Saturday, September 25, 2010


Verbing of the worst kind

Sometimes, verbing weirds language more than at other times. Dogfooding is one of those cases, perhaps the most horrific verbing I’ve yet run across, turning they’re eating their own dog food into they’re dogfooding, and even making it transitive.

It refers to a company’s use of their own products, as a way to test the product, or sometimes to promote it ("See?: We’re eating our own dog food," and then "See?: We’re dogfooding our new product.")

Some reference put it in quotes, as in this one from December 2009:

Google is dogfooding the Google Phone and has given it to employees all over the world to test it.

Sometimes, there are no quotes, as though someone might actually consider it a real word. See this use, from January 2009:

I then asked if Gdrive is something Google is dogfooding internally. He laughed and repeated nothing I can comment on there. But I could tell he wanted to.

Wikipedia has an explanation of the origin, but I don’t buy it; I’ve watched eat our own dog food evolve this way over some 35 years:

  1. First it was We’re eating our own cooking. That actually made sense, because our production of the products can be held as analogous to cooking a meal. As a restaurant does, we’ll sell it to you. But, here, look: our employees eat here too!
  2. That morphed into We’re eating our own food. It’s still reasonable, but it’s lost the sense of who produced the food, a sense that was strong in the original. I heard this version for some time, until the first seemed to disappear completely.
  3. Initially, the variation We’re eating our own dog food, was meant to be silly, perhaps an ironic reference that implied that our products are not the best, but we’re using them anyway. I know it’s only dog food, but it’s our dog food, so we’re eating it.
  4. Alas, people thought that version was funny, and it stuck, eventually pushing out its predecessors entirely. The version with dog food has long been the only one anyone ever uses.
  5. Finally, we got the inevitable shortening to a single word, along with turning it into a transitive verb. People still say, We’re eating our own dog food, in general, but We’re dogfooding SuperPanda Pro, is the common form when talking about a specific product.

I’d prefer to go back to We’re eating our own cooking. But, then, you all know I’m a pedant.

1 comment:

Nathaniel Borenstein said...

The only thing positive thing I can say about this revolting neologism is that, inevitably, somebody is going to say "dogging" when they mean "dogfooding" and hilarity will ensue.