Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I was reading Nonsense Animal Rhymes, a silly and fun--if not really inspired--set of doggerel, to my kids, when the following verse reminded me of a NA/UK difference that hasn't appeared on Separated by a Common Language.
The Insect Race

Ready, steady, off they go!
The beetle's in the lead!
The grasshoppers are gaining,
With a sudden burst of speed.

The worm has turned the corner,
And the crowd begins to clap,
But the spider and the ladybird
Are closing up the gap!
I was aware of ladybird as the British version of ladybug, but I fell to wondering which came first. I finally got around to checking the other day. The Online Etymology Dictionary says, "ladybug (1699; cf. Ger. cognate Marienkäfer) which now is called ladybird beetle (1704) in Britain, through aversion to the word bug, which there has overtones of sodomy."

I don't suppose that's the origin of the phrase 'having a bug up your ass'...


The Ridger, FCD said...

Hmmm. A friend of mine who's married to an Englishman says it's because 'bug' means 'bedbug'.

Brett said...

Interesting! I can't find that sense in any British dictionaries, though.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Ha! Maybe her husband just doesn't want to admit it? Or maybe he himself doesn't know why. I can see that - parents don't want to say why "bug" is a bad word so they make up something innocuous and whole generations grow up with a different explanation which they pass on...

Anonymous said...

I can't see that being true. Bug in English refers specifically to insects that suck blood, sap, etc. The term bug came to refer to insects in general as a colloquial term in the US, but didn't spread to the UK until we were exposed more to American culture in th 20th century.