You are watching: I need to see a man about a horse
I"m curious what is the precise meaning/usage of this phrase/idiom? Where does it originate?
Wikipedia actually has an article dedicated to this expression. It says:
The earliest evidenced publication is the 1866 Dion Boucicault play Flying Scud in which a character knowingly breezes previous a daunting situation saying, "Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can"t stop; I"ve acquired to watch a guy around a dog." In a listing for a 1939 renewal on the NBC Radio regime America"s Lost Plays, Time magazine observed that the phrase is the play"s "case to fame".
Wiktionary adds:The most widespread variation is to "check out a man about a horse". Almany any kind of noun deserve to be substituted as a way of giving the hearer a hint around one"s objective in departing. The invariation to "view a dog around a man" eliminates any type of lingering uncertainty about whether the hearer is being put off. A shorter variant is to "view a man".
As to the precise situation in which you would use this expression, it suggests:
Used as an excuse for leaving without offering the actual reason (specifically if the factor is to go to the toilet, or to have actually a drink)
Back to Wikipedia aobtain,
Throughout Prohibition in the United States, the phrase was many commonly used in relation to the intake or purchase of alcoholic bevereras.
World Wide Words has added info:
This has been a advantageous (and also usecompletely vague) excusage for absenting oneself from company for about 150 years, though the real factor for slipping ameans has not always been the very same. <...> From other references at the moment
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Of these reasons <...> the second ended up being the many common sense throughout the Prohibition period. Now that society’s conventions have actually shifted to the suggest where namong these factors need reason much renote, the energy of the phrase is considerably diminiburned and also it is the majority of often supplied in a facetious sense, if at all.