meaning, origin and early instances of ‘to lie doggo’

The informal phrase to lie doggo means:
to remain motionless and quiet to escape detection,
to keep a low profile.

The adverb doggo, used only in this phrase, is probably from the noun dog and the suffix -o, with allusion to the characteristically light sleep of a dog—cf. the noun dog-sleep, meaning light or fitful sleep, easily interrupted.

The suffix -o is used to form slang and colloquial nouns, adjectives and interjections; for example:
– the noun beano (1883), abbreviation of beanfeast—cf. ‘beanfeast’, ‘beano’: meaning and origin;
– the familiar form of address kiddo (1896), from the noun kid;
– the noun wino (1915), denoting a habitual drinker of cheap wine, from the noun wine;
– perhaps the adjective blotto (1917), meaning drunk, said to be from the noun blot—cf. an investigation into the origin of ‘blotto’.

The earliest instances of to lie doggo that I have found:
– are in the form to lie doggoh;
– appear from March 1882 to June 1884
– in The Sporting Times (London)—except for one instance in The Sporting Life (London) of Thursday 14th September 1882.

Two preliminary remarks:
1: “Blobb”, “the Salt”, “Ole Brer Rabbit” and “Phylloxera” seem to be recurring characters in humorous stories published in The Sporting Times;
2: In the following quotations, many of the allusions are now obscure.

The following presents those early instances of to lie doggoh in chronological order:

– Saturday 25th March 1882—the phrase appears at the very beginning of an untitled story; the anonymous author does not identify “he”:

He had been a guest, after lying doggoh for some time, at one of Blobbs’ quiet little suppers.

– Saturday 1st April 1882:

The Salt, with a stroke of financial genius which would do credit to the Economist, has hit upon a scheme for making money which, if it only lasts, will render him the richest man in England. Two old brandies and a split soda cost half-a-crown at every restaurant in London. At the Naval and Military such drink only stands you in one-and-ninepence. Therefore does the Salt patrol Piccadilly, which is his way of lying doggoh, and enveigle [sic] friends into his club. “Split, dear boy?” “Why, certn’ly,” and the Salt pockets ninepence over every drink with the pleased air of a man who is rapidly reaching affluence.

– Saturday 29th April 1882:

'to lie doggoh' - Sporting Times (London) - 29 April 1882

Up Walton Bridge way there is a holly tree covered with berries. This, opine Blobbs and Ole Brer Rabbit, who are lying doggoh there, shows that we are to have a very hard summer. The local bucolics, however, don’t put much faith in this dictum. They are a low, grovelling lot, and deaf to the higher teachings of arboriculture.

– from In the Press. – Saturday 8th July 1882—the books and the author probably did not exist:

“Poor Malcolm’s Example.” A novel by the author of “You Don’t Know my Brother,” “Lying Doggoh,” “Might I have another Glass of Old Brandy?” “Coffee and Cuddy,” &c., &c.

– Saturday 5th August 1882:

We understand that one of the fruits the Salt’s lying so long doggoh will be a history of London, entitled, “Salt’s Guide to the Streets.” Those who have been privileged to read the neatly bound manuscript speak most highly of the forthcoming work.

– from the account of a St. Leger horse race (Doncaster, Yorkshire) won by Dutch Oven, published in The Sporting Life of Thursday 14th September 1882:

Geheimniss held a capital place, lying about fourth most of the way until they began to make the bend for home, when she drew to the front, and the plungers breathed freely when they saw her come into the straight in command of her field, holding her stable-companion, Shotover, safe on the rails, and the others in sight in difficulties. All at once, however, came a change, for Archer, who had been lying doggoh with Dutch Oven, brought her up on the outside, and the mare, racing up to the favourite in grand style, had her beaten in ten strides, and won without being called upon.

– Saturday 12th May 1883:

If the prosperity of the hop season is to be foretold by the number of ladybirds about we shall have such a season this year as never was known. In Kent, at any rate, they are veritably as countless as the sands on the seashore. They came one Sunday last October, and have been lying doggoh all the winter. Last year there were none in the early part of the year, and it is to that the failure of the hop crop is to a great extent attributed.

