Simanaitis Says

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FOR ONE REASON or another, the word “bellicose” sprang to mind as deserving addition into my Etymology for our Times series. Why do you suppose?

It might have been something I saw or read recently. On the other hand, as Trump told the VFW annual convention on July 24, 2018, “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

In any case (and not to sound overly judgy), I offer evidence from Merriam-Webster. It defines “bellicose” as “favoring or inclined to start quarrels or wars.” Among its synonyms are included “aggressive,” “brawly,” “contentious,” “pugnacious,” “quarrelsome,” and “truculent.”

M-W continues with examples, among them: “BELLICOSE suggests a disposition to fight.//a drunk in a bellicose mood. PUGNACIOUS suggests a disposition that takes pleasure in personal combat.//a pugnacious gangster. QUARRELSOME stresses an ill-natured readiness to fight without good cause//the heat made us all quarrelsome. CONTENTIOUS implies perverse and irritating fondness for arguing and quarreling.//wearied by his contentious disposition.”

Ah. It’s coming back to me now.

Image by Saul Loeb/AP from “Brett Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford Testify in Historic Senate Hearing: Recap,” by Rob Tornoe and Michael Boren, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 27, 2018.

The word “bellicose,” M-W says, had good honest Middle English use way back in the 15th century, traceable to Latin bellicosus, of war, from that language’s bellum, war.

M-W cites a relatively recent use of the word in Michael Pearson’s Those Damned Rebels: The American Revolution As Seen Through British Eyes, 1972: “His evident calm, which always infuriated the opposition, must have irritated the bellicose colonel to a point at which he could control himself no longer.”

Image from “Brett Kavanaugh Proved Himself,” by Kirsten West Savali,, September 28, 2018.

There are times when images and words, what we see and read, can be powerful indeed. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018


  1. Mark W
    October 3, 2018

    He reminds me of the (ugly!) varmint in the promos for the movie “Venom”….

  2. jlalbrecht64
    October 3, 2018

    I try not to be overly partisan, and in this case, I think I’m not being partisan at all. I’ve watched clips from these hearings. What comes to mind over and over is: If this is how this Cavanaugh reacts to questions when he’s not yet in a lifetime appointment position and should be deferential to the people interviewing him for said position, what can we expect when he’s sitting on the supreme court?

  3. Gene Herbert
    October 4, 2018

    You may have lived too long in California.

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