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Bugger
Posted: 14 April 2008 04:34 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Prompted by lionello’s delightful lyric in the Maize and corn thread (which uses the term), as also by the fact that I’m reading Michael Frassetto’s Heretic Lives at present.

The first chapter of the book deals with the 11th century Bulgarian dualist heresy which incidentally gave birth to bugger.

First, the etymology from OED, with definitions and first cites.

bugger, n., 1

[a. F. bougre:{em}L. Bulgarus Bulgarian, a name given to a sect of heretics who came from Bulgaria in the 11th c., afterwards to other ‘heretics’ (to whom abominable practices were ascribed), also to usurers. See BOUGRE.]

1. (With capital initial). A heretic: the name was particularly applied to the Albigenses. Obs. exc. Hist.

1340 [see BOUGRE]. 1340 Ayenb. 19 He..ne belef{th} {th}et he ssolde, ase de{th} {th}e bougre and {th}e heretike. Ibid. 134 Vor {th}et bye{th} {th}e bougres and {th}e heretiks proude uorlore.1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Supp. s.v., The Buggers are mentioned by Matthew Paris..under the name of Bugares..They were strenuously refuted by Fr. Robert, a dominican, surnamed the Bugger, as having formerly made profession of this heresy.

2. One who commits buggery; a sodomite. In decent use only as a legal term.

1555 Fardle Facions II. x. 224 As rancke bouguers with mankinde, and with beastes, as the Saracenes are. 1587 TURBERV. Epitaphs & Sonn. Wks. (1837) 372 To serve his beastly lust..he will leade a bowgards life.

b. In low language a coarse term of abuse or insult; often, however, simply = ‘chap’, ‘customer’, ‘fellow’. Cf. BAGGAGE 7.

So in Fr.: ‘Bougre..terme de mépris et d’injure, usité dans le langage populaire le plus trivial et le plus grossier’. (Littré.)
1719 D’URFEY Pills I. 59 From every trench the bougers fly.

NB 1340 cite for BOUGRE added from entry for that word.

A couple of points. Firstly, one cannot help feeling for poor old Fr. Robert. (I’m unsure as whether that should be expanded as Friar or Father). Not the happiest of epithets to bear through the centuries, Fr. Robert the Bugger!

Secondly, does bugger get much play in the US? Is it considered a swear word? Would the FCC be concerned at its use on the airwaves?

On an afternote, the book I referred to above tells us that this particular heresy was fathered by Pop Bogomil, a Bulgarian priest or monk of the 10th/11th century. (Pop is the Bulgarian honorific for priest or monk, as in Father Bogomil. Cf. papa, pope). The name Bogomil is equivalent to the Greek Theophilus, ‘loved of God’. What little we know of the man (which is practically nothing) comes to us through Cosmas, a contemporary, who wrote a work excoriating the heresy.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 05:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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When I was in Canada in 1977/8, a Wizard of Id cartoon appeared where the guard, chasing the prisoner whose name escapes me round in circles, complains, ‘The little bugger keeps lapping me!’

The cartoon is syndicated in many American and Canadian newspapers. As a rule, the word ‘bugger’ was blacked out in Canada, but not in America, where it was felt that the word was just a general term of abuse not associated with any particular sexual practice.

(It wasn’t blacked out all that well in all cases; one letter to the editor reported how the writer’s son called out, ‘Hey, Dad, they’ve blacked out “bugger”!’)

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Posted: 14 April 2008 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Concerning the meaning of “bugger”, a story told to me by the “nanny”:
Nanny, to her small charge, who has just said “Bugger!” “Do you know what that word means?”
Small girl, quickly, “Oh, yes”
Nanny, with some trepidation, “What does it mean then?”
Small girl, with wrinkled brow, after some thought, “It means we’ve run out of milk.”

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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"Bugger” is not much heard in the US [added in light of droogies comment: in my mostly midwestern experience] , and though I suppose most well-read Americans would know what it meant, I think they would regard it as a Britishism.  I don’t think it would get bleeped or draw the ire of the FCC, but that might depend on context.

[ Edited: 14 April 2008 07:05 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t recall when I first noticed the usage but In the Western US I do hear “bugger” occasionally and have used it myself as a meaningless intensive. If a neighbors kid leaves a skateboard in the street one might occasionally hear “bugger” when driving around it.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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When I was a lad there were those in my family that would have said something like “he’s a cute little bugger, isn’t he?” and thought nothing of it. They most likely would have been completely unaware of any British sodomite connection with the word. FWIW they were mostly rural southerners originally, having come to So Cal in the 30’s and 40’s.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 10:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I don’t think it would get bleeped or draw the ire of the FCC, but that might depend on context.

