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Origin of slang word ‘cougar’
Posted: 29 April 2009 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Greeting to all!  I am a brand new user.  It took me a while to read all past forums and archived information.  I can honestly say I am addicted to this site!

I’m hoping someone can answer for me the origin of the slang word ‘cougar’.  It is supposed to mean an older or mature female who dates younger men.  I’ve been told the implied use was a Canadian creation in use for at least 20 years.  However, I can’t find any information that confirms that.  It seems to be all the rage now in the U.S. and it is the name of a recent television reality show.

Any help would truly be appreciated.

Ulli

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Posted: 29 April 2009 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Welcome to the board, Ulli!

Grant Barrett, OUP lexicographer, who runs the Double Tongued Dictionary, has a column on this very word in The Star Online.

Most of its popularity stems from a 2001 book by Valerie Gibson, called Cougar: A Guide for Older Women Dating Younger Men. This is the sort of book you buy as a joke for your newly single women friends, but one that they will read with interest when no one else is around.

When seeking the origin of terms, lexicographers look for printed evidence. In hunting cougars – the term, not the women or the wild cats – I found a March 3, 2001, article in the Globe and Mail of Toronto which credits “cougar” to a Canadian website called Cougardate.com, which the story says was started in 1999. It is, as you have guessed, a website where older women can meet younger men.

The story given in that article is that one of the two women who founded the website was told by a nephew that the two ladies were like cougars in search of small defenceless animals. The nephew said he picked up the term from players on his hockey team. So, 1999 is the earliest probable date we have for the term and it’s fairly reliable.

[ Edited: 29 April 2009 05:47 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 29 April 2009 10:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you, aldiboronti!

The information you provided has been extremely helpful.  I appreciate your quick response.  I’m very new at using this site.  I look forward to interacting with others interested in etymology. 

Ulli

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Posted: 30 April 2009 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve been helping an ESPN reporter with this very question for a few days, so I can report that 1999 is a solid date--there is additional evidence to endorse it--and that anecodotal evidence has been collected from Canadians who were young and widely dispersed in Western Canada in the early 1990s that strongly supports its use then. There are still numerous leads that have yet to bear any fruit, though, so we may learn more later.

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Posted: 01 May 2009 01:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Thank you Grant Barrett! Your additional information has been very helpful.

I appreciate any information I can find on that topic. I’m interested in phrases, idioms, metaphors, proverbs, etc., that involve animals. Call it a fascination, I want to know how many of the idioms are scientifically (realistically) valid, based on each animal’s known behavior, husbandry, history, and association with the human species.

I’m a volunteer with the Oregon Humane Society’s Technical Animal Rescue Team (Portland, Oregon USA.) When I’m not training to rappel down the sides of cliffs rescuing man’s clumsy best friend, I teach school children about animal adaptations and proper pet care. The etymology of animal related words is a great teaching tool, and the children gain a larger vocabulary!

Ulli

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Posted: 07 July 2009 07:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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The term started from a Canadian NHL Hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks around 1989/1990. When discussing the groupies that would come to the games....the older groupies were called Cougars. I am 99.9999% certain that this is the original origin of the term.

[ Edited: 07 July 2009 07:37 PM by JAWWDC ]
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Posted: 08 July 2009 06:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Cougar has also shifted in valence since its origin. It originally referred to an undesirable older woman, one who, like the wild cat, preyed on the weak and defenseless (i.e., drunk guys in a bar at closing time who have been unsuccessful at picking up younger women). It was quite a nasty thing to call a woman. Since the term hit the mainstream, it’s shifted to refer to older, attractive women and is more complementary (but still not a very nice thing to call a woman).

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Posted: 09 July 2009 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I am 99.9999% certain that this is the original origin of the term.

Your certainty, alas, is not transferable.  Unless you can come up with a citation from the period, it’s just another unsupported statement.

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Posted: 16 July 2009 02:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Isn’t it just another term for MILF?

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Posted: 16 July 2009 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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No, a MILF is simply an attractive older woman. The word implies no sexual aggressiveness on her part or that sex may be a realistic objective.

A cougar, on the other hand, actively courts younger men.

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Posted: 16 July 2009 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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acme_54 - 16 July 2009 02:10 AM

Isn’t it just another term for MILF?

The “I” in the acronym is the give away.

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Posted: 27 July 2009 03:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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acme_54 - 16 July 2009 02:10 AM

Isn’t it just another term for MILF?

Also, cougars are not necessarily moms/mums, presumably ...

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Posted: 27 July 2009 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Neither are MILFs, as the term is actually used, the full phrase nothwithstanding.  As Wikipedia says, “MILF denotes a sexually attractive older female, generally between 30 and 50 in age, and not necessarily an actual mother.”

[ Edited: 27 July 2009 11:34 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 16 October 2010 04:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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What’s about the word motherfucker? Is it similar to MILF?

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[ Edited: 25 October 2010 03:34 AM by petrovyoung ]
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Posted: 17 October 2010 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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No.

However one stretches the imagination, it is difficult - nay, downright impossible - to think of the emperor Nero as a MILF; whereas his qualifications for the other title are well attested.

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Posted: 17 October 2010 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Motherfucker, in the literal sense, is used to refer to one who has intercourse with his own mother—although it’s probably used more often as a general term of abuse and not in a specific accusation of incest.

A MILF, on the other hand is simply a mother, with one’s one mother excluded from consideration. One may call a friend’s mother a MILF, but one would never refer one’s one mother with that word.

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