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Feline groovy

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal

One of the most famous commercials of all time was the creation of a Chicago advertising scriptwriter who, in 1959, came up with the famous Esso (now Exxon) slogan, "Put a tiger in your tank'. Since then, a lot of people put Tigers in their tanks and not all of it was gas. The most recent Tigers in tanks featured at least 14 women who filled up with golf star Tiger Woods and one fed-up wife who ironically attacked Woods with a wood instead of the iron he favours.

Woods, whose given names are 'Elridge' and 'Tont', was nicknamed 'Tiger' in honour of his father's closest friend, Vuong Dang Phong, to whom his father had also given the 'Tiger' nickname. When the news of Tiger's affairs surfaced and what seemed an endless stream of women came out of the jungle to grab their 10 minutes of fame, it was an easy pun to deem Tiger a cheetah - what one would call making a beeline for the feline. One person went even further and because of Tiger's untruths called him a "lion cheetah". Tigers and lions are both felids and part of a family which includes domestic cats and cougars.

Felinity-based punning or metaphor is nothing new to me. I grew up in Trinidad where the word 'cat' is not limited to Felis silvestris catus, the small carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and its ability to hunt vermin and household pests.

social species

To put it as delicately as possible, the term cat is a vulgarism for the female sexual organ and sometimes may lead to ambiguity. For example, the following Wikipedia description would make some people laugh hysterically, "Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, and are currently the most popular pet in the world ... cats are a social species and use a variety of vocalisations, pheromones, and types of body language for communication. These include meowing, purring, trilling, hissing, growling, squeaking, chirping and grunting. They are also bred and shown as registered pedigree pets. This hobby is known as 'cat fancy'." If you ever listen to Lord Kitchener's My Pussin ('pussin' derived from 'puss' from the Dutch 'poes', German 'puuskatte'), you will see how the double entendre works. In fact, that is what made the Calypso so popular.

The catalogue does not end here. Recently, I was amazed at what has happened to another member of the family, the cougar. It used to be that a cougar (Puma concolor) was just another felid trying to make a living out in the North American wilderness. Now, it has taken on a second life and new meaning. According to an entry in the Urban Dictionary, a 'cougar' is, "An older woman who frequents clubs in order to score with a much younger man. The cougar can be anyone from an overly surgically altered wind tunnel victim, to an absolute sad and bloated old horn-meister, to a real hottie." Another entry says, "An attractive woman in her 30s or 40s who is on the hunt once again. She may be found in the usual hunting grounds: nightclubs, bars, beaches, etc. She will not play the usual BS games that women in their early 20s participate in. End state, she will be going for the kill, just like you."

Wikipedia's view is more scholarly, "Cougar - a woman over 40 who sexually pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior. The origin of the word is debated; however, it is thought to have first appeared in print on the Canadian dating website Cougardate.com and has been used in TV series, advertising and film. The 2007 film Cougar Club was dedicated to the subject and in Spring 2009 TV Land aired a reality show called 'The Cougar'. A new show called Cougar Town, explores the difficulty and stigma of many so-called cougars."

overutilised pun

A website called urbancougar.com had its say in praise of older women in the Tiger Woods saga, "The 14th lover has, to use the overutilised pun, come out of the Woods. And we, like Fox News are happy to announce she's a cougar. Al Sharpton expressed his anger with Tiger for not cheating on his wife with an African-American woman (rumor or not, you can bet Al was thinking that). Like Al was allegedly thinking, we at urbancougar.com were disappointed that Tiger was not testing the waters of older women love ... . Now, we can now sleep well at night, according to the New York Daily News, "Tiger Woods dad taught him how to golf, but Theresa Rogers says she showed him what to do in the sack." Bingo! Tiger, you are not as dumb as we thought. Like most of us, you learned from an experienced woman, and sounds like you kept coming back for more ... and more".

Elise Nersesian writing in Women's Health says: "A new breed of cougars has emerged - they're called pumas. These 30-something women are eager to get in on the boy-toy action, and guys are happy to oblige. Fact is, no matter what age bracket you're talking about, being with an 'older' woman appeals to a lot of men." All this felinity could amount to a catastrophe. There's a jungle out there and lots of wildcats. Fortunately for men, as the old saying goes, all cats are grey in the dark.

Tony Deyal was last seen explaining to a young colleague, crying because his wife had given him the boot, that telling his wife that he was looking for a Puma was not the best way of explaining that he wanted a pair of football boots.