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

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: bug, a nick name given by the Irish to Englishmen; bugs having (it is said) been introduced into Ireland by the English.
[Ire] ‘Patrick’s Day in the Morning’ Luke Caffrey’s Gost 3: But we made the Bugs for to remember, / The 17th of March when each brave member, / Did oil their hides with Irish timber.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]York Herald 12 Apr. 12/5: The Irish have denoted the English [...] by a contemptuous ‘Bugs’.

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

(a) a breast-pin.

[US] ‘Hundred Stretches Hence’ in Matsell Vocabulum 124: The chips, the fawneys, chatty-feeders, / The bugs, the boungs, and well-filled readers.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 359: The Detectives’ Manual gives a glossary of this language, from which we take the following specimens [...] Bug. – A breast-pin.
[US]W.W. Fowler Ten Years In Wall Street 43: A flunkey in livery, on the back seat with a bug on his hat.
[US]Trumble Sl. Dict. (1890).
[US]Wash. Post 11 Nov. Misc. 3/4: He is never wanted in society skilled or practiced enough to take a ‘bug,’ which is argot for a diamond pin.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 440: Bug, A breast pin.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(b) (US gambling) any device that aids cheating.

[US] in J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 241: The ‘Bug,’ a contrivance for playing an extra card, utterly defying detection, price $1.00.
[US]F. Francis Jr Saddle and Mocassin 228: A tender-foot got in amongst the gamblers [...] and what with ‘strippers,’ and ‘stocking,’ and ‘cold decks,’ and ‘bugs,’ and ‘reflectors,’ and ‘codes,’ and so forth, he hadn’t the ghost of a show.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Finger Man’ in Pearls Are a Nuisance (1964) 66: The wheel is the one they took away from me. It’s got bugs – and I know the bugs.
[US](con. 1944) E.M. Nathanson Dirty Dozen (2002) 235: Slots an cahds an craps an evuhbody playin thuh bug.

(c) (US) a small object of any kind.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US] in J. Breslin Damon Runyon (1992) 296: Marketing a hearing aid that consisted of a metal bug to be fitted into the air.

(d) (Can.) an old car rebuilt as a hot rod.

[US]Hepster’s Dict. 4: Father’s bug – Car.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 147/2: 1919–39.

(e) (US, also beetlebug) a small car, esp. the Volkswagen Beetle; also attrib.

[US]S. Lewis Free Air 21: It was a tin beetle of a car, that agile, cheerful rut-jumping model known as a ‘bug’.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 181: I’ve had an offer from the village taxi service for six hundred for the lot, including Mr. Peter’s little bug.
[Aus]G. Casey Snowball 229: They arranged the cars [...] Elkery’s utility, and a road-bug belonging to the nurse, round the clustered buildings.
Pittsburgh Post Gaz. (PA) 24 Oct. 29/1: This has been the bug’s biggest selling point [...] Instead of changing its looks every year, VW improved its insides.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 100: She has this little VW bug.
[Aus]M. Walker How to Kiss a Crocodile 65: Reality of a brisk Peruvian morning was jumping into the back seat of a local cab - a rust-bucket that used to be a beetlebug (Volkswagen).
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 281: Her banged-up yellow Volkswagen Bug.
[UK]Observer Mag. 15 Aug. 53: I went to a few Bug Jams – gatherings of people with classic Beetles.
[UK]Guardian 2 May 15/3: Thousands of spectators gathered for the 33rd May Bug meeting [...] to watch a parade of VW Beetles, known as Bugs.

(f) (US) a telegraph transmission key.

M. Fry ‘Ham Lingo’ AS V:I 48: bug – extra fast type of telegraph key, the ‘Vibroflex’.
[US] ‘Gloss. of Army Sl.’ AS XVI:3 164: bug. Speed key on transmitter (Signal Corps).
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 147/2: since ca. 1910.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Breslin Damon Runyon (1992) 209: The telegrapher [...] tapped out the Morse code to the newspaper sports department, where another telegrapher typed as he listened to the bug.

(g) (US) a makeshift lantern or flashlight.

[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 201: Bug – Same as bitch. These are lamps for the jungle.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 111: I [...] sent the bright beam from my ‘bug’ from one end of the car to the other.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(h) (US Und.) a burglar alarm.

[US]E. Booth Stealing Through Life 284: ‘Keeping ’em from touching off a bug’ – that is, preventing any clerk from pressing an alarm button.
[US]San Quentin Bulletin in L.A. Times 6 May 7: BUG, burglar alarm.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 118: I think somebody touched off a bug inside the bank.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 199: bug, n. – a burglar alarm.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 246: bug (n) 1. Burglar alarm. USA, since about 1890.

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

[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 183: Forget Higby, I’m only putting the bug on my own back.

(j) (US Und.) a time clock.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 14/2: Bug, [...] a time clock.

(k) (orig. US) any form of electronic surveillance gadget.

