is a ruse to absent himself from an awkward situation.

References

Boucicault, Dion. "Forbidden Fruit" and Other Plays. Ed. Allardyce Nicoll and F. Theodore Cloak. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 1940. P. 221.

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Victorian Overview Victorian History

Last modified 9 February 2007