Friday, July 22, 2005

Summer mug

A week of hazy, hot and humid weather means summer has finally arrived. Everyone complains it’s too muggy. Yes, the weather’s muggy, but what’s “mug”?

In fact, it is an Old English word for “mist” or “fog” that quickly evolved to mean “a damp, dull, gloomy state of the atmosphere,” as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.

“Mug” may also be a breed of woolly-faced sheep, a stupid person, a school examination, or someone from the Arakan and Chittagong regions of India, once famed for cooking abilities.

Of course, we all know that a mug is something that holds coffee and that it can refer to a face. But did you know that one comes from the other? Centuries ago, drinking mugs were dressed up with grotesque faces, and thus an ugly face became a mug.

“To mug” can mean to make a face, to mope, to cook a big meal, to bribe with liquor, to study hard, or to assault.

But this month, the misty mug has been in the forefront of muggy words. Sure, it’s uncomfortable. But next winter, when the frigid Arctic winds are howling, we may wish we had a bit of summer mug to keep us warm.

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