[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 172: Both the CIO and the AFL have ‘bugs’ on his telephone wires to see that he stays in line.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Room to Swing 164: Soon as Kay plants the bug, I’ll give three short blasts of the car horn—meaning the bug is sending okay.
[US]D. Pendleton Executioner (1973) 42: Gadgets has bugs all over Giordano’s house.
[US]E. Torres Q&A 177: We got a bug on Bobby Tex’s wire.
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 185: McDonald got the court’s approval to install electronic bugs.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 201: You sort out a bug on their ’phones.
[UK]T. Blacker Kill Your Darlings 100: It began to seem as if he were in possession of some kind of bug which tapped into my creative consciousness.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 281: That’s off an O[rganised] C[rime] bug in Vento’s bar.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] A sweep for bugs and tracking devices and a quick paranoid check for severed brake lines.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 48: Roy electronically swept the motor, and his slaughter daily for bugs.

(l) (US black) a trick.

[US] ‘The Fall’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 83: She dropped many a bug on many a mug / Too numerous to call their name.

(m) (Can./US prison) a homemade water heater for making coffee.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 66: Bug also Stinger An electrical device that heats water. Most bugs are used to heat water one cup at a time for coffee or tea.

(n) (Aus.) a Moreton Bay crab.

[Aus]R.G. Barrett White Shoes 109: Kramer had barbecued Moreton Bay bugs for entree.

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

(a) dishonesty; esp. in phr. put a/the bug in/on, to fool, to tease.

[US]‘Major Jones’ Sketches of Travel 126: They say the people of Stunnington [...] live on fish so much that they smell like whale oil, and have scales on their backs. This may be a bug what they put on me.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Back to the Woods 12: I blame Bunch Jefferson for putting the bug in my Central.

(b) (orig. US) an enthusiast, a fan, a devotee; thus bugess, a female fan.

[US]Eve. Star (N.Y.) 6 May 2/5: None of the ‘corps editorial,’ alias ‘the bugs’ will be admitted, except on special occasions.
[US]Congressional Globe June 133: Mr. Alford of Georgia warned the ‘tariff bugs’ of the South that [...] he would read them out of church [DA].
[US]Omaha Dly Bee (NE) 1 Mar. 23/4: There goes the stud bug of arithmetic!
[US]Wash. Post 24 July 17/3: And, at the end, the score stood at 14 to 4, in favour of whom? yes, the ‘Bugs!’.
[US]N.Y. Eve. Journal 25 Sept. in Fleming Unforgettable Season (1981) 253: Local ‘bugs’ and ‘bugesses’ can keep their lingerie on.
[US]Burlington Wkly Free Press (VT) 12 Nov. 11/3: [headline] Fire Bugs Arrested. Police trying to connect them with recent big fires.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Champion’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 120: You can eat up here without no bugs to pester you.
[US]Goodwin’s Wkly (Salt Lake City) 21 July 3/1: McGee is becoming a regular Auto Bug.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 275: Pyromaniacs or ‘fire bugs’ are persons suffering from a disease of the mind.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Baseball Hattie’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 644: I see many a baseball bug in my time.
[US]G. McMillan Old Breed 219: One man was a souvenir bug, and carried a special ditty bag in which he kept Japanese flags, buttons [...] money.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Room to Swing 15: I’m a TV bug.
[US]T. Williams Night of the Iguana Act I: He’s a bug, a fanatic about – whew! – continental cuisine.
[US]J.D. Horan Blue Messiah 65: That son of a bitch Farrell’s a bug on kids talkin’ in the halls.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 118: Gail’s the music bug.
[US]R. Price Breaks 16: Mrs. Bambara was probably the only camera bug who could squeeze off a shot with a cigarette butt hanging from her lips.
[US]F. Kellerman Stalker (2001) 1: Farin was a bug on safety.

(c) an obsession; often in combs., e.g. travel bug, a desire to go travelling.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 79: This fellow’s spiel got the horse bug to buzzing beneath the hat again.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Get Next 45: Peaches my wife, acquired the amateur photography bug last week.
[UK]D. Lowrie My Life in Prison 56: He used t’ be th’ best confidence man in th’ business, but he’s got th’ religious bug now.
[US]R. Lardner Big Town ii: Beautiful Katie still had the automobile bug.
[Aus]A. Russell Tramp-Royal 221: You writing chaps do get queer bugs at times. What you doing it for—fun?
[US]F.H. Hubbard Railroad Avenue 4: City boys, too, were bitten by the railroad bug.
[US]Kerouac On the Road (The Orig. Scroll) (2007) 217: Now the bug was on me again and the bug’s name was Neal Cassady.
[US]Mad mag. Sept.–Oct. 43: Today, they’ve got magazines for Hi-Fi bugs.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 10: [We] yelled and talked excitedly and I was beginning to get the bug like Dean.
[US]E. Shepard Doom Pussy 55: When I get the writing bug I go to town.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 16 Sept. 29: My son David was interested until he got bitten by the banking bug.
[US]Source Nov. 41: After taking a film theory course [...] Sayeed got bitten by the movie bug.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 85: Mack got the California bug after gsi god D.W. hightailed it [...] to sunnier climes.

(d) an insane, unstable person.

