Yeah--I have no idea what this word means. It came up in a post from Adrian McKinty's blog, and though I feel I should be able to figure it out from context, i.e., 'pusillanimous Italians', in fact I get no help from this. Except it's supposed to be a negative stereotype, I think. Pasta loving? Organ grinding? Chianti swilling?
What I think it means is 'cowardly'. Which is odd, since the word I get it mixed up with is 'pugnacious', which if I'm correct, would be more or less its opposite.
Hey, I was right! It does mean cowardly. It derives from the Latin
pusillus, meaning weak, and animus, meaning courage.
Looking through the quotes at Freedictionary.com, I noticed that Jack London had a liking for the word. Best quote:
"Why, you pusillanimous piece of dirt, you'd run with your tail between your legs if I said boo."
That's from Valley of the Moon.
I'm just waiting for the opportunity to say that to someone. Though, being more than slightly pusillanimous myself, it might be better if I tried it on a small child first. Or maybe a youngish dog.