I saw this sentence while I was watching the 17th episode (Season 8) of Modern Family.

Bulldog drooled courses through his jowls.

I was really confused about its meaning. To give you a bit of its context:

Phill and Clair are reading an email that's sent from a university to inform their son Luke of their admission decision. This university is Phill's alma mater and its mascot is likely to be a bulldog, for Phill says:

Clair, I am as anxious as you are to find out if he's gonna be a Bulldog like his old man.

However, it turns out that Luke is not admitted. Phill's dumbfounded as he says:

What? He's a legacy! Bulldog drooled courses through his jowls!

I know what each of the words in this sentence means, but this sentence just doesn't make sense to me.

How can someone drool "courses" (which either means meals or a series of lessons) through his jowls?

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    This is a nice example of a well-written question that provides excellent context. – TypeIA Oct 11 '19 at 8:40

I haven't watched the episode in question, but I'm pretty sure you misheard the quote and that Phil actually says:

Bulldog drool courses through his jowls!

"Bulldog drool" means the drool (or saliva) of a bulldog, which is a breed of dog. It is also common in many schools and universities to use that school's mascot as a demonym, so that "a Bulldog" is a person who attends or attended that particular university.

"To course through (something)" refers to a fluid traveling through a channel, and a common expression is "to course through one's veins" which is a metaphorical way of describing a person's personality. "… courses through his jowls" adapts this expression to continue the metaphor of a salivating dog.

Taken together, the quote is a metaphor suggesting that Luke has all the personality characteristics that one would expect in "a Bulldog," a student at the university or an alumnus. The image of the salivating dog carries a connotation that some of those personality characteristics are aggressive in nature.

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    I agree with most of this, but having drool coursing through your jowls is not a common expression and need not refer to any attributes of salivating dogs. Rather, it is likely a play on the familiar cliché on having certain blood coursing through his veins, for humorous effect. – choster Oct 11 '19 at 15:50
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    @choster isn't that exactly what I said? – TypeIA Oct 11 '19 at 16:35
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    the well-known school whose students are called Bulldogs is Yale University. – Barmar Oct 11 '19 at 18:40
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    @choster I don't see where "drool coursing through your jowls" was referred to as a "common expression". Since bulldogs (the dog breed) are commonly known to have large jowls and salivate profusely, yes, the adaptation of the expression is indeed continuing the metaphor. – Doktor J Oct 11 '19 at 19:23
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    @KodosJohnson Which, again, is exactly what I said, so I'm confused why it's being rehashed. – TypeIA Oct 12 '19 at 16:42

Without context it's a nonsensical statement, but, given the narrative, this can be read as:

Bulldog showed an excessive pleasure in devouring classes.

drooled definition:

make an excessive and obvious show of pleasure or desire. "he was drooling over your photo on the inside cover"

but what does "courses" mean? dictionary.com shows:

'a direction or route taken or to be taken. the path, route, or channel along which anything moves: the course of a stream.'

but that's not the meaning here. Here courses means classes, as in "taking" a class, or using this lingo, a "course" at college or university:

In higher education in Canada, Nigeria and the United States, a course is a unit of teaching that typically lasts one academic term, is led by one or more instructors (teachers or professors), and has a fixed roster of students.


I would add that Bulldog devoured, chewed through, course material. It's a play on words. As above, "so-and-so is a bulldog in this course" would be the more straightforward usage. It's turned around by the addition of jowels -- which emphasizes the eating or devouring of "courses".

Yes, typically a "course" might mean a meal -- and that's the allusion or pun. But the meaning is "class", or maybe even not far from a "course" of antibiotics.

It's a play on words several times over.

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  • the downvote is curious to me, as, quite obviously, "course" here means academic units of teaching.. – Thufir Oct 12 '19 at 18:26
  • There's no hyphen in "nonsense". The word already means "the opposite of sense" so sticking a hyphen in it doesn't do anything except jar. – David Richerby Oct 12 '19 at 19:23
  • I'm afraid this is a severe misinterpretation of a misquote. – TypeIA Oct 13 '19 at 3:46
  • well, @TypeIA what's the correct quote then? – Thufir Oct 13 '19 at 4:35
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    A much more self-evident explanation is, as stated in TypeIA's answer, that it's a play on the common expression "<lineage> blood courses through his veins", e.g. "royal blood courses through his veins"; however since the school's mascot is a bulldog -- a dog known for its large jowls and excessive slobbering -- the wordplay is, "Bulldog drool courses through his jowls", as in the saliva of a bulldog is in his cheeks/lips. – Doktor J Oct 15 '19 at 15:34

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