[US]‘Sleepy’ Burke Prison Gates Ajar 9: I [...] was landed in a ‘nut college’ (insane asylum). It was the custom then to take the ‘bugs’ (inmates) out to play ball every afternoon.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 227: She suttenly is a ravin’ bug when she begins.
[US]R. Lardner ‘My Roomy’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 328: Don’t never call me a bug again. They got me roomin’ with the champion o’ the world.
[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words And Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 232: bug, n. [...] An insane person [Said to have bugs, i.e. whimsical notions, in his brain].
[US]C. Panzram Journal of Murder in Gaddis & Long (2002) 169: Judging by the tone of your letter, you now figure I am a bug of some kind. A fire bug or a homicidal maniac.
[US]L.E. Lawes Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing 34: Clinton Prison attempted to solve this problem by assembling all the prison ‘bugs’ in one company.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 36: They were a pack of bugs thinking they could outsmart a world.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 792: bug – An insane or simple-minded individual.
[US]R. Stone Dog Soldiers (1976) 64: What about that bug up in Yellowstone Park? He had his pockets full of human finger bones. He ate his victims.
[US]T. Fontana ‘Capital P’ Oz ser. 1 ep. 4 [TV script] ‘They’re going to start a psychiatric evaluation of you.’ ‘They think I’m a bug?’.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Bug: A crazy person.

(e) an idea.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Skidoo! 96: What are you going to do with a man who has a bug like that?

(f) (US) a fool.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 25: bug, n. A stupid person.
[US]H.G. Van Campen ‘Life on Broadway’ in McClure’s Mag. Mar. 35/2: Them guys must think I’m a reg’lar bug.

(g) see bug doctor

(h) (US Und.) a prostitute’s client.

[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 191: Hundreds of bugs, loaded with gold [...] willing to pay somebody to make them happy. [Ibid.] 193: By the way he says it I know whether he’s the law or a bug.

(i) (US) a (left-wing) ‘soapbox’ orator.

[US]F.O. Beck Hobohemia 68: The roving ‘bug’ holding down the soapbox near the invaluable drinking fountain is Mr. Johnson, Triphammer Johnson to be exact.

(j) a cheat, an unreliable person.

[US]C. Cooper Jr Weed (1998) 124: You couldn’t do business with anyone more responsible [...] Ruckson wasn’t a bug.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 205: If we’d dropped the bomb on them goddamn bugs when we had the chance, the world would be in a lot finer fix.

(k) a lottery ticket.

[US]R. Stone Hall of Mirrors (1987) 94: ‘Want to buy a bug?’ [...] ‘Hell, give me one,’ Geraldine said, going into her bag again. ‘I’ll play with ye. Give me one for him, too. This is his lucky day’ [...] She took the change and handed over two green slips with red numbers printed on them.

(l) (US prison) a fight.

[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Bug: Fight. (OH).

4. as a problem, a difficulty.

(a) (orig. US) a defect, a problem in any form of machine (inc. computers and their software).

[UK]Pall Mall Gazette 11 Mar. 1/1: Mr. Edison [...] had been up the two previous nights discovering ‘a bug’ in his phonograph – an expression for solving a difficulty, and implying that some imaginary insect has secreted itself inside and is causing all the trouble.
[UK] press cutting in J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 53/2: The phraseology of Edison, to judge from his day-book records, is synthetic, strongly descriptive, and quaint . . . A ‘bug’ is a difficulty which appears insurmountable to the staff. To the master it is ‘an ugly insect that lives on the lazy, and can and must be killed.’.
[UK]Hall & Niles One Man’s War (1929) 211: I believe that the machine is a triumph. If the ‘bugs’ can be detected and overcome it will give us mastery of the air.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 272: Maybe you found a lot of typographical bugs in that manuscript.
[US]G.C. Hall Jr 1000 Destroyed 135: The mechanical bugs in Mustangs, which had caused some losses and held the score down.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 167: The Holden motor-car [is] now well freed of the ‘bugs’ which dogged the first ones off the assembly line.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]W.C. Anderson Penelope 51: We’ve got some bugs to work out, but the project is going pretty well.
[UK]Guardian G2 30 June 5: Operators try to sort out all the bugs and glitches.
[UK]Guardian 11 Jan. 4: The millennium bug caused just 67 significant computer failures across the world in the first week of the new year.

(b) any form of error or delay.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 2: bug – flaw, usually major, in an idea: Well I just found the bug in our Christmas party plans – there’s a basketball game that day.

5. as a disease.

(a) (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.

[US]N.Y. Times 27 Jan. Sun. Mag. 4: The boys were given a ‘bug’; that is, their left forearms or their left ankles were burned with lye or caustic, causing an ugly sore, then the arm or foot was bandaged in such a way that the wounds were uncovered and excited the pity of the people on the streets. The ‘bug’ [...] earn as much as $20 a day to the ‘jocker.’.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 20: bug Used by alms beggars. A fearful looking sore artificially produced to simulate a burn or scald by the use of Spanish-blister.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 440: Bugs, Faked sores.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 38: bug.– [...] An artificial sore or wound, made by applying acid or a blister, such as ‘Spanish Fly,’ to the skin. Formerly much used by beggars to excite sympathy, and by prisoners to gain admittance to the prison hospital, where conditions were easier than in the cells.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 35/1: Bug, n. [...] 2. (P) Any self-inflicted wound, sore, irritation, etc., to shirk work or secure drugs.

