Some GRE vocabs remind us of an animal, have a substring of letters that form a
name of an animal, or are actually inspired by that animal.
I’m always reminded of a pug dog when I see this word. If you don’t know what a
pug dog is, it’s the one with the stubby, black nose. It’s very small, yet for what it lacks in size, it makes up for in intensity. A pug dog will bark down the fiercest pit-bull; typically, though, it barks at people for no good reason. This is a perfect description of a pugnacious person: he or she is highly confrontational, always picking a verbal fight.
More dogs, but this time no barking. The “dog” in dogmatic comes from dogma, or a
system of religious teachings that are taken to be absolutely true. If somebody is
dogmatic, he pretends that his opinions on matters are the absolute truth. It is very difficult to argue with a dogmatic person because he does not think there is any way that his beliefs might not be 100% correct. Another tie in with “dog” is dogged. To be “dogged” is to be stubborn. Somebody who is dogmatic is stubbornly fixated on his or her ideas.
A badger is sort of like a buffed weasel. In other words, you wouldn’t want to mess
with it. However, the meaning of badger is focused more on the annoying side of
things. Somebody who badgers you will keep asking you to do something for them. I
have a wonderful little child, who is amazing in so many ways. But when she wants
her “white cookie” she will badger me, “Dada, white cookie. Dada, white cookie. Where is my white cookie?”
This is a great trap word in a GRE answer choice, if you confuse it with mull. But
mulish has nothing to do with thinking something carefully over. It derives from
what is perhaps the most hapless animal in the mammalia order: the mule. Yes, no
low donkey, the poor mule is subject to all forms of debasement. Personally, I think
the mule just wants to be left alone with a plot of grass and a healthy serving of hay.
Unfortunately, mules since time immemorial have been put to work, where they are
invariably disinclined to work, constantly resisting. This gives us the meaning of the word mulish: stubborn.