The overwhelming majority of FCC fines are generated by complaints from the public--which means the right-wing groups that monitor the media for words they consider offensive. If these groups don’t recognize the word as offensive, it won’t trigger a fine. And the crowd that engages in such monitoring are not likely to be the ones who are aware of British profanity.

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Posted: 14 April 2008 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The Britishism sod also comes to mind. Has it not lost it buggery connotations even in the UK?

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Posted: 14 April 2008 11:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yes, rarely if ever used in the sodomite sense, I’d say. Latest cite in the OED is this one:

1968 S. JAMESON White Crow xxxiv. 291 Homosexuals are always getting themselves assaulted. You read that some respectable middle-aged bachelor has been beaten insensible on the stairway of his Mayfair flat, and invariably it turns out that he was a sod.

It’s become completely divorced from its original now, I don’t think anyone in the UK would understand it in that way (and I suspect that even in 1968 the word in the cite might have been misinterpreted without the guidance of the initial sentence).

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Posted: 15 April 2008 02:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Bugger isn’t particularly offensive in the UK either - though its not polite usage. Most Brits are probably aware of the actual meaning in the backs of their minds but it gets used as a mild curse usually. You could say, for example, “he’s an old bugger he is” and just mean the person was awkward and annoying.

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Posted: 15 April 2008 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Indeed, although calling someone a “sod” normally carries a harsher judgment than calling them a “bugger”.

There was a young girl from Cape Cod
Who swore she’d been buggered by God
But it wasn’t the Almighty
Who lifted her nightie
It was Roger the lodger, the sod!

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Posted: 15 April 2008 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Use of the the word isn’t necessarily confined to the cursing and/or unrefined classes.  Although somewhat of an urban legend with various incorrect versions in circulation, there appears to be an authoritative confirmation in Kenneth Rose’s biography George V (1983).  The King suffered a serious illness in the winter of 1928-29 and went on a recuperative vist to Bognor, his favourite watering-place. The King’s librarian (Sir Owen Morshead) records that at the time of the King’s departure from Bognor, the leading citizens came to ask that their salubrious town should henceforth be known as Bognor Regis. The King’s private secretary (Stamfordham) consulted the King who responded with the celebrated obscenity, “Bugger Bognor.” Needless to say, the tactful secretary proceeded to tell the grateful citizens that, “His Majesty would be graciously pleased to grant their request.”

Talk about King’s English!

Edited for typo

[ Edited: 15 April 2008 08:19 PM by Skibberoo ]
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Posted: 16 April 2008 03:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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With reference to Aldi’s post, although I agree that ‘sod’ is nowadays rarely if ever used primarily in its literal meaning, most people would be aware of it.

In the late 1970s at university several of us formed a loose collective that wrote limericks in the suggestion book about our contemporaries. As it was felt that we would eventually be rumbled, one of the major contributors wrote what he considered the most damning about himself, to pre-empt any moaning from the victims. Unfortunately, the structure of the limerick means destroying his anonymity, but I don’t suppose it’s likely that anyone will recognise him from it.

A pox-ridden pervert named Dodd
Had habits exceedingly odd.
He’d cavort on the grass
With some fruit up his arse
Till he pounced on a suitable sod.

As he was fond of pointing out, it was possible to read this as a scenario involving one, two or three participants, depending on one’s interpretation of ‘fruit’ and ‘sod’.

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Posted: 16 April 2008 08:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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flynn999 - 15 April 2008 02:59 AM

Bugger isn’t particularly offensive in the UK either - though its not polite usage. Most Brits are probably aware of the actual meaning in the backs of their minds but it gets used as a mild curse usually. You could say, for example, “he’s an old bugger he is” and just mean the person was awkward and annoying.

So in “Sod that!”, “Bugger me”, “Bugger me with a pitch fork”, “Bugger me sideways”, etc, etc, no one is thinking sod or bugger is anything remotely sexual? ;-)

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Posted: 16 April 2008 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I read somewhere about a young girl approaching her mother and asking what ‘buggery’ meant. The mother was a right-on libertarian lady and explained but then thought to ask where her daughter had come across the word. She showed her the copy of A Christmas Carol she had been reading where ‘humbuggery’ had been broken between lines. Urban legend, I reckon.

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Posted: 16 April 2008 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Since the word “humbuggery” does not appear in either of the two online texts of A Christmas Carol that I searched, I would say that the story is, indeed, false.

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