AE 409 – Expression: To Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you to use the expression TO LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE like a native.

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AE 409 – Expression: To Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

The dingo in the tent. That dingo took the baby. God. No! Please, God help! That dingo took my baby!


G’day, guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone who wants to learn Australian English, if you’re interested in Australian slang, Australian vocab, the Australian accent, this is the podcast for you, guys. All things Australian lingo.

Intro Scene:

So, today, the opening scene today was from a movie called Evil Angels, and that was in 1988 starring Sam Neil and Meryl Streep. You might know Meryl Streep, and you probably would know Sam Neil if you’ve seen Jurassic Park. He’s the main guy in Jurassic Park.

Anyway, that line “The dingo took my baby” or it’s often misquoted as “The dingo ate my baby” is a line that you’ll hear in Australian pop-culture from time to time, and it’s referring to this story but this movie is about that occurred in 1980 when baby Azaria went missing near Uluru.

And this line got pretty famous when TV shows like Seinfeld and Fraser used it in some of their episodes.

Tell my fiancé I’m looking for him. I have lost my fiancé the poor baby. Maybe the dingo ate your baby? – Seinfeld 

That dingo’s got your baby. – Fraser

The dingo ate my baby. A dingo at my baby. – Conan O’Brien

I’m sorry a dingo at your baby. You know that’s a true story? Lady lost a kid. You about to cross some f*cking line! – Tropic Thunder

So, we’ll talk about exactly what happened there and we’ll chat about dingoes, who could’ve been the main culprit in that story, at the end of today’s episode. So, stay tuned and wait for that.


Anyway, announcements wise. So, the coming week, I’m getting ready to move to Canberra. So, that’s going to be a big change. I’m looking forward to that, guys. I’m moving to Canberra. So, if any of you guys live in Canberra, feel free to send me a message or an e-mail and we might be able to catch up. Who knows. But that’s in the works at the moment. That’s what’s going to happen.

Aside from that, I’ve obviously been working away, recording interviews, working on the Aussie English Classroom, and also practicing a bit of French and a bit of Portuguese as well. So, I’ve been doing weekly lessons with one of my old students, Laleh. She’s been working hard with me to help me improve my French, and I’ve been trading her for some time learning English. So, that’s been good fun the last few weeks. So, a big thanks Laleh for helping me improve my French. Merci beaucoup mon amie!

Aussie Joke:

Anyway, guys. Let’s get into today’s joke. So, today’s joke, seeing as we’re talking about dingoes today, is a joke about dogs. Okay? So, here we go. Here’s the joke. What do you call a frozen dog? What do you call a frozen dog? Can you guys think of anything funny, think of anything funny? So, we call a frozen dog “a pupsicle”. Do you get it? “A pupsicle”.

So, that’s a pun, it’s a play on words with the word “pup” or “puppy”. So, “pup” is short for “puppy”, and it means a baby dog. Usually a baby kind of mammal. You can have seal pups, but it means baby dog usually. A pup or a puppy. It’s a play on words with that and the word “popsicle”, which is a word that means an ice cream or flavoured water that’s frozen to a wooden stick. So, “a popsicle”. And the joke here was that: What do you call a frozen dog? “A pupsickle”, instead of a popsicle.


All right, guys. So, today’s expression is ‘to let sleeping dogs lie’, and that is a proverb. This is actually a pretty old expression or proverb, which we’ll get to in a bit. But let’s go through “to let sleeping dogs lie”, and define the words in this phrase.


So, “to let”. “To let” in this case means to allow or to permit. If you let someone do something, you allow them to do something, you permit them to do something. So, my parents might let me sleep in on the weekend. They allow me to sleep in. They permit me to sleep in. They let me.

The next word is “sleeping”. So, this is the gerund form of “to sleep”, and it’s the act of obviously being asleep. It is what you do when you are not awake. You are sleeping. Sleeping.

“A dog”. A dog is “a man’s best friend”, guys. You will all know what a dog is. Woof woof. A dog is a carnivorous species of the mammal family Canidae. So, these guys have canine teeth, and that’s why they’re in the family Canidae, Canidae. Canine teeth.

