How to Speak Californian: “Cougar” vs. “Puma” vs. “Mountain Lion”

An online article about grisly cougar attacks written by a Wisconsonite created some confusion recently, due to regional differences in the use of American English.

Commenters made references to Kim Cattrell and Jennifer Anniston. Why? Because the word cougar means something different these days, at least in California:

COUGAR: An attractive woman in her 30’s or 40’s who is on the hunt once again.

You don’t buy that? Well, check out this entry with keyword-based advertisements referencing “Date a Cougar” and, from the AARP, “Cougars and Younger Men.”

So, that’s a cougar. Here’s a mountain lion from Marin County, California:


nollij via Flickr

That’s a good name, right? It’s like this: Kim Bauer was scared by the mountain lion.

And what about puma? Well, everybody knows that’s a kind of shoe from Germany. (See fake Michael Schumacher wearing a pair of  Puma car racing togs right here, just before his Ferrari F355 Spider got towed by the SFPD.)

So, a cougar is a person, a puma is a shoe, and a mountain lion is a mountain lion. Simple, right?

Now you’re talking Californian. Enjoy.  

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