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This Is Why They Call It the "Doghouse" in Relationships and Not Something Else

It all goes back to a beloved childhood novel.

When couples fight, sometimes, instead of talking it out, they need a little time away from each other. That could mean taking a walk, going for a drive, or sending someone to "the doghouse." The latter phrase typically comes into play when someone is punished for a pretty serious transgression that warrants a time-out. But what is the meaning of "the doghouse" and where did the idiom come from?

As it turns out, the first known reference to a partner heading to "the doghouse" is in the 1911 J.M. Barrie classic children's novel, Peter Pan.

In the story, as you may recall, the Darling family has a dog named Nana. As was customary at the time, Nana lived in a kennel—AKA doghouse—a small shelter in the yard built in the shape of a house. When a remorseful Mr. Darling blames himself for his children getting kidnapped by Captain Hook, he consigns himself to Nana's kennel.

As Chapter 16 of Peter Pan reads:

Having thought the matter out with anxious care after the flight of the children, he went down on all fours and crawled into the kennel. To all Mrs. Darling's dear invitations to him to come out he replied sadly but firmly: "No, my own one, this is the place for me."bart-simpson-doghouse-gif

It wasn't long before the phrase "in the doghouse" began to apply to guilty folks everywhere.

The first official use of the term is in James. J. Finerty's 1926 glossary of the language of criminals, Criminalese, in which being "in the doghouse" is described as being "in disfavor."

Soon thereafter, an Iowa newspaper called the Waterloo Daily Courier printed a story in 1933 in which a "poor French ambassador" is described as being "still in the doghouse."

Now you're no longer out in the cold about the meaning of "in the doghouse!"

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more