Dogan? Dougan? Doghan?

Who knows how to spell this word, which I have never seen on paper, only heard spoken. And I have no idea where I picked it up. Childhood acquaintances? My dad or grandfather (northern Ontario Presbyterians)?

I think it means "Catholic", but it might mean "Irish Catholic".

I have tried it out in my multicultural corporate work environment and a couple of the small-town Ontario types looked up sharply, but that was it.

I asked them about it later (one a 25 year old girl, the other a grizzled 50-year old ex-paratrooper) and while neither could explain how they knew this 'epithet', they both professed to some surprise when this word from Ontario's cold, intolerant Orange past popped up in the middle of a meeting. (Or at least that was how I interpreted what they were saying.)

It is little social experiments like this that make corporate life bearable. The problem is I still can't find anything on the origins/usage of the word 'dogan'.

Enquiring minds need to know!

It occurs to me that this sort of thing has happened to me before, when, as a dinner guest, I referred to the pointy fat-and-gristle part at the rear-end of the roast chicken as "the Pope's Nose".

Doesn't everyone call it that?


David said...


I was just doing a search on the word. My ancestry is mixed Irish surname/Protestant/Scottish/English. It is definitely a derogatory word for Catholics. At turkey time the "Pope's nose" was also mentioned. Dogan could possibly go back to the medieval word "Doge", i.e. Doge of Venice etc... I remember my dad getting a bit chewed at me for going to an Orange parade when I was a kid. It was kind of a mixed message. Redneck Northern Ontario I guess with a derogatory phrase/word for many groups of people. I chalk it up to class struggle. The Irish were dirt poor and often diseased when they arrived. They were on the bottom of the heap socially. The Protestant/Catholic animosity was probably brought with them. The narrow-minded prejudice possibly sprang from their own discontent with their social station. Locally the black people would have already been here from the Underground Railroad and economically/socially the Irish would be beneath them. I remember seeing a sign in a history book outside of a store. The last three lines were “no blacks (paraphrased) “no dogs” “no Irish”. The Irish were beneath dogs. Keep in mind it was the English and French who were the first historical settlers here and there was no love lost between the English and Irish. A lot of old wounds. Thanks for letting me post my two cents.

PALGOLAK said...

Thanks for your input david!

Anonymous said...

Hello! Well, apparently I am about a quarter Irish Dogan....and that is just fine with me. My father's mother was Irish, and Catholic....hence a Dogan. She lived in Wingham, Ontario. My mother tells me this story about how her own father disapproved of her courting my father, stating "Why are you seeing that red-headed Dogan." So there you have it. Personally, I believe these things have only given me strength as I have worked hard and continue to work hard to achieve. There are people out there who feel priviledged by their ancestry and above others. I am someone without prejudice and would not dare label anyone as some in my family have been.

PALGOLAK said...

Thanks Anonymous! Much more of this and this page will start ranking in the top 10 for dogan-related internet searches.

Hugh O Neill said...

Worked in Niagara Falls, Canada, when a student.
Had good banter with the locals and workmates. When I told Big Fred, a baseball fan, that girls played the same game in Scotland and called it rounders . "Why....you dumb dogin" was his retort. He knew I was RC. I found it very funny indeed and well remember it 45 years later !

BadGranny said...

It seems to be an entirely Canadian term. I read somewhere that Brendan Behan said that Canada was the only place he'd ever been called a dogan. He asked them to write it down so he could show people back home.

PALGOLAK said...

Thanks Hugh O Neill and BadGranny!

I love these sorts of reminiscences(sp?). It is too bad BB couldn't help us out here.

Patrick from Chicago said...

This is a very interesting discussion. I grew up in Massachusetts. My father's grandparents were all born in County Cork, Ireland. My mother's grandparents were all Canadian born Irish. The two of them met in Somerville, Massachusetts which I think I would describe as a meeting point of Irish Canadians and "off the boat" (or nearly) Irish. My mother used to talk about "Lace Curtain" Irish and would say things like, "More Irish than the Irish," but to be honest I don't know how much this was taking sides in the hierarchy of Irishness she observed in her upbringing. My Dad nearly never swore. If he hit his thumb with a hammer he would have said, "Sugar!" He used the term Dogan and he is the only person I ever heard use it. He used it as a mild, but not necessarily endearing, term of near-derision, as in "a bunch of Dogans," or "like some Dogan."

Anonymous said...

I found this site clearly by accident while trying to research the word "Dogan". My father used this word for catholics as far back as I can remember (1950's) for example "That guy is a real good dogan." I know it wasn't an endearing term but Dad used it to point out an inconsistency in a person's life.