___________________________Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996
From: Barry A. Popik
Subject: K-9 (for "canine"): or, My Life Goes to the Dogs!
“Who invented K-9? It seems natural enough from "canine," but in the many "hot dog" papers I have from the 19th century, I didn't see it used once.
In Stuart Berg Flexner's I HEAR AMERICA TALKING, pg. 437, he has "the _K-9 Corps_ (a pun on 'canine') was the corps of army guard dogs or 'war dogs.' It was originally known as D4D (Dogs for Defense) and sometimes called _the Wags_."
In Paul Dickson's WAR SLANG, pg. 183, he has "K-9 CORPS. Dogs used in war. The Army's K-9 Corps, organized during the war, was originally called D4D ('Dogs for Defense')."
A check of the Eureka computer network shows a movie THE K-9 KADETS (1944) and THE K-9 CORPS, OFFICIAL MARCH OF "DOGS FOR DEFENSE" (1943). James Belushi [[younger brother of John]] starred in the movie K-9 (a dog!) in 1989. The term is used in about a dozen other titles--one from 1961, and the others from the 1980s and 1990s.
Does anyone have K-9 before WWII?
This (the earliest I found) comes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 8
February 1915, p. 12, sports column banner headline: Why Not Call the Terriers the K-9's? They Might Submarine the Whales.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Dogs for Defense rousing marching song:<1943 “Dogs for Defense was founded just after Pearl Harbor by a handful of dog fanciers. Well aware of the dog's great value to armies of other nations, DFD rounded up dogs suitable for training as messenger, sentry and pack dogs, offered them free to the U.S. Army. After six months, the War Department at last recognized the dog, made Dogs for Defense its sole and official procurement agency.”—Time Magazine, 22 February>
And, I would imagine that ‘K-9 Kennels’ (with its winning dog ‘K-9 Geisha Girl’) probably existed – possibly years – before this competition. So, there is no way in hell that the ‘K-9 Corps’ was the source of the canine/K-9 play on words – earlier dog lovers got to it first – although it was undoubtedly its greatest popularizer. Big deal. Right! (<;)<1941 “Lounsbury Collie is Breed Victor: Collies were among the first breeds judged at the opening of the twenty-second annual all-breed show of the Cincinnati Kennel Club today. . . Best of Breed Awards: . . . Toys: . . . Japanese Spaniels — K-9 Kennels’ K-9’s Geisha Girl. . . .”—New York Times, 16 March, page S6>
.. I would find it hard to believe that with this long history of using dogs in the military that nobody in the English speaking world had come up with K9 as the natural abbreviation of canine .. I appreciate what Ken is saying that it is hard to locate printed references but again I feel that K9s have been piddling on poles for a very long time .. and with the British love of all things barkish and woofish I again find it hard to believe that such a natural abbreviation as K9 was unknown many, many decades ago ..Throughout the histories of warfare, from the days of the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Persians and the conquests of the Roman Empire. To the United Nation's Police Action in Korea, the war in Vietnam, the Gulf War, and more recently during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
…, on this side of the Atlantic, they helped the Spaniards conquer the indians of Mexico and Peru.
The first recorded American Canine Corp was during the Seminole War of 1835, and again in 1842, in Florida and Louisiana, where Cuban-bred bloodhounds were used by the army to track the indians and runaway slaves in the swamps! And during the bleakest time in the history of the United States, the Civil War, dogs were used as messengers, guards and as mascots.
In 1884, the German Army established the first organize Military School for training war dogs at Lechernich, near Berlin; and in 1885 wrote the very first training manual for MWD.
In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, dogs were used by Teddy's Roughriders, as scouts in the jungles of Cuba.
In 1904, Imperial Russia used ambulance dogs during the Russo-Japanese War; trained by a British dog fancier, who later went on to establish the first Army Dog School in England, at the start of The Great War.
Dogs were used in sizable numbers in both World War I and II, particularly by the Germans, French, Belgians; and proved to be of considerable value!
