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I don't get this joke:

It smells like up dog in here,

What's up dog?

Nuuthin dog, what's up with you?

(source)

I understand that the person asking "What's up dog" is tricked into asking a question they didn't intend to ask. I also understand the meaning of the "What's up?" question.

I don't understand why this exact question has been chosen. If anything, it sounds demeaning to the person who's making the joke and is referred to as dog by the receiver of the joke.

If I were to make a similar joke, I'd replace dog with something like master, so that it'd sound like the receiver of the joke respects the person making the joke more than it might be in reality.

Does the word dog in this context have some alternative meaning, perhaps?

Or is this joke funny simply because the receiver of the joke asks a funny question, no matter what the question is?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, Hellion, MετάEd, tchrist, phenry Jan 17 at 17:20

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Dog is not an uncommon slang for a friend, and is not seen as derogatory. Common English references are, I'm dog tired, sick as a dog, etc. People aren't demeaned by these comparisons. –  medica Jan 16 at 15:39
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about explaining "wordplay" jokes to non-native speakers. Given the once-infamous Dalia Lama pizza joke has been permanently deleted, why should this one remain open? –  FumbleFingers Jan 16 at 17:32
    
@FumbleFingers if you read past the first couple of paragraphs, you may realize that this question is not about the wordplay aspect of the joke, but about the word dog in it. I'll edit the title to make that more apparent. Or are you concerned with the fact that the context here is provided by a wordplay joke? –  R C Jan 16 at 20:03
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Dog is not derogatory in modern English and is used frequently by some subcultures when two people are close. In this case, it's spelled and pronounced "dawg". It's a cultural term and informal. They're not really calling the person a dog. –  JFA Jan 16 at 20:58
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This is a variation on a traditional joke that I love to use on ten-year-olds. "Do you have a henway in your kitchen?" "What's a henway?" "ABOUT FIVE POUNDS HA HA HA HA HA". –  Eric Lippert Jan 16 at 23:12

3 Answers 3

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The first sentence is meant to be wrong. "It smells like dog in here" would be the expected sentence. The up is used in order to trick the other into saying "What is up dog?"

What's up dog is slang - also spelled wazzup dawg or just wazzup

Completely normal question to a peer, to ask how is life. The "dog" is not demeaning in this case.

The original statement was "What's up doc" from Bugs Bunny, so a decade or more ago the joke would be something like

"Hey I saw updoc outside!"
"What's updoc?"
"Nothing much, and you?"

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It is wrong on purpose. –  mplungjan Jan 16 at 15:25
    
Oh I see. Sorry, I misunderstood what you ment –  Matt Эллен Jan 16 at 15:25
    
@mplungjan There was a lot of that "slang" in Finding Forrester - which is now 14 years old. –  Elliott Frisch Jan 16 at 15:51
    
Updated... Never saw that movie: You're the man now, dog! –  mplungjan Jan 16 at 17:00
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I heard the Bugs Bunny–influenced joke (several decades ago) told this way: A man goes in for a regular medical checkup, and the doctor tells him, "It looks like you've got a bad case of Updoc." The patient says, "What's Updoc?" And the doctor says "Nothing much—what's up with you?" –  Sven Yargs Jan 16 at 18:47

I believe all three are meant to be African American Vernacular English. To a large extent that is the dialect the Urban Dictionary is supposed to be cataloging (I'm not a fan of the UD though).

In the AAVE dialect, "dog" can be used to refer to a friend. I believe it is used exclusively from one male to another, and is meant to indicate more than a mere casual acquaintence. This is key to understanding the joke.

The first sentence is meant to be puzzling. It doesn't actually mean anything. The idea is to trick the second person into asking "What's "updog"?". At that point you can act like they instead gave you the standard AAVE greeting, "What's up, dog?", and reply back with the AAVE response, "Nuuthin dog, what's up with you?"

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1  
"Dog"/"dawg" meaning "friend" may have originated in AAVE but now is common slang among young American non-AAVE speakers. –  Russell Borogove Jan 16 at 21:31
    
@RussellBorogove - Large amounts of AAVE are common "slang" among younger Americans. In part this is due to the cultural influence of the dialect (eg: Hip Hop). Another large part is that the birth rate in AAVE communities (and Hispanic communities, which also pick up a lot of AAVE) is far higher than in the non-AAVE communities. So in fact a startlingly high percentage of young people in the USA are native AAVE speakers. Most school systems in large USA cities are now "Majority Minority". –  T.E.D. Jan 16 at 21:40

You have interpreted it exactly right.

B is tricked into calling person A a dog, "What's up, dog?" (note the comma); person A then responds in kind.

"What's up?" is a common question to ask what's happening, or what the matter is.

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3  
This is slightly incorrect. Person B is tricked into saying "What's up dog?", which is slang for "How is it going?". The "dog" part is just the final word in the slang phrase "What's up dog?". They're not literally calling anyone a dog. –  Philip Jan 16 at 21:13

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