Lou Talman posted Mar 11, 2014 11:20 AM (http://mathforum.org/kb/message.jspa?messageID=9409936): > > On Mon, 10 Mar 2014 09:58:27 -0600, kirby urner > <firstname.lastname@example.org> > wrote: > <snip> > > It may be helpful to know that the usual expression > refers to "the tail > wagging the dog", meaning that things are being done > the wrong way > around---very much as in another American expression: > To put the cart > before the horse. > The origins of the phrase "To put the cart before the horse" date back to at least the Renaissance - see Wikipedia: "The earliest recorded use of the proverb was in the early 16th century. It was a figure of speech in the Renaissance" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cart_before_the_horse) - surely predates the USA.
Amusingly enough, the very next sentence in the Wikipedia reference suggests that carts were actually 'put before the horse' (for what must have been good practical reasons): "As a matter of fact, there are some examples of vehicles pushed by horses in 19th-century Germany and early 20th-century France. (!!)
Notwithstanding Wikipedia, I do believe the phrase must have gone back even before the Renaissance. I cannot be certain of my memory, but I do seem to recall that 'putting the cart before the horse' was in fact a phrase that might have been used in India in very much earlier times.
I am still unaware of the origins of the phrase "tail wagging the dog", but am 'fairly certain', on other grounds, that it must have been used in quite early days in England.