(b) an illness, a disease.

[US]E. Anderson Thieves Like Us (1999) 115: The bug is gettin’ me down.
[US](con. 1944) J.H. Burns Gallery (1948) 292: Ya must meet thousands of V.D.’s comin through here for their shots. I’m just another one with the dirty bug.
[US]J. Blake letter 31 Mar. in Joint (1972) 115: I caught the bug while nursing Rocco through a siege of it.
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 115: A couple of guys with the bug. You know, the virus.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) 47: You better call the school and tell them we’ve all got the bug.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 178: ‘You definitely do not look overly brill.’ ‘I think I must have a bug or something.’.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 247: You look a bit peaky. Probably just a touch of this little bug that’s doing the rounds.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 4 Jan. 8: The problem, he insisted, was ‘a bug I picked up in Africa’.

(c) (US) as the bug(s), tuberculosis.

[US]T. Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel (1930) 149: Upstairs [...] a thin-faced Jew coughed through the interminable dark. ‘In heaven’s name, mamma,’ Helen fumed, ‘why do you take them in? Can’t you see he’s got the bugs?’.
[US]W. Coburn Law Rides the Range 60: Yep. Got the bug in my lungs, Doc.
[US]W. Smith Bessie Cotter 53: I think it’s the bugs [...] The old T.B.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 150: He withdrew a tissue, spit in it and tossed it to the floor. Puff had the bug and wanted to infect the whole world.
[US] in J.P. Spradley You Owe Yourself a Drunk (1988) 61: I’m [...] glad the T.B. diagnosis was negative. I do not believe the ‘bug’ could survive long in my alky cooling and fuel steam.
[UK]D. Jarman letter 6 July Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) 31: ‘Liverish,’ I said ‘those TB bugs jaundice the view, like cracked and yellowing varnish.’.

(d) as the bug, malaria.

[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 241: ‘You got the bug.’ ‘Malaria?’ ‘Yes.’.

(e) as the bug, AIDS.

[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 14: He’s left wondering whether the virus has caught Tony and thinned him out. Nowadays The Bug is all over Fayette Street.
[US]Simon & Burns ‘The Pager’ Wire ser. 1 ep. 5 [TV script] He sayin’ you can’t catch the bug just by gettin’ your dick sucked.
[US]Simon & Mills ‘React Quotes’ Wire ser. 5 ep. 5 [TV script] This ain’t about the bug.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 271: The local girl he was banging had caught the bug and probably given it to him.

6. usu. as the bugs, crabs, body or hair lice.

[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 229: I am bothered with bugs in my hay.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 20: Only the officers can catch the bugs.

In compounds

bug cell (n.)

(US prison) a padded cell.

[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 205: The cons up there were either in bug cells or deadlock.
H. Toch Men in Crisis 122: And after I cut up, they put me in the bug cell. And then I seen this same doctor again.
bug-chaser (n.)

one who aims deliberately to become infected with HIV/AIDS.

[US]R. Scott Rebecca’s Dict. of Queer Sl. [Internet] bug chaser — a person (usually a gay man) who wants to catch HIV.
[US]POZ Dec. [Internet] Sean announces he has HIV. Ruffling Jeff’s hair, he adds, ‘Jeff and I are together. Through everything.’ Stricken, the doc asks, ‘So, what?...You a bug chaser, Jeff?’.
drudgereport.com [Internet] 24 Jan. The story says that ‘Cabaj estimates that at least twenty-five percent of all newly infected gay men’ are either purposefully seeking infection or are ‘actively seeking HIV but are in denial and wouldn’t call themselves bug chasers.’.
M. Farren Speed-Speed-Speedfreak 123: A ‘bug chaser’ is [...] the HiV negative man who deliberately becomes infected with HiV.
bug doctor (n.) (also bug, bug doc)

any form of expert dealing with mental problems, a psychoanalyst, a psychologist etc.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Beat It 113: The next time you give a dinner party cut out that bug doctor.
[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 211: These psy-psych- bug doctors [...] come over here and give us the bug tests.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 96: Wash yer face. You’re goin’ to the bug doc.
H.B. Darrach Jr. ‘Sticktown Nocturne’ in Baltimore Sun (MD) 12 Aug. A-1/4: Big Harry had hustled her to [...] the bucket, where thjey had ‘put a bug’ on her [...] he had asked her if she thought she was ‘unstable’.
[US]N. Algren ‘Watch Out for Daddy’ in Entrapment (2009) 134: Spook-docs and croakers, bug docs and such, meatballs and matrons, nurses and all.
[US]Murtagh & Harris Who Live In Shadow (1960) 54: Hey, Simpy, the bug doctor’s calling for you. How come the bug doctor wants you, kid? You freakish!
[UK](con. 1940s) G. Morrill Dark Sea Running 21: The bug-doctor is gonna drop a net on you, dopey bastard.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 177: A cat goes to a bug doctor and gets his head examined.
M. Cantwell Labyrinth of love 62: My therapist, Miss Pinsky, the one you call the bug doctor.
bug fug (adj.)

(US) crazy.