The last word here is “lie”. “Lie”. So, in this case, it doesn’t mean a fib, something that you say that isn’t true. In this case, it is to rest in a horizontal position like to lie down or to lay down. “Lie”. If I lie, I’m lying on the ground.

Expression Definition:

All right. So, the expression let’s go through the expression and what it means when you say to let sleeping dogs lie.

So, if you let sleeping dogs lie, it means that you are leaving things as they are. You’re not instigating trouble. You are avoiding interfering in a situation that is currently causing no problems, but it could cause a problem with interference. So, this is sort of complicated, but let me try and explain it in one more way. It’s to not restart or rekindle an old argument. So, it’s to leave disagreements in the past. So, if you have a problem with someone, you have an issue with someone, in the past, if you let sleeping dogs lie, it is that you don’t instigate trouble. You don’t bring these things up again. So, you don’t wake the dog up. You allow that dog to stay sleeping. You let sleeping dogs lie.

So, a synonym for let sleeping dogs lie is “leave well enough alone”. So, you may have heard that as well. It’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. It’s best to leave well enough alone.

Expression Origin:

So, I went through and looked at the expression origin. I was kind of curious. When this expression get coined? How long has it been used for? And I think this is one of those expressions that is probably the oldest that I’ve come across so far. So, “let sleeping dogs lie” derives from the long-standing observation that dogs are often unpredictable when suddenly disturbed. So, if you suddenly woke a dog up, you don’t know what it could do. It could bite you, could bark, could run off. And Geoffrey Chaucer was one of the first to put this into print. So, to write this down in a book. And he did so in a book called Troilus and Criseyde in 1380.

So, that was a very long time ago, you know, about… what… what’s that 700 years ago? Maybe not 700. 650 years ago, we’ll say. So, he put that down in a book about 650 years ago in 1380, and he said something along the lines of, “It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake“. So, effectively, “you shouldn’t wake a sleeping dog”.

So, the expression may have started as a warning about the risk of waking a potentially dangerous animal, but it later turned metaphorical, and it later became “to let sleeping dogs lie”.


So, let’s go through some examples, guys. As usual, this is where I will go through three different examples of situations of how I would use this expression, and this is a good chance for you to try different vocab that I’ll bring up, you know? You got to think about these situations I’m talking about. I use different verb tenses. So, that’s the whole purpose of me using these examples. So, let’s go through them.


Example number one. Alright. So, imagine that you arrive to work late. You arrive to work late and you’re worried that your boss is going to be angry for your tardiness, for showing up at work late. You ask a friend if you should mention something to your boss, you know, bring it up, say something about it and apologise, and your friend says, “It’s probably better not to bring it up. So, just let sleeping dogs lie. You should definitely just let sleeping dogs lie. Leave well enough alone and don’t bring it up. Don’t mention this thing that’s happened in the past. Let sleeping dogs lie.”.


Example number two. Alright. In this example, imagine that you have borrowed money from a friend. So, this friend has lent you some money, you’ve borrowed some money from your friend, and you wanted to buy something. Maybe you want to buy some smokes, some ciggies. You know? Something small like that some cigarettes. Or maybe you borrowed a lot of money and you want to go on a holiday down The Great Ocean Road. You know, maybe you’re going to take your ute down there for a bit of a cruise, a bit of a drive, and you borrowed a bunch of money from your friend. If you think about asking them if they want you to pay them back now, maybe this week, and you ask a friend, “Should I do that? Should I ask if they want the money back now.”. Your friend might say, “It’s better to just let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t bring it up just yet. Bring it up in the future. Let sleeping dogs lie.”.


