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Buck's English: Is 'good obedience' good English?

June 12 Buck's English
BY Gene Owens For The Oklahoman Modified: June 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm •  Published: June 12, 2012

Bruce Carter, of Oklahoma City, read an article in the Swayback Daily Kick about a dog that “has good obedience and plays well with other dogs.”

“I'm not comfortable with the use of obedience as a noun here,” said Bruce as he munched a microwaved hot dog at Curly's Soonerco. “What do you think.”

Buck had to think a little before deciding why he objected to “good obedience” in that context.

It's not because “obedience” is used as a noun. That's the way it's always used, except when it's a distributive adjective, as in “obedience training.”

But the expression “has good obedience” somehow implies that it's possible to have “bad obedience.”

Buck tried to imagine what “bad obedience” would be.

“Yokum McScoundrel once ordered his chow to attack Candi, Miss Lulabelle's little white peke-a-poo,” said Gopher. “The big dog obeyed, so I'd call that bad obedience.”

Buck reckons that would be bad obedience, but the chow would probably obey if Yoke ordered it to attack a home invader, which would be good obedience.

It should be enough to say that a dog is obedient. So Buck would have written “... obeys well and enjoys playing with other dogs.”

“What happened to Candi when the chow attacked her?” asked Ms. Clarisse van Beauregard.

“Candi turned and attacked the chow,” said Gopher. “The chow ran away howling. It sort of helped that Miss Lulabelle was packing pepper spray.”

Send questions for Buck to Gene Owens, 104 Belspring Lane, Anderson, SC 29621, or email him at Please let Buck know what town you're from.