Being too American, or American at all, is pretty much the worst thing a Brit can be. “American” is synonymous with pushiness, tactlessness, and puppy-dog earnestness.

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

What is the meaning of 'puppy-dog earnestness'?

2 Answers 2


The meaning of earnestness is the quality of being very serious and sincere. Saying "earnest, in the way that a puppy is earnest" is a way of mocking the "serious and sincere" behavior. Puppies are not too smart, not fully aware of the world around them, too trusting of people, very focused on the present moment, etc. It's not a very flattering comparison for an adult person.

Here is an illustration of "puppy-dog earnestness". He's serious and sincere, but adorable and not really a creature you would view as an equal or take too seriously.


Here is an illustration of an earnest expression on an American actor

Nicholas Cage looking earnest

Also, Jimmy Stewart was an American actor that had a lot of earnest moments.

  • You mean adorable and charming but superficial, lacking in depth? Oh, I love your puppy picture^^
    – whitecap
    Oct 30, 2015 at 0:52
  • @whitecap Adorable puppy images are so easy to find on the Net. Finding an earnest expression on a human is tough these days ;) There's a sense of being easy to take advantage of if you describe someone as earnest.
    – ColleenV
    Oct 30, 2015 at 1:37

Okay, when I first read your question, I was stunned that it was not obvious. Then the more I thought about it the more I saw how confusing this could be.

Imagine a small, fuzzy, wiggling puppy. All it wants to do is lick your face and be your friend. And it wants to do it RIGHT NOW, over, and over, and over again because it will never express enough how much it loves you.

Now apply that same single-minded, NOW-ness to expressing that you're really, honestly, completely sincere.

That's what's meant by "puppy-dog earnestness".

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