“give a dog a bad name and hang him”

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.” That’s what Cassio says in Shakespeare’s “Othello”. Once someone has lost his reputation, it is very difficult for the individual to regain it. When a person is caught stealing, he is forever thought of as a thief. He is branded a thief for the rest of his life. No matter what he does later on, he is usually associated with the one thing that he has done wrong. People continue to condemn him for the criminal act. The expression “give a dog a bad name and hang him” is used to mean when an individual acquires a bad name, he gets stuck with it. It is also possible to replace “bad” with “ill”.

Here are a few examples. *Harish was arrested because there was a burglary in his neighbourhood. The poor guy wasn’t even in town. I think it’s a case of give a dog a bad name and hang him. *Nothing that Ram does will convince Janaki that he is being honest with her. It’s a case of give a dog an ill name and hang him.

Another expression which has more or less the same meaning is “He that has an ill name is half hanged”.

The Hindu- ‘Know Your English’ Series, February 16, 2004

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