dog’s dinner

A poor job; a mess.

Editor’s note: In one of those moments of delightful synchronicity, shortly after looking up this phrase, I happened to see my colleague Rachel describe something as “a dog’s breakfast”, which turns out to be synonymous.

For some reason I am really charmed by these two phrases, especially since no one says “a dog’s lunch”. I’m adding these to the list of things to start saying — maybe they’ll catch on in the US?

The occupant looks to be in his early thirties, has a gelled mullet, an off-the-peg suit from a mid-range high-street outfitter, and is making a dog’s dinner of wrapping a big box of Scalextric.

Definition from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved. (via Wordnik)


A stupid or physically uncoordinated person.

But no matter how shocked, scared, breathless, ashamed I was, no matter how much of a total flid I looked, no matter how much I hated myself for not being able to say a simple word in my own language, I couldn’t say “nightingale.”

Definition from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License (via Wordnik)


  • A noisy argument.
  • A minor physical fight.

[Britain, Australia, Cockney rhyming slang] 

Etymology: Cockney Rhyming slang: “Barney Rubble” → “trouble”. From the character Barney Rubble on The Flintstones.

Dad went to bed. He’s sleeping in the spare room at the moment, ‘cause of his back, though Mum told me it’s ‘cause he tosses and turns so much. It’s probably both. They had a right barney this evening, actually over the dinner table.

Definition from Wiktionary


A plot of land belonging to an English parish church or an ecclesiastical office.

‘Cause I’d sort of had a reason to have come into the forbidden chamber, I peered through Dad’s razor-sharp blind, over the glebe, past the cockerel tree, over more fields, up to the Malvern Hills.

Definition from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved. (via Wordnik)