[Ads-l] "Bugger"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 11 15:45:32 EDT 2016


When I was young in the Midwest in the '60s, we used the word, "bugger," "little bugger" and such in that manner.  Pronounced, Bugger - like bus.  When we meant "booger," we pronounced it like book.

A quick look at chroniclingamerica shows an indication of possibly similar or related usage in the United States in the 1870s/80s.

In 1885, regarding a performance at a gymnasium, someone said, "'You little bugger, you!' Why so silent? Don't forget the balloon act on Wednesday night."
In 1881, a one-line joke in an Ohio paper wondered, "As a little bug grows does he become a little bigger or a little bugger."
In 1880, an old time '49er miner was known as, "Little Bugger" in Arizona.
In 1879, during a flood in Idaho, the locals "worked like buggers to prevent the bridge from being carried away."
In 1878, during a badger fight in Idaho, a man was heard encouraged his favorite by saying, "go it you bugger".
In 1877, an advertisement warned that, "as the warm weather approaches we may look out for the buggers" (meaning bedbugs and fleas).
In 1873, an article about the Apache in Arizona mentioned that a certain local Indian was a good man, who helped find bad Indians; a second local Indian, however, was "a destructive bugger." 

Derived from "bug"? from "humbugger"?, which would bring it back to England, but in a different way?


> Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:06:53 +0000
> From: byagoda at UDEL.EDU
> Subject: Re: "Bugger"
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> 
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Yagoda, Ben" <byagoda at UDEL.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "Bugger"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Does anyone have any insight, citations, or data concerning 
American non-profane use of “bugger” (noun), as a 
mildly affectionate, mildly derisive diminutive, term, 
something like “rascal”? It goes pretty far back. 
In The American Language, (I’m quoting from 4th edition, 1936), 
Mencken writes, “When I was a small boy my father used it often, 
as an affectionate term for any young male, and if it shows 
any flavor of impropriety today, the fact must be due to 
British influence.”

In Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), George and Martha’s never-seen child is often referred to as “the bugger” or “the little bugger.”

Ben
 		 	   		  
------------------------------------------------------------
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


More information about the Ads-l mailing list