... his progeny are bound to succeed over poor brainy but pug-ugly humanity...

I searched online dictionaries for but I didn't find the meaning fits the sentence. As a result I don't understand the meaning of the sentence.

So could you please explain it to me:

The fuller text is here:

The protagonist of 'The Golden Man' (1953) is sexually irresistible but essentially mindless- and of course his progeny are bound to succeed over poor brainy but pug- ugly humanity: intelligence is no defence against desire.

1 Answer 1


"But" is surely the most common word in that phrase. It is being used in its normal role as a conjunction. It joins two things together, when there is a contrast between the two things.

Here the two things are two adjectives: "brainy" (an adjective with a positive meaning) and "pug-ugly" (figurative as ugly as a pug dog, an adjective with negative meaning). These adjectives modify the noun "humanity"

Now the full adjective phrase is built with several adjectives. The first is "poor", the second is "brainy-but-pug-ugly". It has the same structure as

The poor unhappy child.

The word poor is an adjective, and not a adverb modifying "brainy".

Sometimes, when adjectives are formed, we join them with hyphens. "brainy-but-pug-ugly" The author hasn't done this, but if you put them in, it might help the meaning.

Humanity is "poor" (ie worthy of pity); and it is "brainy", but it is "pug-ugly".

  • Many thanks. But "poor brainy" is negative too, isn't it?
    – Peace
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 8:05
  • 2
    ah, it is with the word poor that you have difficulty. I shall edit.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 8:10

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