the dog returns to its vomit

The expression is frequently found in various metaphorical and allusive forms, such as to return like a dog to his vomit, as illustrated below. Before 1534 (see quot.), the proverb is used in more or less similar forms in earlier versions of, and commentaries upon, the Bible. The concept enjoyed wide popularity in the Middle Ages. The biblical passages involved are: PROVERBS xxvi. 11 (AV) As a dog returneth to his vomit: so a fool returneth to his folly; also 2 PETER ii. 22 (see below).

c 1390 CHAUCER Parson’s Tale 1. 137 Ye trespassen so ofte tyme as dooth the hound that retourneth to eten his spewyng.

1534 W. TYNDALE tr. Bible 2 Peter ii. 22 It is happened vnto them accordinge to the true proverbe: The dogge is turned to his vomet agayne.

1832 S. WARREN Diary of Late Physician II. vi. His infatuated wife betook herself—‘like a dog to his vomit’..—to her former..extravagance and dissipation.

1981 P. McCUTCHAN Shard calls Tune xvi. The old saying that the dog returns to his vomit, the criminal to the scene of his crime.

1993 G. LANDRUM Rotary Club Murder Mystery 44 ‘You know what the Bible says,’ Harriet replied. ‘“The dog shall return to his vomit and the old hog to his wallowing in the mire.”’


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