|A stink bug belongs to the suborder|
Heteroptera and is an example of a
"true bug". All true bugs have piercing/
sucking mouthparts, and go through
a gradual form of metamorphosis.
In my experience Americans commonly use the term "bug" very loosely to mean any very small critter, insect or otherwise. In this way a spider can be referred to as a bug, or a pesky gnat as a bug. This doesn't bother me too much, but sometimes you sense a kind of superiority among some people who use the term "bug" this way. "I'll squash you like a bug!" Or, "It's just a buuug!"
And who in the industry has not been referred to as either "bug guy" or "bug lady" when showing up at a pest control account? Although I like bugs in general, and consider work associated with insects to be important and honorable, I never particularly cared for the name applied to my profession--perhaps because of the inferior connotations associated with bugs in many people's thinking.
It's interesting how language works on a word. The term bug has crept its way into a lot of other uses, including meaning germs that makes you sick, like the "flu-bug". Or as the verb referring to the act of acting or being annoying, as in the complaint: "Stop bugging me!"
|The first "real" computer "bug" is kept at the Smithsonian |
National Museum of American History, though it is
not currently on display.
But how did the entomological form of the word bug get its start? And why do entomologists get so hung up on folks who misuse the word to refer to something not technically a heteropteran?
It turns out that the term "bug" probably does have a semi-scientific origins connected to entomology. According to Carl Schaeffer, author of an article on heteropterans (Prosorrhyncha) in the Encyclopedia of Insects, the term "bug" comes from the old Middle English word bugge, which meant "spirit" or "ghost". According to another favorite reference of mine, Roland Wilbur Brown's Composition of Scientific Words, the word may also be derived from the Welsh word bwg, for "hobgoblin", "spectre" or "sprite". The word even shows up in some of Shakespeare's writings to refer to bogeymen or other terrifying forces. Obviously the Welsh and the English were referring to the same thing... but what?
|Were bed bugs the original bugge?|
So bed bugs are most likely the original bugge, or bwg, according to Schaeffer. The next time you hear someone seem to dismissively refer to bugs, or the profession devoted to pest control, consider that for many bugs still remain a scary part of life. What entomologists and PMPs do is help keep the bugs and other pests out. That's a worthwhile service and, not surprisingly, one people will always pay for. And as Shakespeare himself might have put it, "What's in a name? That which we call a bug, would it by any other name... drum up as much business?" Perhaps not.