– Saturday 2nd June 1883 in the jocular account of one of the games played during “a great chess tournament […] organised in this office”—“Holloway Castled” seems to be a jocular allusion to Holloway prison in London; “upped duds” seems to mean “picked up his personal belongings”, and “whiloed” means “went away”:

Mr. Justice Field and the Salt.—His lordship, after going through the affidavits, promptly castled—Holloway Castled—the defendant. This game caused great dissatisfaction, and the loser expressed his intention of lying doggoh, so upped duds and whiloed.

– from How the Poor Live. (Before Mr. Commissioner Nayitis.) – Saturday 4th August 1883—Colney Hatch was a psychiatric hospital in London:

The Salt lived on old brandy. It was threepence a glass cheaper at the club than at a restaurant. Had thirty glasses yesterday. Made thirty times threepence. Didn’t know how much that came to. Didn’t care. Advised the Commissioner to lie doggoh. (Committed to Colney Hatch for 21 days, without the option of a fine.)

– from Playhouses without Plays. – Saturday 1st September 1883:

It crept out somehow. At first it was only a rumour. It was muttered in Mayfair. Discussed openly in Piccadilly. All the Clubs rang with it. Then it rolled along the Strand, and finally reached Fleet Street. That a real live lady, possessing a gigantic fortune of six thousand a year, was going to step down in humility from her lofty pinnacle in society to tread the boards of a provincial theatre. She did not want money, but was an enthusiastic aspirant for dramatic fame. Salary was not so much an object as a well dressed part.
We officers and men of the Royal Fifty-second (Fleet Street) Regiment put our heads together. “I’m sure,” said Pot, “that singing is her forte. I have a few comic operas that would suit her if she can afford the price they are worth.” “With all her money she should be a queen of burlesque,” said the Shifter. “How grand she would look as the ‘Cricket Queen,’ in my ‘Fielding no object,’ or the ‘Last Lost Ball.’” The “Live Lord” cunningly made no remarks, but bolted to the country to lie doggoh and dramatise Mr. W. Mackay’s successful novel of “Pro Patria.”

– from The Hunting Season. – Saturday 10th November 1883:

With the opening of the Law Courts the regular man-foxhunting season commenced, and on the first day a fine dog-fox solicitor was killed, after a brisk forty minutes, by the Queen’s Bench pack, Huntsman Grove and Whipper-in A. L. Smith acquitting themselves admirably. Mr. Hawkins’ hounds have not met yet, the Master being engaged in a distant country, but on his return some good sport may be looked for, especially when he draws Old Bailey covert. The Huddleston Harriers are also lying doggoh for a similar reason, but they are all in excellent trim and eager for the fray.

– from the month of June in a comic 1884 calendar – Saturday 29th December 1883:

4 W Salt goes to Borneo. Burnt in effigy at Anyless Gardens.
5 Th Salt returns and murders his brother, the Warrior, on guard at the Bank.
6 F Salt lies doggoh between 4 and 6 p.m. in Bond Street, Piccadilly, and the Park.
7 S Salt puzzled that any one is aware of his return.
8 Ȿ No Old Brandy to be obtained at the Naval and Military. Salt in disgrace with thirsty members.
9 M Salt chief witness against Phylloxera for the murder of the Warrior,
10 Tu Phylloxera sentenced to death.
11 W Salt of opinion that neither the Warrior nor Phylloxera has behaved to him in a brotherly manner.
12 Th Phylloxera escapes from Newgate. Salt thinks life not worth living.

– about racing horses – Saturday 28th June 1884:

In connection with the St. Leger there is little to be said, nearly all the candidates lying “doggoh.”

The form to lie doggo is first recorded in a story published in Time: A Monthly Magazine of Current Topics, Literature & Art (London) of December 1886:

“Sharks abroad. Breakers ahead. Benjamins on the war-path. Lie doggo. Joe.”
Mr. Brown read and re-read this mysterious communication till he fairly had it by heart. “Sharks abroad—breakers ahead,” he muttered. “What’s the meaning of it? Who is ‘Benjamins’? And what is ‘lying doggo’?”

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