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

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