To bedog or not to bedog? Or to be a bedog?

Not to be doggèd about it, but this is a word that seems to shift to suit – you or it, we’re not sure. It’s sort of like a big dog that you can lie on – or that can lie on you. Or that can follow you, or you can follow it. Or maybe you are the dog, and the dog is you.

Here’s what this is all about. The first time I can think of seeing the word bedog, it was in a sense that (I now know) is not at all the dictionary sense, and I can tell you it did not lie easy on me, or I on it. It was in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel The Dosadi Experiment, wherein a bedog is a bed that’s a dog, or a dog that’s a bed. It’s a big furry critter than you can sleep on and that is docile and very happy with the arrangement:

McKie stretched his arms high over his head, twisted his blocky torso. The bedog rippled with pleasure at his movements. He whistled softly and suffered the kindling of morning light as the apartment’s window controls responded. A yawn stretched his mouth. He slid from the bedog and padded across to the window.


Jedrik moved softly with her own preparations, straightened the bedog and caressed its resilient surface.

Of course, this means that this bedog is pronounced like “bed dog” but with only one “d,” and I am not comfortable with that. Even if you degeminate the [dd] you should, in English orthography, write it as dd (which we would usually say as just “d” anyway) because otherwise the e becomes “long.”

Which, in the real-world version, it is. Because bedog is really the verb dog (formed from the noun dog, of course) plus the prefix be, as in befall, bemoan, benight, bewitch, bedaub, become, believe, behave (yes, of course behave is beplus have; it’s just travelled a long way since the joining), and many others. But that be can be many things, as it happens, as is evidenced by the different definitions of bedog. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the options as “To call ‘dog’” (so “I bedogged him” means ‘I called him a dog’) and “To follow about like a dog, to dog” (which also means that to bedog can be to be doggèd) with the addition of bedogged meaning “Become like a dog.” Wiktionary, for its parts, gives us “to refer to or treat like a dog; (by extension) to follow like a dog, harass, torment; bully” and “to become or behave as a dog.” And Webster’s Third New International Dictionary is succinct but in line with Oxford: “to call (a person) a dog” (meaning you can’t bedog a dog, because that dog do be a dog and if you do be dog you do not be bedogged) and “dog vt” (i.e., the transitive verb dog, as opposed to “dog, VT,” which is a dog in Vermont).

So. To debog this:  You can bedog someone else by calling them a dog or by dogging them (which means acting like a dog in their direction, generally), or, supposedly, you can bedog and just, you know, be a dog. (However, the quotations in Wiktionary in support of that latter sense do not support it: “That envy, malice, and hatred bedogged his steps” is clearly the first sense, and “So they went to sleep like a pair of chain gangers, and bedogged if during the night Rose didn’t get up and start for the bathroom, and down she went” is equally clearly using bedogged like doggone or any less canine and less polite turn of speech involving g with b and/or d.)

And can you be bedogged by a dog? Seems redundant, dunnit. But can you be bedogged by a dog star? Hmm, is that serious? Ha, it’s Sirius. We are in the dog days, and the heat is both canine and incandescent. So if you don’t want to be bedogged, beware of updog.

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