Dogs were revered in ancient Egypt, but only royals were permitted to own purebred dogs -- commoners could keep only mutts.
"At this time of year, when many people are in desperate financial straits, it's appropriate to ask why anyone would spend $4,000 to bring a mutt from Afghanistan to the United States." -- From an article about rescuing dogs from Afghanistan, by Lona O'Connor in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, January 4, 2012
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"Mutt" can now be used with either affection or disdain to refer to a dog that is not purebred, but in the word's early history, in the U.S. around the turn of the 20th century, it could also be used to describe a person -- and not kindly: "mutt" was another word for "fool." The word's history lies in another insult. It comes from "muttonhead," another Americanism that also means essentially "fool." "Muttonhead" had been around since the early 19th century but it was not unlike an older insult with the same meaning: people had been calling one another "sheep's heads" since the mid-16th century.
Test Your Memory: What is the meaning of "intercalate," our Word of the Day from January 25? The answer is ...
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