Findings for “bugger+++” in my General Corpus

The AntConc query for ”bugger +++“, designed to catch word forms like ‘bugger(s)’, ‘buggered’, ‘buggering’ or ‘buggery’, returned next to none significant findings with regard to the topic of homosexuality. The only exception is an article that actually reflects on the meaning of the word ‘bugger’:

  • Miss Goodman’s paragraph illustrates two points: First, the word bugger has lost its original pejorative meanings, which included an ethnic slur on “Bulgarian,” and later came to mean “sodomite” and, finally, in its most loathsome incarnation, “one who implants secret listening devices.” Today, bugger – meaning “gizmo, whatchamacallit, unidentified sitting object” as well as an intensified “thing” – has become an acceptable noun in family newspapers.[1]

This comment that the term ‘bugger’ lost its relationship to homosexuality is evident in the language data of the corpus, as this example shows:

  • But a citrus industry representative said, “Of this stuff that’s being thrown away, if you gave somebody a bag of them, 50 percent of those oranges would be thrown away because people wouldn’t take the trouble of peeling the little buggers.[2]

The only cases were a word form of ‘bugger’ is still associated with homosexuality is the use of the word ‘buggery’. In these cases, however, ‘buggery’ is marked or used as an obscure, even archaic, term that would not be used in then-contemporary discourse, but rather when talking about the arts or historic events. See these examples:

  • The wildest character is Ben, a Butley-clone that John Christopher Jones plays with such macabre mania that we can almost overlook the fact that he seems too boyish for the part. As this newscaster gets sloshed, he stumbles about like an uninvited guest, letting loose with typically malicious (and hilarious) Gray jests about the rituals of public school “buggery” and other people’s suicides.[3]
  • The professor traced the earliest [execution of non-adults] to Massachusetts in 1642 when a 16-year-old boy was put to death for the crime of buggery.[4]

So, it can be concluded that forms of the word ‘bugger’, which used to have connotations of homosexuality, had fallen out of common use in this type of discourse by the early HIV/ AIDS crisis.

[1] Safire, William. “On Language.” New York Times 12 Feb. 1984: 6/9. Print.

[2] “California Oranges Dumped.” Washington Post 14 Feb. 1981: 1/A2. Print.

[3] Rich, Frank. “Theater: ‘Close of Play,’ by Simon Gray, Opens.” New York Times 25 Feb. 1981: C/24. Print.

[4] Reinhold, Robert. “Execution for Juveniles: New Focus on Old Issue.” New York Times 10 Sep. 1985: A/14. Print.