Search us!

Search The Word Detective and our family of websites:

This is the easiest way to find a column on a particular word or phrase.

To search for a specific phrase, put it between quotation marks.






Comments are closed.

Unfortunately, new comments on posts on this site have been suspended because of my illness.

Previously approved comments will remain visible.

I deeply appreciate the erudition and energy of our commenters. Your contributions to this site have been invaluable. But I can no longer devote the time necessary to separate good comments from the hundreds of spam comments submitted.

Because Wordpress weirdly doesn't allow me to simply turn off comments en masse, comment boxes will still appear at the foot of posts.



shameless pleading


Look out below.

Dear Word Detective: Although I live near Mount St. Helens and am familiar with Bigfoot, I’ve never heard him mentioned as he was in recent CNN coverage of the crisis in Iran: “Many in the establishment view him as someone who does not cower to big-footing by the West.” Is this an idiom I’m unfamiliar with or just a poor translation? — Edward Jones.

Familiar with Bigfoot, eh? Could you tell him Nessie needs his email address? She asked me to ask. Just kidding, of course, but I had not realized that the Mount St. Helens area in Washington State is known for its Bigfoot sightings. Sounds like fun.


Friend me on Facebook!

“Bigfoot” is, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “(A name for) a large, hairy, manlike creature supposedly inhabiting the north-western United States and western Canada,” although in Canada the same critter is more commonly known by its Salishan Indian name, “sasquatch.” The use of “Bigfoot” as a name for the creature dates back to the 1950s, but “Bigfoot” as a popular nickname for a human being with very large feet dates back to at least the early 19th century.

More relevant to your question, however, is the fact that, since about 1980, “bigfoot” has been used as slang among journalists to mean “a prominent or well-known columnist or political reporter,” i.e., a “celebrity” journalist. According to an explanation offered by William Safire (himself just such a “bigfoot”) back in 1985, the term was coined as a joke during the 1980 US presidential campaign, when Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Hedrick Smith of the New York Times appeared on the press plane with his injured foot encased in a large cast.

“Bigfoot” in this sense has apparently also become a transitive verb among journalists, and I ran across it just the other day while reading writer Dan Baum’s explanation of how he came to leave the staff of the New Yorker magazine. Assigned to cover Hurricane Katrina, Baum learned that the New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, would also be going to New Orleans, and confronted him, saying “You’re going to bigfoot me?” Baum defines “to bigfoot” here as “to snatch a story away from a lower-ranking reporter,” and, not surprisingly, his belligerent use of the term to Remnick turned out to be a very bad idea.

It’s possible that the use of the verb “to bigfoot” you spotted, meaning roughly “to throw one’s weight around” or “to bully,” is a further development of this journalistic slang. But it’s also possible that this geopolitical use is an entirely separate invention alluding to Bigfoot as a large, overwhelming presence that is difficult to resist.

2 comments to Bigfoot

  • bowarcher

    excellent; I expect that “to Bigfoot” may also come to mean “hoax for fun/profit.” “Bigfooters” refer to their outdoor activities (scaring each other while they sit around campfires) as “squatching.”

  • Jesus Christ

    I believe that Bigfoot is real because I know what Bigfoot really is. The film of Bigfoot that was taken by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin is real. Here is what they filmed on October 20 1967 at Bluff Creek, CA.

    Several thousand years ago there were thousands of slaves that were building two cities. They ran off around the world and started their own countries. When these slaves ran off there was a large group of men and boys that took off and ended up in Africa. Some of them were giants as tall as 9 ft. or even taller. The giant named Goliath that David killed with his slingshot was 9 ft. tall.

    Some of these men and boys went exploring to Borneo and used ropes to catch female orangutans. They took them to South America and had sex with them and eventually created the Indians. The men and boys that stayed in Africa used ropes to catch female gorillas. They had sex with them and eventually created the Africans. When scientists found the bones in Africa they thought we evolved naturally from a female chimpanzee.

    But it wasn’t a natural evolution it was a man made evolution. That’s where all the Bigfoot and Orangutan creatures come from. They are half man and half gorilla and half man and half orangutan. They use to call the Indians the red man. The orangutan has reddish hair. When those men bred out the hair the Indian’s skin remained red. The gorilla has black hair and skin. When those men bred out the hair the African’s skin remained black.

    Some of the Africans and Indians are tall and some of the Bigfoot and Orangutan creatures are tall. They are tall because some of the men that created them were tall. Some scientists believe that we evolved naturally from a female chimpanzee. Have you ever seen an 8 ft. tall chimpanzee? I haven’t either. Bigfoot came up through Africa and into the United States at the top of Africa when they were connected by land.

    The Orangutan creatures came up through Central America and into the United States like the Indians did later on. These creatures were able to travel around the world to other countries because some of the land was connected at the time. The first Europeans that saw the Africans said that some of the African women had genitalia that resembled that of a gorilla. If you look at the nose of a full blooded African and Indian you will notice that it is wide and flat like the gorilla and orangutan’s nose.

    The North American Science Institute said that the creature in the Patterson-Gimlin film had both human and gorilla characteristics. That’s because it is a human-gorilla hybrid. In the 1920’s there was a group of scientists in Orange Park, Florida that was said to have created a human-primate hybrid. One of the aging scientist told someone that they did create a human-primate hybrid.

    He said that after a few days went by they destroyed it. This was done in secret but the word got out. Scientists have created a hybrid between a goat and a sheep. And their genetic code is further apart than a human and primate’s genetic code. The creature that Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed in 1967 was half man ad half gorilla. Believe it or not, man created his own evolution.

    1900- 1.6 Billion People,
    2011- 6.9 Billion People,
    111 years- 5.3 Billion People,
    333 years- 15.9 Billion People,
    15.9 + 6.9 = 22.8 Billion People by the year 2344,
    Suggestion- Stop Creating Children,
    The life you save just might be the one you don’t create.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please support
The Word Detective

(and see each issue
much sooner)

by Subscribing.


Follow us on Twitter!




New! You have questions? How Come? has the answers!

400+ pages of science questions answered and explained for kids -- and adults!