The new "cougar"

Packard

Senior Member
USA, English
Background:

Women have been likened to animals for as long as language has been around.

Women have been called foxes, vixens, snakes (men too), multi-headed serpents, etc.


Context:

This month's issue of GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly, a men's fashion magazine) had an article about "cougars". I've heard the term used before, but this is the first full length feature I've seen using "cougars" to describe women. Specifically cougars are older women who like sex with younger men and take steps to make sure that it actually occurs. To extend the metaphor, cougars prey on young men.


Question:

I looked up "cougar" in my dictionary and on-line and I find only references to large, rare, and in some areas extinct wild cats. Why a cougar to describe this behavior and when and how did it begin? I would think "python", "boa" or some other constricting snake would be more appropriate.


(Men are more likely to be called pussycats than cougars.)
 
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes, that is indeed puzzling, Mr.P. (By the way, I hope you weren't reading the article for tips on how to be rid of one of these creatures ...)
    I hear cougar and I just think 'big cat that eats smaller critters like goats and stuff'. 'Predatory female' is just about the last thing that would come to mind.
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Several sources point to it being of Canadian origin. Here's one:
    The term, which germinated in the bars of Vancouver in 2001, originally referred to a woman in her early 40s pursuing a man in his late 20s, but has come to define any woman in a romance with a younger man.
    It was first defined in Urban dictionary (est. 1999) at the beginning of 2003, which seems to back up the date of its invention (i.e. it would likely have appeared earlier in UD if it were older). However, I've seen other claims that it was invented in the mid-90s, but that source does agree that it is of Canadian origin.

    It sounded contrived and likely media-invented when I first heard it, but it seems not. Perhaps the person who coined it was trying to think of a predatory animal with a certain kind of, somehow feminine, glamour and a catchy sound. I was surprised at how common it is, as I've never heard it before.
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    I hadn't heard it until fairly recently when suddenly I started hearing it everywhere.

    Ocean's 13 uses it rather prominently, and I've seen it in other movies and tv shows and a particularly everpresent and memorable tv ad, so perhaps that's the reason for the sudden jump in popularity. I've seen references to it being a very old slang term that was revived rather than having been coined recently.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    MatchingMole,

    Interesting background. The link spends more time discussing the social implications and advantages of dating a cougar and less about the etymology.

    Years gone by Burt Reynolds dated Dinah Shore who would undoubtedly be called a cougar if they had the term back then.

    It just seems to me that there are creatures more descriptive of the behavior. While a "black widow" [spider] might not be appropriate, "tarantula" comes to mind (furry and scary at the same time).
     

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    I think the popularity of dramas involving older women and sexual themes, such as Sex And The City and Desperate Housewives, has increased the opportunity for its use, and it is exactly the sort of language that these dramas go for. The comedy drama 30 Rock had an episode entitled Cougars on the theme, and of course, there is the 2007 movie mentioned in Packard's link, Cougar Club.

    Do you have that reference, Franzi? It would surprise me to learn that it is an older term revived (although its current usage may certainly have roots going further back than 2001).
     

    Franzi

    Senior Member
    (San Francisco) English
    Do you have that reference, Franzi? It would surprise me to learn that it is an older term revived (although its current usage may certainly have roots going further back than 2001).
    Alas, I am totally unable to find the reference. It wasn't terribly definitive anyway, but I definitely saw a comment somewhere last time 'cougar' came up that suggested it was fairly old. Searching on google right now finds plenty of Canadians saying it's been used at least since the early 90's.

    My personal guess as to why it's 'cougar' and not 'black widow' or 'boa' or whathaveyou is that the term isn't always (or even usually) negative, and cougars are more appealing animals than bugs and snakes.

    I think the rise in usage of 'cougar' is probably directly related to the change in the meaning of MILF. Stifler's Mom is clearly a total cougar, and while MILF theoretically just means "Mom I'd like to fuck", I saw it being used for predatory older woman around the time American Pie came out (1999). Since then, MILF has switched over to being used for much, much younger women, especially in porn, where the idea that a woman has had a kid seems to signal to idiots that she puts out.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Searching on google right now finds plenty of Canadians saying it's been used at least since the early 90's.
    Count me as another of those Canadians. In fact, I've heard the term for so long that, for me, it's one of those trendy words that is becoming dated.

    My personal guess as to why it's 'cougar' and not 'black widow' or 'boa' or whathaveyou is that the term isn't always (or even usually) negative, and cougars are more appealing animals than bugs and snakes.
    It's "cougar" because a cougar is a sleek, beautiful, stealthy animal that stalks its helpless prey.;)
     

    Redshade

    Banned
    UK
    English.
    I had never heard cougar used in this way until I read this thread and had not heard the term MILF until quite recently. One of the advantages of not owning a television set I suppose.:)
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    From an article by Grant Barrett (Oct. 17, 2007):

    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. reliable.
    http://thestar.com.my/english/story.asp?file=/2007/10/17/lifefocus/19059904&sec=lifefocus
     
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