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figure 1  


bulldog. (noun) 1. A man of relentless, savage disposition.reference 1 2. A staunch defender, especially in academic or intellectual realms.

In a news article about the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for governor, the New York Times described the challenger, Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, as having “bulldog style.”reference 2 Perhaps the reporter was inspired by Souzzi's paraphrasing of a Harry Truman saying: ''If you want a friend in politics, get a dog.'' On the other hand, reading his remarks, there‘s little question that Suozzi was blunt in the interview and even used “expletives.” This might not necessarily be termed “savagery,” but I think it fits the definition.

The relentlessness need not be coupled with savagery to be bulldoggish. Richard A. Clarke, the counterterrorism advisor in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations was described this way by his colleague, Anthony Lake: “He is a bulldog of a bureaucrat: notorious among his colleagues for utter devotion to those he works for, fierce loyalty and support toward those who work for him and a bluntness toward those at his level that has not earned him universal affection.”reference 3

Winston Churchill
figure 2  

Sometimes people are compared to bulldogs because they share the kind of jowled look of that breed (see adjectival form below). Winston Churchill, Great Britain 's Prime Minister during World War II, was nicknamed “bulldog.” This was based on both his looks and his temperament—at least as it was visible in the public sphere.

The use of the word to mean a particular kind of defender has gone out fashion. Just as Thomas Huxley was referred to as “Darwin's bulldog” so too were others who championed another's intellectual cause referred to as bulldogs. These bulldogs are not just interpreters of ideas, but viscious defenders. Hence in his popular treatise on Edmund Husserl, Maurice Natanson goes out of his way to declare, “I am not Husserl's bulldog.”reference 4

1. Brewer, E. Cobham. 2000. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898. Accessed Sep 5 2001 from http:// 81/2642.htm


2. Healy, Patrick D. 2006. Suozzi Takes Jabs at Spitzer in Governor's Race. New York Times, Jan 14, B1.





3. Marquis, Christopher, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. 2004. Threats and Responses: The Terrorism Expert; 'Go-to Guy' Sheds Bureaucrat's Anonymity. New York Times, Mar 24, 15.




4. Natanson, Maurice Alexander. 1973. Edmund Husserl: Philosopher of Infinite Tasks. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press. xiii.

a news boy hawking papers in the dawn light
figure 3  

bulldog. (media) The early edition of a newspaper.

In identifying the insider's lingo of the mainstream media, William Safire tells us that the early edition is the bulldog.reference 4 Laura Lippman, journalist turned mystery novelist, uses the term to describe the “early Sunday edition” that comes out on Saturday.reference 5 I read somewhere that it's the bulldog because it drives the other editions off the street.
a jowled coachman
figure 4  

bulldog. (adjective) Squat and jowled.

In her neo-feminist novel Scandalous Again, Christina Dodd describes the Duke of Magnus as a “bluff, red-cheeked bulldog of an Englishman.”reference 6

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figure 5

bulldog. (cards) The king of any suit.reference 7

5. Safire, William. 2006. Blargon. New York Times Magazine, Feb 19, 32.

6. Lippman, Laura. 1997. Baltimore Blues: A Tess Monaghan Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 113.

7. Dodd, Christina. 2003. Scandalous Again. New York: Avon Books, 1.

8. Haber, Tom Burns. 1965. Canine Terms Applied to Human Beings and Human Events: Part Ii. American Speech 40 (4): 251.

a metal clip for clipping papers together
figure 6  
bulldog clip. A clip with a spring that closes the metal jaws. Presumably named so for the legendary viselike grip of a bulldog's teeth.
A man emerging from a burning building carrying a child
figure 7  
bulldog courage. Refers to a quality in which one flinches from no danger. But you do not have to be built like a bulldog to have bulldog courage.
About the illustrations: Figure 1 depicts your basic bulldog.

Figure 2 is the classic visage of Winston Churchill.

Figures 3, 4, 5, and 7 are chosen to illustrate the entries. All five are © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 6 is an actual bulldog clip. Photograph by Richard Wheeler (Zephyris) 2007. Permission granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

see also: pit bull; dogged; bulldog ants; Darwin's bulldog
cf: dog (male); hound; mad dog
Last updated: September 6, 2011
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