[US]D. Ponicsan Last Detail 74: You two bastards are trying to drive me bug-fug in the head, right?
bughouse (n.)

see separate entry.

bug-hunter (n.)

see separate entry.

bug inspector (n.)

(US) a psychiatrist.

[US]Bud Fisher ‘A. Mutt’ [comic strip] Prof. Cottonface, bug inspector, in his report said, ‘[...] he has a vacuum in his brain case.’.
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. (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.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Half-dime Tales 181/2: Provided the government would furnish all the men with straw hats and bug-juice (whisky) twice a day.
[US]Memphis Cly Appeal 31 Dec. 3/4: The ‘boys’ at Louisville have coined the term ‘jig-water’ to what is familiarly known here as ‘bug-juice,’ and in Cincinnati as ‘eye-water’.
[US]Chicago Street Gazette 20 Oct. n.p.: Little Kittie, of Stiles, says she has been on a big drunk. You had better look out, Kit, or the bug juice will get the best of you.
‘O’Reilly’ [US army poem] O’Reilly’s gone to Hell, since down the pole he fell, / He drank up all the bug juice, the Whiskey Man would sell.
[US]Texas Siftings 7 July n.p.: Nearly every character introduced by Dickens into his numerous novels was addicted to drinking [...] each and every individual took his bug-poison with surprising regularity [DA].
[US]W. Kansas World (Wakeeney, KS) 11 May 4/1: The News has been informed of the existence of a bug-juice joint at Ness City.
[US]D.J. O’Malley ‘The Cowboy Wishes’ in Stock Grower’s Journal 7 Apr. [Internet] I’ll get plumb full of bug juice / And shoot up the whole town / When I start out to have a time, / You-bet I’ll do it brown.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 17 June 1/4: By Bugjuice! What a heart is mine! / Now mark my proud positon, / A brewer.
[UK]Marvel XV 4 Jan. 373: Dick [...] strode up to the bar and called for a swig of bug-juice, by which name they termed whisky.
[US]C. M’Govern By Bolo and Krag 31: Drink till you’re so sick you’ll swear you’ll never smell another drop of bug-juice.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 6 Feb. 2nd sect. 4/8: The ‘South Beach Banner’ has been holding over its most sensational news in order to make room for panegyrics on Tom Humphries’ barmaids and bug-juice.
[US]Sun (NY) 9 Apr. 10/7: [List provided by a doctor in the alcoholic ward at Bellevue — terms from ambulance drivers] [...] full of bug juice, full of suds, full as a bed bug.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 75: Only through moments of relaxation did we get sloughed when we had to fill our systems with several slugs of bug-juice.
[US](con. 1820s) W.E. Wilson Wabash 228: Abe had no taste for the blue ruin, the bug juice, [...] that was consumed in those days in great quantities.
[US]W. Guthrie Seeds of Man (1995) 335: How’d ya vote right now [...] on a good stiff slug of our bug juice?
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]Fond Du Lac (WI) Reporter 13 Oct. 8/3: Saloon keepers called the stuff they pushed across the bars to cowboys whisky. What the cowboys called it, however, was ‘bug juice,’ ‘gut warmer,’ ‘nose paint,’ ‘red eye,’ ‘rotgut,’ ‘scamper juice,’ ‘snake poison’ or ‘tonsil varnish.’.
[Can]R. Caron Go-Boy! 256: Bloated on bug juice [...] Morris slurred, ‘Why wait ’til later, ol’ buddy?’.
[US]W.T. Vollmann You Bright and Risen Angels (1988) 157: Following one of the girls who had drunk too much bug juice.
(con. 1919) Howard Hickson’s Histories [Internet] Out here in the wild and wooly West where bug juice, corn, dust cutter, and fire water were everyday words, alcohol sellers went underground.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 205: Even with my bug-juice hangover, I almost laughed.

2. (Can./US, also buggy juice) a soft drink.

[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]J.W. Bishop ‘Amer. Army Speech’ in AS XXI:4 Dec. 244: Powdered synthetic lemon juice, alleged to contain vitamin C and very prevalent in K rations, which I have sometimes heard called ‘battery acid’ and ‘bug juice.’.
[US]W. Guthrie Seeds of Man (1995) 383: Buggy juice?
[US]D. Lebofsky Lex. of Phila. Metropolitan Area n.p.: Bug juice.
[US](con. 1968) D.A. Dye Citadel (1989) 24: White whiskies were mixed with Kool-Aid or the ‘bug juice’ they served in the field messes.
[UK](con. 1956) P. Theroux My Secret Hist. (1990) 51: Are you sure that’s bug juice?

3. (UK prison) a sedative drug used for controlling violent or non-cooperative prisoners.

[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 35/2: Bug-juice. (P) Ammonia or tear-gas discharge. ‘Some ghee with a bum clock (bad heart) near kicked off (died) when the screws (guards) threw that bug-juice at him.’.

4. (Can./US) petrol.

[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

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

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

6. (Can./US) insecticide.

