ns hear mine older coworkers use this idiom/phrase occasionally. That seems probably to be a humorous means to acquire out the a conversation. Also as a native historicsweetsballroom.com speaker, I"ve never figured out the exact instance you would usage this phrase. It almost sounds favor it may have once been a punchline come a hoax in a movie or something.

You are watching: To see a man about a horse

I"m curious what is the specific meaning/usage that this phrase/idiom? where does the originate?


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Wikipedia actually has an article specialized to this phrase. It says:

The earliest shown publication is the 1866 Dion Boucicault pat Flying Scud in which a character knowingly breezes previous a complicated situation saying, "Excuse me Mr. Quail, i can"t stop; I"ve acquired to see a man around a dog." In a listing because that a 1939 renewal on the NBC Radio routine America"s shed Plays, Time newspaper observed the the expression is the play"s "claim to fame".

Wiktionary adds:

The most typical variation is to "see a man around a horse". Almost any noun can be substituted as a way of giving the hearer a hint around one"s purpose in departing. The inversion come "see a dog about a man" eliminates any kind of lingering uncertainty around whether the hearer is being put off. A shorter variant is to "see a man".

As to the exact situation in which you would use this phrase, it suggests:

Used together an excuse because that leaving without giving the real reason (especially if the reason is to walk to the toilet, or to have actually a drink)

Back to Wikipedia again,

During barred in the united States, the expression was most commonly used in relationship to the consumption or purchase of alcoholic beverages.

World wide Words has added info:

This has actually been a advantageous (and usefully vague) excuse for absenting oneself from agency for around 150 years, though the real reason for slipping away has not always been the same. <...> From other references at the time there were 3 possibilities: 1) required to visit the loo <...> 2) he remained in urgent require of a restorative drink, presumed alcoholic; or 3) he had a an in similar way urgent should visit his mistress.

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Of these factors <...> the 2nd became the most typical sense during the prohibition period. Now that society’s conventions have shifted to the point where no one of these factors need cause much remark, the energy of the expression is significantly diminished and it is most regularly used in a facetious sense, if at all.