Example number three is imagine that your father and his sister, so your auntie, have a bit of a tumultuous relationship. So, they fight quite a bit, they don’t get along, and they do this at parties, and imagine that one day you’re having lunch with your family and your auntie’s there, your father’s sister has come to this party, and she brings something up from their history, something like a disagreement, an argument, something someone did, in order to start a fight, in order to instigate some kind of argument. You might say to her, “Why couldn’t you just let sleeping dogs lie? Why couldn’t you just let sleeping dogs lie? Why couldn’t you leave well enough alone? You should have let sleeping dogs lie. You should have left well enough alone. You should have left these things unmentioned and in the past. You shouldn’t have started a fight.”.

So, I hope you understand the expression now, guys, “To let sleeping dogs lie”, which effectively means, don’t restart an old argument. Leave disagreements in the past.

So, as usual. Let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise, guys, and then we’ll go through the Aussie fact. So, this is your chance to practice your pronunciation, guys. Listen and repeat after me exactly as I do if you want an Aussie accent. Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:

To let
To let sleeping
To let sleeping dogs
To let sleeping dogs lie

I should have let sleeping dogs lie
You should have let sleeping dogs lie
He should have let sleeping dogs lie
She should have let sleeping dogs lie
We should have let sleeping dogs lie
They should have let sleeping dogs lie
It should have let sleeping dogs lie

Awesome job, guys. Awesome job. So, just remember if you want to learn the connected speech from today’s exercise make sure that you’ve enrolled in the Aussie English Classroom, guys. The online English-learning classroom for anyone and everyone wanting to learn Australian English faster. Remember, you can try that for just one dollar for your first 30 days. The link will be in the description or you can go to And we’re going to talk about why I said “sleepin'” instead of “sleeping”, “shoulda” instead of “should have”, as well as a few other little tips and tricks in there to get you sounding more like an Australian.

Anyway, guys. Let’s get into the Aussie fact for today, and then let’s finish up.

Aussie Fact:

So, today I want to talk about dingoes, and the history of dingoes in Australia.

So, dingoes are a native Australian dog. The only native dog in Australia. And The species name is Canus lupus dingo. So, it’s actually a subspecies of dog. These are the same species as your pet dog, but they are a subspecies.

They’re a medium-sized canine, a medium-sized dog, and they’re about the same size as say a poodle or a bit smaller than a labrador, and they grow to about 13 to 24 kilograms and about 52 to 63 centimetres high when they’re standing.

They vary between sandy yellow and red ginger in colour, and they usually have white markings on their feet, on their tail tip, and on their chest.

They are found throughout the mainland of Australia, but they are absent from Tasmania. Dingoes are also found in all kinds of habitat. They’re found in alpine regions, woodlands, grasslands, deserts, and even tropical regions all across the mainland of Australia.

There are many different cross breeds of dingo now, because they’ve interbred with wild or pet dogs. And the only full-blooded population of dingoes that haven’t interbred with wild dogs or pet dogs are believed to live on Fraser Island in Queensland.

So, dingoes are active at dawn and dusk, so at sunrise and sunset, and this is the same time that their prey is active. And these guys prey mostly on wallabies and kangaroos. So, the hopping macropods, the marsupials that hop in Australia. But they’re also known to eat things like rabbits, possums, sugar gliders, rats, and mice. With regards to livestock, though, they don’t tend to attack farm animals. So, they leave things like sheep and cows alone. They do not tend to eat these things. I mean they probably would if they found a dead one, but these animals tend to be a bit too big.

These guys arrived in Australia only 4,000-5,000 years ago. Okay. So, that is about the time that The Pyramids were being built. That’s when these guys arrived in Australia. And to put that in context with when humans arrived here, humans arrived about 12 times that amount of time ago in the past. So, humans arrived between 50-60,000 years ago. Dingoes arrived between 4-5,000 years ago.

So, originally it was thought that they were introduced by Indonesian seafarers. Although, more recent research has suggested that the dingo arrived in Australia with a migration of Indian people, people from India, about 4,300 years ago, which would make sense.

Since dingoes arrived in Australia, they have been a big part of indigenous culture, and they have acted as companions, physical and spiritual protectors, hunters, and a source of warmth around the campfire.