[US] in C. Browne Body Shop 43: The leeches are like leather, the only way to kill them is with cigarettes or bug juice.
[US](con. 1953) Pepper & Pepper Straight Life 140: They squirt this bug juice underneath your arms [...] and they squirt it all around your joint.
[US](con. 1967) E. Spencer Welcome to Vietnam (1989) 90: Insect repellent smells like kerosene. I pour slick, oily bug juice all over myself.
[US]C. Hiaasen Nature Girl 159: The woman from the trailer park [...] stood spritzing her arms with bug juice.

7. (US Und.) knockout drops.

[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
bugman (n.)

one who plants and conducts clandestine surveillance with electronic equipment.

[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 524: Twenty grand for you. Ten each for your bait, your backup, and your bug man.
bug test (n.)

(US prison) an intelligence test.

[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 211: These psy-psych- bug doctors [...] come over here and give us the bug tests. [Ibid.] 271: Bug tests are strictly the bunk!
[US]Charleston (WV) Daily Mail 2 Sept. 6/4: Psychologist James Hargan of Sing Sing prison has collected slang phrases from prisoners [...] ‘bug test’ – intelligence test.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 35/2: Bug-test. A psychiatric or psychometric test, regarded suspiciously by criminals as an attempt to find them insane.
bug ward (n.)

1. (US) a psychiatric institution.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 163: Not having the price of a rest in a bug-ward at twenty-five per.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 6: Pretty tough to have to spend Sunday in the bug ward.
[US]Collier’s 68 248/3: You and your observations! Some fine, sunny day they’ll land you in the Bellevue bug ward.
J. Gray Third Strike 26: This is Bellevue Hospital, the bug ward. You’re under observation.
A.A. Grapevine 8 30/2: One session of 31 days in the bug ward of the county hospital plus three or four jolts in jails.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 106: If I could have had that young bug-ward doctor to myself for about ten minutes well, he’d have learned something they didn’t tell him at Bellevue.

In phrases

bugged on (adj.)

(US black) obsessed with, very enthusiastic about.

[US]O. Duke Sideman 414: Madame Luke gonna get her a screen test, for these art films she’s bugged on.
[US]R.S. Gold Jazz Lex. 42: bugged on [variant of bugged; current c.1943-c.1953, rare since [...] ] Obsessed with; dedicated to; exceeedingly enthusiastic about.
coke bugs (n.) (also cocaine bug(s), crank bugs, speed bugs) [coke n.1 (1)/crank n.2 (2)/speed n. (6)]

(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.

[UK]A.B. Reeve Constance Dunlap 301: Yes, I know what you are going to tell me. Soon I’ll be ‘hunting the cocaine bug,’ as they call it, imagining that in my skin, under the flesh, are worms crawling, perhaps see them, see the little animals running around and biting me.
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 21: ‘Coke bugs!’ she exclaimed in surprise. ‘You’ve seen “fiends” have them, of course. Imagine bugs are under the skin. Comes from seeing the shadow of the needle on your arm when you’re taking a “shot”.’.
[UK]E. Murphy Black Candle 219: Coke ‘bugs.’ I get them under the skin, generally in the back.
[US]Pop. Mechanics Oct. 112/3: [advt] So many people have been totally convinced that bugs were crawling on or out of their skin, that the hallucination has a nickname: the coke bugs.
J. Shirley New Noir 37: Like picking holes in your skin trying to get coke bugs.
[UK]Observer 17 Oct. 5: A frequent hallucination is ‘speed bugs’ or ‘crank bugs’. The user believes bugs live under his or her skin and becomes desperate to get them out.
[UK]D. O’Donnell Locked Ward (2013) 171: A freaky sensation of insects crawling all over the skin [...] has been nicknamed ‘cocaine bugs’.
have a bug on (v.) (also sport a bug on)

(US) to be in a bad temper.

[US]G. Milburn ‘Convicts’ Jargon’ in AS VI:6 437: bug on, n. A grouch. ‘I’m sporting a bug on today.’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 35/2: Bug on, to have a. (P) To be in an ugly mood.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
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)(US) [ass n. (2)/behind n. (1)/tail n. (1)]

1. to be acting nervously, to fidget.

[UK](con. WWII) G. Sire Deathmakers 191: ‘They could have made us a lot more nervous,’ Brandon said. ‘Yeah, but it’s going to be tough shit if just one of them gets a bug up his ass.’.
[US]S. Frank Get Shorty [film script] Ray Bones is looking for you. He’s got some kinda bug up his ass, can’t sit still.

2. to be in a bad mood.

[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 118: The pier superintendent has a bug up his rump this morning.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 22: Beeker’s got a bug in his ass.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 158: If they get a bug up their ass and decide they dont like the looks of some guy they want to be able to fire him.
[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 154: You got a bug up your ass tonight?
[US]H. Selby Jr Song of the Silent Snow (1988) 85: She wants to play it that way what do I care. She has a bug upper ass that one, a bug upper ass.
W. Lamb I Know this Much is True 136: Thomas would get a bug up his ass if someone just knocked on the door or asked to borrow something.

3. to have an obsession.

[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 38: You have another bug up your behind. [Ibid.] 49: I was the only one who still had a bug up my tail.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
[US]D. Hecht Skull Session 281: But you can tell me if [...] there’s some other bug up this guy’s butt.
[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 460: When those vigs get a bug in their ass, they don’t quit.
have bugs (in the head) (v.) (also have bugs in one’s brain, …cotton, …wig)

(orig. US) to be mentally unstable.

