Rehomed dog reacts to "get him!" like someone tried to train him to attack?

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I've got an older American bulldog with a pretty calm and submissive temperament. He's not food aggressive in the least, has never behaved aggressively towards either my wife or myself, and generally (he ignores kids) loves strangers. He's mellow and/or submissive enough that he'd probably share his food with you if you if you wanted some kibble. He rushes over and barks if my wife and I are wrestling, but even then he'll sit down immediately when he's told to and welcomes petting from either of us the same second.

But if either of us jokingly says "get him" or anything like that, he acts like he's scared – starts barking much louder, his posture changes, his eyes get bigger and he starts showing more teeth. Even in these moments, we can safely scratch his chin, but I don't like it a bit. He'll sit right away and welcomes being pet, but he gets pretty animated so we don't say it.

The other day we were having a conversation about an irritating colleague and I said "kill him!" in response to I forget what. The dog went from 0 to 60 with the same attitude. I'm not worried in the least that he'll ever actually attack someone, but it got me wondering – does this sound like someone tried to train him to attack?

I haven't had many dogs in my life, and this guy came to us well-behaved so we haven't taken him to any classes. I realize it's speculation, but I wonder if anyone else has encountered this in a larger breed rehomed dog?

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