Pugs have played an outsized role in fiction. Jane Austen brings us Mansfield Park’s Lady Bertram who would rather spend time with her pug than her children.
‘To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience.’
Then there is author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight’s Eloise, whose be-bowed pug Weenie is oft roped into Plaza-based mischief. Here they are wreaking havoc in ‘Eloise at Christmastime’.
Pugs are an ancient breed with links back to Royals in China and the Monasteries of Tibet. Pugs also find their way into British and Dutch royal scrap books. But, why are English pugs called ‘pugs’?
i. The most popular pug name origin theory looks to the Latin word in which ‘pug’ is rooted: ‘pugnas’, or fist. Some suggest that pugs were so named because their wrinkled-up brows look like loose hands scrunched up in a fist.
ii. Others believe that pugs get their name from ‘pug monkeys’ or marmosets, whose faces – with their big eyes and wee noses – look much like those of pug dogs. In Samuel Johnson’s 1755 Dictionary of the English Language, pug is defined as: ‘A kind name of a monkey, or anything tenderly loved’.
iii. And some say that scampish pugs get their name from a mispronounced connection to Puck, Shakespeare’s mischievous sprite in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. As Puck says in Act 2:
‘I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal.
And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl
In very likeness of a roasted crab’
And what do you a call a group of pugs? A grumble. A grumble of pugs.
Meanwhile, what English names are people giving their beloved pugs? This month, Rover.com analyzed their considerable 2021 database of pug parents. And what did they find?
2021 Most Popular Pug Names
Photos: Heliberto Arias