Godey’s Mag. 135 151/2: Well, I'd been seeing things all day, and at first I thought it was the bugs in my head again, but, on watching it for a while, I saw it was a sure-enough lion.
[[US]W. Irwin Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum VIII n.p.: But spite of bug-wheels in my cocoa tree, The trade in lager beer is still a-humming].
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Fourth in Salvador’ in Works 462: Poor Billy. He’s got bugs. Sitting on ice and calling his best friends pseudonyms.
J. Hawthorne Subterranean Brotherhood 247: Whether the beetle was alive and got away, or whether the prisoner himself had ‘bugs,’ as the slang is, at any rate the examiners reported no beetle.
Melting Pot III–IV 5/2: Nobody without such bugs in his head would have thought of the thing.
[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words And Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 232: bug, n. [...] An insane person [Said to have bugs, i.e. whimsical notions, in his brain].
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 21: ‘May’ll be having bugs in a few minutes.’ [...] ‘Bugs?’ I queried at the risk of showing gross ignorance. ‘Coke bugs!’ she exclaimed in surprise. ‘You’ve seen “fiends” have them, of course. Imagine bugs are under the skin. Comes from seeing the shadow of the needle on your arm when you’re taking a “shot”.’.
Liquorian XXXII 192/2: ‘Bugs,’ said the sheriff, pointing to the prisoner’s head. ‘He’s crazy.’ ‘Bugs in his head.’.
[US](con. 1890s) S.H. Adams Tenderloin 172: The Doc’s got bugs in his wig on this whore thing.
H.F. Searles Collected Papers 567: It was only later on in her therapy that she became able to realize that she, in a figurative sense, ‘was “bugs” ’, or ‘had bugs in her head’, so to speak.
(con. 1911) M. Childress A World Made of Fire 87: Well me, that’s odd, isn’t it [...] Bugs in his cotton ...
put a bug in someone’s ear (v.)

(US) to confide a secret to someone.

[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:i 72: bug in one’s ear, n. phr. Hint. ‘I want to put a bug in your ear’.
[US]L.W. Payne Jr ‘Word-List From East Alabama’ in DN III:v 361: put a bug in one’s ear, v. phr. To tell one a secret, put one on to a secret.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 586: put a bug in one’s ear, v. phr. To acquaint one with secret proceedings.
[US]R. Fisher Walls Of Jericho 30: You two [...] catch air. I got a bug to put in the big boy’s ear.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1995) 45: Soon’s yuh git back tuh de quarters Ah got uh bug tuh put in yo’ ear.
[US]F. Brown Fabulous Clipjoint (1949) 61: I’m going to put a bug in his ear about investigating who lives in those apartments.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 13: Couldn’t put a bug in the Old Man’s ear for me? I hate this place.
[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 109: He then nonchalantly put a bug in my ear [...] ‘Smooth you can pick up five grand a week on the side just moving weed.’.
put a bug on (v.)

(US) to hit, to silence.

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. ii: She had to have Wilbur [...] go out and put a bug on the Ginny before she would allow the flag to drop.
put the bug on (v.)

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

[US]G. Milburn Hobo’s Hornbook xiv: The jocker disciplines his apprentice by ‘putting the bug on him,’ which, in the lingo, means blistering him with cantharides or burning him with acid. These burns are utilized in begging.
[US]G. Milburn No More Trumpets 29: Heavy used to put the bug on me [...] The bug is what they call the blister beetle, a sort of a little bug. The juice of it blisters to beat hell. [...] The next day when I went into town to batter backdoors, why I could show the woman that opened the door the sores on my arms.
shoot a bug (v.)

(US prison) to feign insanity.

[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 167: Louis was in this state, and he consulted me [...] as to whether he ought not to ‘shoot a bug’ (sham insanity); and so get transferred to the hospital.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

bugology (n.) [-ology n. ]

(US campus) biology, entomology; thus bugologist n., an entomologist.

[US] ‘Campus Sl. at Minnesota’ in AS XX:3 Oct. 233/2: We studied everything from Bugology and Dismal Science to Kidology and Kitcheneering.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

In compounds

bug bomb (n.)

(US) an aerosol insecticide.

[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: bug bombs . . . canned fog for killing insects in jungles.
[US]R. Tregaskis Vietnam Diary 161: I borrowed a bug bomb from Adams and saturated my sack with DDT before climbing in.
[US]C. Nelson Picked Bullets Up 290: Two dozen bug bombs [HDAS].
[NZ]Kiwicare [Internet] For All Your Cockroach Problems [...] No Bugs Bug Bomb Fumigator.
ABC Eyewitness News at abc13.com 23 June [headline] Bug bomb causes devastating explosion. Failure to follow directions blamed for blast [...] An insect fogger – and the failure to follow directions on the container – has been blamed for an explosion that rocked the residence of a Brownsville couple.
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] (US)

1. an inhabitant of Nebraska.