Although Punch was a smart threepenny weekly, I’m not sure how popular it was with the 1879 man in the street in England (to say nothing of the man in the street in the U.S. and the rest of the world). It would seem to me that its appeal would have been mostly to the intellectuals and the well-educated and I don’t know how much influence this one article in this one magazine could have had. In any case it does provide an early example of K 9 in print. And since, as you say, it is such a natural abbreviation, it does seem likely that it sprung up in several places independently, so that this Punch contribution might just be one dribble among many.<1879 “Hints for a New and Original Dramatic College  . . . The Proctors, or University Moral Police, would wear such a costume as would convey a distinct idea of their functions. The Proctors’ Assistants, or ‘Bull Dogs’ would, for the first time in the history of the University, have a chance of appearing in character . . . they would, I say, be described, in the . . . programme, as belonging to the K 9 division, and they could wear puggarees.’”—Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 76, 27 December, page 293> [[puggarees is probably a doggy play on ‘dungarees; ‘Charivari’ in the title was taken from a French satirical humor magazine Le Charivari]]
<1880 “Alonzo the Brave; Or, Faust and the Fair Imogene. . . . [
- ] . . . Bandini (a gentleman in an official capacity at Muddleberg University). Mr. G. Post; Barco, Byto (his attendants—belonging to the K9 division). M. A. L. Hambea, M. T. Illcave. . . .”—The ‘A. D. C.’ Camb. [[Reminiscences of Amateur Dramatic Club of University of Cambridge]] page 192>
<1891 “CANINE SAGACITY.—Numerous instances of this have been quoted in the Spectator and other papers. Our Toby would like to be informed how one clever dog would communicate with another clever dog, if the former were in a great hurry.? The reply from a great authority in the K 9 Division, signing himself ‘Dogberry,’ is that ‘the clever dog would either tailegraph or tailephone; but that any, in the strictest confidence, he would tell his own tail.’ ”—Punch, or the London Chairivari, Vol. 100-101, 28 August, page 108> [[Toby is Punch’s bull dog]]
<1900 (book review) “All About Dogs – A Book for Doggy People (1900) by C. H. Lane: . . . To be perfect, the book ought to have been issued ‘Dogs-eared.’ That it must be full of Dogs Tales, Funny Dogs, Clever Dogs, Sly Dogs, Regular Dogs, Detective Dogs of the old ‘K 9’ division, all categorically arranged.”—Punch (London), Vol. 119, page 283>
However, although all the above quotes and others may have contributed their individual dribbles to the growing use of K-9, it is possible that the following 1931 movie title, All Quiet on the K 9 Front, had a larger impact then any of them. But, it still took another decade before for the floodgates opened with the formation of the ‘Dogs for Defense’ and the K-9 Corp of WWII:<1915 (sports column banner headline) “Why Not Call the Terriers the K-9's? They Might Submarine the Whales.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), 8 February, page 12>
<1916 “Room Numbers Are A Puzzle: . . . A Tennessee delegate, weary and bedraggles, hurried up to the clerk today and demanded his room. ‘You have K-9,’ said the clerk. ‘Canine, eh?’ commented the delegate. “Well I suppose that’s a kennel. not a room But I’m dog tired, so I suppose it will fit.’ A few minutes late a delegate was assigned to F-2. ‘That’s,’ he said, ‘That’s a submarine. I hope we can come up for air.”—Los Angeles Times, 10 June, page 13>
Ken – October 27, 2009<1931 “Hollywood Goes to the Dogs. . . Particularly has the M.-G.-M. studio gone to the dogs, with seventy-five of them assembled for the barking brevities. . . comedies, in which human voices are ‘dubbed’ for the canines have proven their popularity. . . . The series has included ‘The Big Dog House,’ ‘All Quiet on the K 9 Front,’ ‘The Dogway Melody,’ ‘College Hounds,’ and many others.”—Los Angeles Times, 24 May, page L12>
<1936 “Bee Johnson’s household is a trifle involved. . . . there’s Fluffy Ruffles, an elegant Angora, and Brother Crawford . . . In addition there are four dogs. Bee recently changed the name of her house to Ranch K9 and K.T. The K9 means Canine, and the K.T. links up with Kitty.”—Los Angeles Times, 26 October, page A5>
<1941 “Lounsbury Collie is Breed Victor: Collies were among the first breeds judged at the opening of the twenty-second annual all-breed show of the Cincinnati Kennel Club today. . . Best of Breed Awards: . . . Toys: . . . Japanese Spaniels — K-9 Kennels’ K-9’s Geisha Girl. . . .”—New York Times, 16 March, page S6>
<1943 “Sport: K-9s: Dogs for Defense was founded just after Pearl Harbor by a handful of dog fanciers. Well aware of the dog's great value to armies of other nations, DFD rounded up dogs suitable for training as messenger, sentry and pack dogs, offered them free to the U.S. Army. After six months, the War Department at last recognized the dog, made Dogs for Defense its sole and official procurement agency.”—Time Magazine, 22 February>
I hear my Italian students say this all the time, and I always thought it was a translation from the Italian. Is it actually standard English?Ken Greenwald wrote:Wiz, I’m in agreement with you...