[Ads-l] "Bugger"

Yagoda, Ben byagoda at UDEL.EDU
Tue Jul 12 13:07:17 UTC 2016

I just found an interesting letter to the “Comment and Query” section of the New York Times “Saturday Review of Books and Art.” It is dated July 9, 1898, and the writer is William Harlow, PhD, of Connecticut. He wonders whether a “Dictionary of Colloquial and Dialectic English Words” has ever been published. Among “those quaint words which I often hear country people use,” he says, are nincompoop, snub, and Bugger (the capitalization is Dr. Harlow’s). He says the last is “from a Bulgarian heretic who was supposed to be capable of any evil deed.”

That is the same etymology provided by the OED.

> On Jul 11, 2016, at 3:51 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "Bugger"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The OED has an entry for "bugger" that appears to show a transition
> from a pejorative to non-pejorative sense. I think the 1881 citation
> shows "bugger" being used without a negative connotation in
> Leicestershire.
> [Begin excerpt]
> bugger, n.1
> . . .
> 2. b. In low language a coarse term of abuse or insult; often,
> however, simply =3D =E2=80=98chap=E2=80=99, =E2=80=98customer=E2=80=99, =E2=
> =80=98fellow=E2=80=99. Cf. baggage n. 7.
> So in French: =E2=80=98Bougre..terme de m=C3=A9pris et d'injure, usit=C3=A9=
> dans le
> langage populaire le plus trivial et le plus grossier=E2=80=99. (Littr=C3=
> =A9.)
> 1715   T. D'Urfey in Pill to purge State-melancholy 11   From every
> Trench the bougers fly.
> 1854   M. J. Holmes Tempest & Sunshine 203   =E2=80=98If I'd known all you
> city buggers was comin' I'd a kivered my bar feet=E2=80=99.
> 1881   S. Evans Evans's Leicestershire Words (new ed.) (at cited
> word),   =E2=80=98Mister, can ye fit this canny little bugger wi' a cap?=E2=
> =80=99 said
> a mother to a shop~keeper of her little boy.
> [End excerpt]
> Below is an 1867 example in a U.S. newspaper which acknowledged
> another U.S. newspaper. A comical epitaph with the word "bugger' was
> ascribed to a "son of Erin". So the source might be considered Irish,
> but the location in the "Detroit Free Press" indicated that U.S.
> readers of the period could decode the humor.
> Date: March 24, 1867
> Newspaper: Detroit Free Press
> Newspaper Location: Detroit, Michigan
> Article: A New Version of Snow-Bound (From the Leavenworth Commercial, 16th=
> )
> Quote Page 2, Column 3
> https://www.newspapers.com/image/118144240/?terms=3Dslang%2Bbugger
> [Begin excerpt]
> That said Christian would he like the son of Erin, who had inscribed
> upon his tomb that expressive epitaph. Seeing a neighbor's epitaph, he
> resolved to exceed that, and when one tomb had above it 'Here I lie,
> as snug as a bug in a rug,' the other had on his, 'Here I lie, as
> snugger than that other bugger.'"
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 3:45 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> 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.  W=
> hen we meant "booger," we pronounced it like book.
>> A quick look at chroniclingamerica shows an indication of possibly simila=
> r or related usage in the United States in the 1870s/80s.
>> In 1885, regarding a performance at a gymnasium, someone said, "'You litt=
> le bugger, you!' Why so silent? Don't forget the balloon act on Wednesday n=
> ight."
>> In 1881, a one-line joke in an Ohio paper wondered, "As a little bug grow=
> s 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 prev=
> ent the bridge from being carried away."
>> In 1878, during a badger fight in Idaho, a man was heard encouraged his f=
> avorite 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 In=
> dian, however, was "a destructive bugger."
>> Derived from "bug"? from "humbugger"?, which would bring it back to Engla=
> nd, but in a different way?
>>> Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:06:53 +0000
>>> From: byagoda at UDEL.EDU
>>> Subject: Re: "Bugger"
>>> ---------------------- 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 =E2=80=9Cbugger=E2=80=9D (noun), as a
>> mildly affectionate, mildly derisive diminutive, term,
>> something like =E2=80=9Crascal=E2=80=9D? It goes pretty far back.
>> In The American Language, (I=E2=80=99m quoting from 4th edition, 1936),
>> Mencken writes, =E2=80=9CWhen 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.=E2=80=9D
>> In Edward Albee=E2=80=99s play Who=E2=80=99s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1=
> 962), George and Martha=E2=80=99s never-seen child is often referred to as =
> =E2=80=9Cthe bugger=E2=80=9D or =E2=80=9Cthe little bugger.=E2=80=9D
>> Ben
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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