Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pussy Pussy Cat

Apparently Delilah got in a tangle with some other cat around the neighborhood, and she came home with a big swollen lump behind her left ear. We took her to the vet who said it was infected and filled with pus (yuck), but the vet cleaned it up, and Dee is on the mend. Except that sometimes the wound still oozes pus. (Yuck.)

Which brings us to today's linguistic conundrum. There's no way in conventional written English to distinguish between:
(1) "pussy cat", as in meow-meow-kitty puss-in-boots cat, as in [poos-ee-kat]
and:
(2) "pussy cat", as in a cat with pus, as in [puhs-ee-kat] (as in yuck)*
What's a person with a pussy(2) pussy(1) cat (say that five times fast) to do?

* The dictionaries I looked at sidestepped the issue by ignoring this adjectival form of "pus" even though I believe most native English speakers would accept the phrase "a pussy wound" (
[puhs-ee]) as appropriate and meaningful (and yucky). The only adjectival variant I saw was "puslike", which of course has an entirely different meaning.

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