“Do you know the meanings of these old sayings.”— Question posed on a website that researches the origins of old sayings.
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“You should have seen him,” I heard someone say last week. “He was puttin’ on the dog Saturday night.”
Time-worn old sayings often convey precise meaning better than the best of scholarly English. So that expression needed no further explanation for me to understand. The speaker implied that someone was making a display of wealth or importance, typically showing off by dressing stylishly or flashily. I knew that because it was a favorite old saying for my grandmother.
I also knew what it meant because … let’s just say, I may or may not have been guilty of puttin’ on the dog myself once or twice.
Internet sources point to European aristocracy as the origin of the saying, during a time when people kept expensive pedigree dogs simply for show. Hence, putting on the dog meant they were seen on the street recently with a fancier pup than the mutt with which they had previously been spotted.
An appreciation for meaningful but short, down-to-earth remarks was cultivated over the years by good friends and trusted associates with names like Brogoitti and Chionsini. Part of the Italian heritage seems to be a penchant for penning some of the best of this witty wisdom. Jim Chionsini capitalized on it combining it with his insight into life to come up with what he termed “Old Italian Sayings.” Some actually had their roots in Italian philosophy and some, Jim “Italian-ized” to effectively get his point across.
One old Italian saying was, “Keep good company, and you will be of their number.” The point was that successful people aren’t born that way; they become successful by associating with successful people and doing things successful people do. That saying came into play the night a few years ago when I must confess to a good time puttin’ on the dog with successful friends over in Shreveport.
The setting was a performance of the Shreveport Symphony with Henry Mancini. A fan of Mancini’s music since high school and college days, the opportunity to see in person, the composer and pianist often cited as one of the greatest composers in the history of film, winner of four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and twenty Grammy Awards was something I did not want to miss. After all, I once played on stage with “Doc” Severinsen from The Tonight Show. But that’s another dog story for another time.
Getting out the hometown newspaper every week is a labor of love and money: lots of love and not that much money. Therefore, the opportunity to put on the dog for one night rather than just putting him out for the night sounded like fun.
The fun got even better when my successful Shreveport friend called on his successful friend who owned a limousine company to provide our transportation. The fun factor was bumped up a notch the night of the concert when the limo company owner friend called to report that his “regular” limos were all booked for the night, and he was having to send the only one he had left: a Rolls Royce limo. If his statement was meant to imply the Rolls was an inconvenience for us, it was one to which we quickly adapted.
A light drizzle was falling when we arrived about 30 minutes before curtain time. While elegantly dressed patrons hurried to get out of the wet weather, our uniformed chauffeur parked at “VIP only.” A roped-off, covered, red carpet there led to a separate door out of the rain. The chauffeur whispered something to the doorman at that door, and we were escorted to front row seating near the stage.
Mancini and the Shreveport Symphony delighted with everything from “Chariots of Fire” to “The Pink Panther Theme” plus hit 60s tunes from “Moon River” to “The Stripper” to “Peter Gunn.” The evening brought to mind another old Italian saying, “Life should be like precious metal, weigh much in little bulk.”
I hated to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I had to ask later. “What did you whisper to the doorman to get us those seats?”
“Nothing really,” the chauffeur said, leaning to talk over his shoulder from the front seat. “I may have mentioned something about you possibly being related to the Mancini family and to take good care of you.” Then he added with a smile in his voice. “The doorman is on old friend of mine. It’s who you know that’s most important, not what you know.”
‘Who we knew’ that night was fun. And, it led to a night of doggone good fun … being seen out with a pretty fancy pup.