So, dingoes in Australia are pretty infamous too because of what happened, and the reason that this film that we mentioned at the start Evil Angels was made, because of what happened in the ’80s in the Northern Territory. Okay. So, that famous line, “the dingo took my baby!”. What is that based on?

So, what happened? Okay, so the Chamberlains, a family, were hanging around, they were checking out Uluru in 1980, and they had their nine-week-old baby Azaria with them whilst they were camping around Uluru. They left their tent open and in the middle of the night, according to them, a dingo went into the tent, picked up their nine-week-old baby, and disappeared.

So, the baby’s clothes were found a few days later, I believe, and they were in blood, and despite them having reported that a dingo took the baby, people thought that that was a bit suss. They didn’t believe it, because at the time they’d never heard of these apparently harmless small dogs having hurt any kind of human young or old.

And so, a coroner found them innocent initially, and suggested that it was a dingo. However, city people found this hard to believe, and the media believed that, in fact, Lindy Chamberlain, the mother of Azaria, had actually killed the baby and wanted to get rid of it for some reason.

So, she didn’t exactly appear like the anguished mother we would imagine when she was in the media. And so, people decided she must have been guilty, and they didn’t believe that a dingo could have killed her baby.

So, she was taken to court, and there was blood that was found in the car, and that, despite that being the only evidence, there was no other evidence, there was no murder weapon, no motive, no body, they believed that she had cut the baby’s throat and killed the baby in the car. So, in 1982, Lindy Chamberlain was convicted and sent to jail. And Michael Chamberlain, I believe, was also convicted as an accessory (to murder).

She went to prison for three years. And then three years later at Uluru, the baby’s jacket was found, which showed evidence of the dingo having bitten it. And also, they found out that the apparent blood in the car had been a sound-deadening compound and also a potential fruit drink of sweetened milk. So, how crazy’s that? They thought it was blood originally, and it turns out that was definitely not the case.

So, these guys were pardoned and they were let out of jail. The public still thought though that she had done it and they didn’t change their minds. During this time, in 1988, Evil Angels the movie was made with Sam Neill and Meryl Streep, and the film played the angle of Lindy and her family being innocent, and that a dingo had actually gone into the tent picked up the baby and taken it away and killed it. And it also showed the media’s negative portrayal of the Chamberlain family. So, people, despite this movie coming out, still didn’t change their minds and still believed she was guilty.

There were a few royal commissions and other coroners who looked at this case, and they also ruled that it could have been her and it could have been a dingo, but they didn’t want to say that it was definitely a dingo. So, it was still left up in the air for a very long time.

However, more recently, since Azaria’s disappearance, there have been hundreds of reports of vicious dingo attacks, several of which have been fatal to children. Tragically on April the 30th in 2001, nine-year-old Clinton Gage was attacked and killed by two Dingo’s near Waddy point on Fraser Island. So, this isn’t a nine-week-old baby, this is a nine-year-old child being killed by two dingoes, two apparently harmless native dogs.

So, finally people started to realise these weren’t dog like animals, they were wolf like animals. They weren’t harmless creatures. They were opportunistic and able to kill humans, though very small and young humans, if they wanted to.

So, finally in 2012, a new coroner found that a dingo was the cause of death and finally put this case to rest.

So, there’s still some mystery around this, and I guess we will never really know what happened, whether that dingo had actually gotten the baby and run away, or whether this lady did it herself. But I would love to know what you guys think in the comments. So, make sure you let me know. Do you think she did it or do you think a dingo took her baby?

Anyway, guys. Thanks for listening and I hope you have a great week. Don’t forget to review this podcast if you’re listening on iTunes or any of those podcast apps. That always helps. Make sure you share it with your friends. Let anyone know who is coming to Australia or who’s currently in Australia and practicing their English. Let them know about the podcast. Send them a “G’day!” from me.

And don’t forget too to a sign up to The Aussie English Classroom if you guys want to learn Australian English even faster.

Anyway, it’s been a long episode. There’s been lots and lots of information in here, guys. I hope you enjoy it, and I’ll chat to you soon.

Peace out.

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