Amer. Citizen (Butler, PA) 26 Sept. 2/4: Nicknames [...] Nebraska, bug-eaters.
[US]Semi-Wkly Louisianan 31 Aug. 1/3: The Nicknames of the States [...] Nebraska, bug eaters; Nevada, sage hens; New Hampshire, granite boys; New Jersey, blues or clam catchers.
[UK]N&Q III 15 June 83: Bug eater [...] I imagine this name as applied to the people of Nebraska comes from the fact that at a time when that State was over-run by locusts (or ‘hoppers’), the proposal was made to turn the insects to good account by making them an article of food [DA].
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era.
[US]Daily Ardmoreite 11 July 21/5: Nebraskans have been dubbed ‘Bug Eaters’; Marylanders as ‘Craw Thumpers’ [DA].

2. an unimportant or worthless person.

[US]Southern Sketches 90: Congo is a scrougher; he’s up a gum, and no bug-eater, I tell you [DA].
[US]White Cloud Kansas Chief (KS) 24 Feb. 2/6: Sanford is a regular bug-eater [...] I hope he will be sent to Russia — to carry guts to the Russian bear.
[US]Field and Forest Jan. 132/2: Our old teamster informed us that in Rocky Mountain parlance, a worthless fellow is called a ‘bug eater’ [DA].
[US]D.U. Sloan Fogy Days, and Now 134: I was going to get even with them before I left, to show them I wasn’t the kind of a bug-eater they took me for.
[UK]C.M. Russell Trails Plowed Under 110: Since that old bug-eater snared the first cayuse, his descendants have been climbin’, an’ the hoss has been with ’em.
bugfucker (n.) [SE bug, an insect + fucker n. (1)]

(US) a man with an extremely small penis; note mis-defined as an adj. in cit. 2001.

[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 20: Needledick the Bug-Fucker!
[US]K. Weaver Texas Crude 44: Needledick the Bugfucker. Mock monicker for a man with undersized genitals.
M.A. Thomas Crosswinds 59: You should talk, Pencil Prick [...] Pencil Prick the Bug Fucker, that’s what they ought to call you.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] bug-fucker adj. someone with an unusually small penis.
bughouse (n.)

see separate entry.

bughunter (n.)

see separate entry.

bug hut (n.) [var. on fleapit n./bughouse n. (8)]

a tawdry, run-down cinema.

[UK]Listener 23 Dec. 35: In every town at one time earlier C.20 there was a cinema known as the Bug Hut or the Scratch or Flea Pit [DSUE].
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn).
bug hutch (n.)

a small hut or sleeping place.

(con. 1915) S.F. Hatton Yarn of a Yeoman n.p.: [In Egypt] we had native beds, a framework made of palm sticks—‘bug hutches’ we called them [DSUE].
bug-proof (adj.)

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

[UK]O.C. Malvery Soul Market 284: ‘Lots of us don’t never sleep inside durin’ the ’ot weather, me gal,’ a woman declared to me. ‘Yer see, yer can’t sleep indoors unless yer gets bug-proof.’ ‘Bug-proof?’ I said. ‘Yes, blind drunk, don’t yer understand?’.
bug trap (n.) [SE (bed)bug + trap] (US)

1. a verminous lodging house.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 248/1: We arrived at Water-lane;—at the ‘Bug-trap,’ which from time immemorial has been the name of the most reknowned lodging house in that locality.
[[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XVII. 427/1: Small vessels are [...] commonly called ‘bug-traps’, because they soon get filled up with cockroaches.].
[US]E. Caldwell Bastard (1963) 20: I cleaned out the bug-trap all right – it burnt to the ground, little red bugs all of them.

2. a bed.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 5: Bug Trap A steel cot or bed in a prison cell.
bug walk (n.) [SE bug + walk. Note milit. jargon bug-run, a parting]

1. a bed.

[UK]Flash Mirror 4: Guide to the Principal Snoozing Kens [...] The Bug Walk Duck Yard, Westminster.
[UK] ‘So, I Said to Myself’ in Rakish Rhymer (1917) 48: So without any more words we parted, / And then for my bugwalk why I quickly started.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Feb. 2/8: To speak of bed [...] is ‘dab,’ ‘doss’, [...] ‘bug walk’.

2. the parting of the hair.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 148/1: ca. 1890–1914.

3. (Aus.) a small road.

[UK]H. Macilwaine Dinkinbar 34: Except you call this here sandy bug-walk a town.

4. a boarding-house.

[UK]Sporting Times 24 Jan. 2/1: I should be many a long league from this ere Phebus Apollo retires to his bugwalk.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 9 June 1/1: For ways that are wily a William-street hashery boss is peculiar. New arrivals at a neighboring boarding-house are asked to have a drink [then] Splinter then points out the beauties of his own bug-walk.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 3 Jan. 3/5: If a derelict strikes the Salvarmy soup kitchen or bug-walk he is at least genuinely welcomed.
bug wit (n.) (also bug-wug)

(Aus./US) a fool.

[Aus]R. Tate Doughman 20: ‘Bug-wug!’ ejaculated Jo Jim [...] ‘You’re just the dizzy limit.’.
[US](con. 1944) Wilder & Blum Stalag 17 [film script] 29: stosh: Where’d that come from? sefton: From a chicken, bug-wit.

In phrases