In Jingo, by Terry Pratchet, Lord Vetinari says:

"... Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs have never been pugn'd in their entire lives."

What about "pugn'd"? Is it just a contraction for "impugned" or there is pun that a non-native like me can't spot?

  • 4
    Clearly the origin of pwnd ;-). Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:36
  • @Peyter pwned is from a typo of "owned". O/P are together on the extreme right of a querty keyboard.
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:41
  • 2
    @Martin Beckett: No shit, Sherlock. I'm pretty sure that was an attempt at humour by @Peter. Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:42
  • @Mr Disappointment - I didn't know what pwned meant until somebody pointed it out.
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


It's a joke. There are lots of words in English that are back formations like this.

The prefix 'im' often means to undo or the opposite of something. So 'impugned' sounds like it should be the negative of 'pugned', just as impolite is the opposite of polite. In fact it's from the latin, impugnāre to fight against, attack.

A similar prefix is 'dis'. There is a joke in the same book (IIRC) describing Commander Vymes as disgruntled and Colon claiming that he was never gruntled to begin with.

  • Wikipedia's got a pretty good explanation of back-formation but the corresponding list of English back-formations is missing pugned/pugn'd. Guess Pratchett is one of the first to use it in print ;)
    – aedia λ
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:42
  • @aedia - more that it's a deliberately unused one, like gruntled, for the purpose of the joke.
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 19:45
  • @Martin - true, the list does seem to be intended for back-formations that are or were really used. Some seem just as amusing as "pugn" to me though. I'm now curious as to whether anyone really says that helicopters "helicopt" or that lasers "lase".
    – aedia λ
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 20:02
  • 2
    Lase is common - at least among people that need to discuss lasing.
    – mgb
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 20:05
  • 2
    One of my favorite fake back-formations is "have", pronounced "hayv". She: "Behave!" I: "I am have! There are the haves and the have nots, and I am one of the haves!" This joke really doesn't work in print, though...
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 3, 2011 at 3:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.