Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bug n.4

[SE bug, an insect, usu. a beetle or similar; note also sense meaning a microbe, a germ]

1. [late 18C–early 19C] (Anglo-Irish) an Englishman [the belief that English settlers imported insects to Ireland in mid-18C].

2. that which supposedly resembles a SE bug, insect or other creature.

(a) [mid-19C–1920s] a breast-pin.

(b) [late 19C–1930s] (US gambling) any device that aids cheating.

(c) [late 19C+] (US) a small object of any kind.

(d) [1910s–60s] (Can.) an old car rebuilt as a hot rod.

(e) [1910s+] (US) a small car, esp. the Volkswagen Beetle; also attrib.

(f) [1920s–40s] (US) a telegraph transmission key.

(g) [1920s–50s] (US) a makeshift lantern or flashlight.

(h) [1920s+] (US Und.) a burglar alarm.

(i) [1920s] identification, suspicion; i.e. fig. use of sense 2g or 2h.

(j) [1930s] (US Und.) a time clock.

(k) [1940s+] (orig. US) any form of electronic surveillance gadget.

(l) [1960s] (US black) a trick.

(m) [1960s+] (Can./US prison) a homemade water heater for making coffee.

(n) [1990s+] (Aus.) a Moreton Bay crab.

3. in fig. senses, having a ‘bug’ in the head.

(a) [mid-19C] dishonesty; esp. in phr. put a/the bug in/on, to fool, to tease.

(b) [mid-19C+] (orig. US) an enthusiast, a fan, a devotee; thus bugess, a female fan.

(c) [late 19C+] an obsession; often in combs., e.g. travel bug, a desire to go travelling.

(d) [20C+] an insane, unstable person.

(e) [20C+] an idea.

(f) [1900s] (US) a fool.

(g) see bug doctor

(h) [1950s] (US Und.) a prostitute’s client.

(i) [1950s] (US) a (left-wing) ‘soapbox’ orator.

(j) [1960s–70s] a cheat, an unreliable person.

(k) [1970s+] a lottery ticket.

(l) [2000s] (US prison) a fight.

4. as a problem, a difficulty.

(a) [late 19C+] (orig. US) a defect, a problem in any form of machine (inc. computers and their software).

(b) [1930s+] any form of error or delay.

5. as a disease.

(a) [1900s–50s] (US Und.) an open sore on the arm which is kept from healing and used to enhance one’s efforts at begging; also used by prisoners to get into the prison hospital; thus constr. with the, the form of begging that employs such a wound.

(b) [1920s+] an illness, a disease.

(c) [1940s–50s] (US) as the bug(s), tuberculosis.

(d) [1950s] as the bug, malaria.

(e) [1990s+] as the bug, AIDS.

6. [1940s] usu. as the bugs, crabs, body or hair lice.

In compounds

bug cell (n.)

[1940s+] (US prison) a padded cell.

bug-chaser (n.)

[1990s+] one who aims deliberately to become infected with HIV/AIDS.

bug doctor (n.) (also bug, bug doc)

[20C+] any form of expert dealing with mental problems, a psychoanalyst, a psychologist etc.

bug fug (adj.)

[1970s] (US) crazy.

bughouse (n.)

see separate entry.

bug-hunter (n.)

see separate entry.

bug inspector (n.)

[1900s] (US) a psychiatrist.

bug juice (n.) [SE juice/juice n.1 (3). Orig. the Schlechter whisky drunk by the Pennsylvania Dutch, cheap and second-rate; subseq. generic for any bad whisky; note 1930s Annapolis jargon bug juice, meat gravy]

1. [mid-19C+] (Can./US, also bug poison) illicitly distilled whisky; thus any form of alcohol, esp. cheap and appealing to alcoholics; also attrib; thus bug-juice joint, a tavern specialising in such liquor.

2. [late 19C+] (Can./US, also buggy juice) a soft drink.

3. [1940s+] (UK prison) a sedative drug used for controlling violent or non-cooperative prisoners.

4. [1940s+] (Can./US) petrol.

5. [1940s+] (Can./US) a mix of saliva and tobacco juice that forms the residue or ‘dottle’ in a pipe.

6. [1940s+] (Can./US) insecticide.

7. [1940s–50s] (US Und.) knockout drops.

bugman (n.)

[1960s] one who plants and conducts clandestine surveillance with electronic equipment.

bug test (n.)

[1930s–50s] (US prison) an intelligence test.

bug ward (n.)

1. [1900s] (US) a psychiatric institution.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

In phrases

bugged on (adj.)

[1940s–50s] (US black) obsessed with, very enthusiastic about.

coke bugs (n.) (also cocaine bug(s), crank bugs, speed bugs) [coke n.1 (1)/crank n.2 (2)/speed n. (6)]

[1910s+] (drugs) a side effect of an excessive consumption of cocaine, amphetamine or amphetamine-type drugs: the sufferer believes insects are living beneath their skin and scratches desperately in order to remove them.

have a bug on (v.) (also sport a bug on)

[1930s–70s] (US) to be in a bad temper.

have a bug up one’s ass (v.) (also have a bug in one’s ass, ...up one’s behind, …butt, ...rump, ...tail, get a bug up one’s ass) [1940s+] (US) [ass n. (2)/behind n. (1)/tail n. (1)]

1. to be acting nervously, to fidget.

2. to be in a bad mood.

3. to have an obsession.

have bugs (in the head) (v.) (also have bugs in one’s brain, …cotton, …wig)

[late 19C+] (orig. US) to be mentally unstable.

put a bug in someone’s ear (v.)

[1900s–50s] (US) to confide a secret to someone.

put a bug on (v.)

[1900s] (US) to hit, to silence.

put the bug on (v.)

[1930s] (US Und.) to burn a young tramp’s flesh to improve his appeal when begging.

shoot a bug (v.)

[1900s] (US prison) to feign insanity.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

bugology (n.) [-ology n. ]

[mid-19C+] (US campus) biology, entomology; thus bugologist n., an entomologist.

In compounds

bug bomb (n.)

[1940s+] (US) an aerosol insecticide.

bug-eater (n.) [ext. uses of SE; the poverty-stricken appearance of the inhabitants; at some stage of the 19C the state was overrun by locusts (i.e. bugs) and a serious attempt was made to persuade the impoverished country-people to adopt them as a diet] [19C] (US)

1. an inhabitant of Nebraska.

2. an unimportant or worthless person.

bugfucker (n.) [SE bug, an insect + fucker n. (1)]

[1970s] (US) a man with an extremely small penis.

bughouse (n.)

see separate entry.

bughunter (n.)

see separate entry.

bug hutch (n.)

[1910s] a small hut or sleeping place.

bug-proof (adj.)

[1910s] (UK Und.) in a drunken stupor, i.e. unable to feel the bites of bed bugs.

bug rake (n.)

[1930s+] a comb.

bug’s age (n.)

[1930s] (US) a very long time.

bug trap (n.) [SE (bed)bug + trap] (US)

1. [1920s] a verminous lodging house.

2. [1960s] a bed.

bug walk (n.) [SE bug + walk. Note milit. jargon bug-run, a parting]

1. [mid-19C–early 20C] a bed.

2. [late 19C] the parting of the hair.

3. [late 19C] (Aus.) a small road.

4. a boarding-house.

bug wit (n.) (also bug-wug)

(Aus./US) a fool.

In phrases

bug in one’s ear (n.) [fig. use of SE bug] [20C+] (US)

1. a friendly warning.

2. rumour, gossip.