Friday, November 26, 2010

OH MY WORD: pugnacious

Pugnacious: Combative in nature, belligerent. (From Latin pugnax "combative," pugnare "to fight," pugnus "fist." American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.)

When you look up the word pugnacious in a thesaurus, you find synonyms like aggressive, threatening, and hostile. It has the same origin as pugilist, a person who fights with his fists.

Pretty aggressive. (The first pugilist I remember went by the name of Cassius Clay. It was a very long time ago and I was a very tiny girl at the time. Really. My favorite pugilist? Rocky Balboa. "Yo, Adrienne!")

But back to the word. Considering its origins, I find it ironic that whenever I see the word pugnacious written somewhere it's usually in a sentence that goes something like this: She raised her pugnacious little chin at him and replied, "Really, sir! How dare you!"

Doesn't exactly bring to mind the Italian Stallion. The image I usually get is more like the pooch in the picture. Pug-nacious.

Ironically, pug—as in the dog—doesn't come from the same root at pugnacious. The dogs were most likely brought to Europe by the Dutch East India Company dating back as early as 1572.

That is important for two reasons: 1) that the origin of the name "pug" probably comes from Puck (like the fairy in Midsummer's Night Dream), based on the dog's playful personality, and 2) that Disney did their research (at least when it comes to dogs) when they made Pocahontas, if not the story line!

Photograph of pug "Trevor" by Nevada Tumbleweed, from Flickr Creative Commons

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Really Unreal Reality TV

You're fired.

There's a lot of reality TV out there. It's cheap to produce. (You don't have to pay a lot of fat-cat writers the really big bucks for scripts, or spend a lot of "time-is-money" on rehearsals.)

There are A-Listers:
The Amazing Race
The Biggest Loser
Big Brother
Hell's Kitchen
The Apprentice

Your "call and text your vote" shows:
American Idol, America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, and Dancing With The Stars . . .

. . . to name only a few. And those are only a few of the ones on network television.

Cable TV is chock-full of them. And it has a flourishing sub-genre (celebreality, or you could call it voyeureality), which allows viewers to witness the private lives of the people on the show: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Hills, Jersey Shore. . . Real Housewives of Just About Everywhere—New York, New Jersey, Atlanta, Beverly Hills, et cetera—as opposed to the Desperate Housewives (of Wisteria Lane). Because, of course, we all know that the Desperate Housewives are fictional, as opposed to the Real Housewives, who are real.

Uh huh.

When viewers tune in to watch the lives of such people as Ozzy Osbourne, Bret Michaels, Kim Kardashian, Hulk Hogan, Snooki, Kate + Eight - Jon, and the four-legged entity known as "Speidi," they are seeing those lives exactly as the celebs live it every day. I am sure the celebrity has given no thought whatsoever as to what will play best for the camera.

Because it's reality. Really.

(Sensing any irony?)

So, here we are, in a television world of "reality," knowing as we watch that it's not really real. I mean, how likely is it that little brother Rob Kardashian just happens to show up on cue to show off his new tattoo to his shocked sisters, knowing that when Mama Kris finds out about it she's going to blow . . . and the camera just happens to be running right at that moment? Not too likely, I'm guessing.

I actually like reality TV. At least some of it. I cheer for the people trying to lose weight on The Biggest Loser and recommit to my diet for another week—um, day. I like to watch celebrities step out of their comfort zones on Dancing with the Stars and learn to ballroom dance. I like Tom Bergeron's ad lib zingers. The guy's a genius. And Bruno Tonioli jumps on Len Goodman's head at least once a week. What's not to like?

I also confess to being a fan of The Bachelor. I'm a romantic, a real sucker for a happy ending. Do I know there's a minuscule chance the couple will stay together? Yes, I do. I still watch. I even read Reality Steve and let him spoil some of my fun. Maybe because he helps keep it real.

Whatever that means.

The lines between fiction and reality are blurred, and blurring more and more every day. Soon we may not be able to tell the difference. I mean, I've seen Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, Inc. in both Dancing With the Stars and Big Bang Theory. I know all about the suspension of disbelief: when I see Sheldon sucking up to "The Great and Powerful Woz," I actually know Sheldon is fictional and Wozniak is real.

But I was caught off-guard last week when I got an e-mail advertisement from Barnes and Noble for the second "Nikki Heat" novel from the one-and-only Rick Castle. As in RICK CASTLE, the title character for the not reality TV show Castle on ABC-TV. It's a cool marketing ploy, publishing a book, since the character is a crime novelist. The thing that took it into the realm of weird for me was the fact that Barnes and Noble included the author's bio and picture from the dust jacket of the book in the ad. It was fictional Rick Castle's fictional bio from the TV show. And the picture was of Nathan Fillion—the real actor who plays the fictional author.

Even Publishers Weekly wasn't sure what to make of it. The first line of their review said, "Fans of the hit ABC-TV series Castle will welcome this highflying and oh-so-sly sequel to Heat Wave from, if one can trust the author photo [italics mine], the actor Nathan Fillion, who plays mystery novelist Rick Castle on the show."

I'm sure Nathan Fillion is a really cool guy and top-notch actor. Do I really think he wrote the book? Not so much.

Really, I don't.

I could be wrong. But if I'm not, then think about it: a real novel (fiction) was written by a real person (ghostwriter) under the name of a fictional author (Castle) whose bio (fiction) is printed on the book's dust jacket with a picture of a real person (actor) but calling him by the author's (fiction) name.

Did anyone follow that?

Maybe what we all need right now is a reality check. . .

The tribe has spoken.

Or, at least, I have.