Bellicose and Antiwar

June 1, 2005

I received complaints about my use of language in my column tonight concerning this sentence:

To further save face with their bellicose antiwar base, they concocted the now familiar fantasy that President Bush had lied about the WMD intelligence, to which they manifestly had equal access when they took their original stand in support of the war.

The objection is that I am torturing the language because bellicose means warlike and is inconsistent with “antiwar.” Just for the record, I have known the meaning of bellicose since my junior year in high school and I used it precisely as I intended to use it. My American Heritage Dictionary defines it as follows:

Warlike in manner or temperament; pugnacious. See Synonyms at belligerent. [Middle English, from Latin bellic½sus, from bellicus, of war, from bellum, war.] –bel“li·cose”ly adv.

I was intending a little play on words, fully aware that the words at first glance appear incongruous. I meant to convey that the antiwar left is warlike in manner of temperament in its approach to the war issue. I think it’s ironic, but nonetheless true. To be bellicose doesn’t have to mean they literally engage in or favor war, it means they are warlike in manner or temperament or, pugnacious. I believe I used the word correctly. It was a play on words, of sorts. So there. 🙂