Some time ago when my mom was visiting from the States she passed a little girl who was about 4 or 5 years old in the supermarket who knocked something over. Her response was to loudly shout, “Oh bugger!” My mom didn’t really take notice since she saw no problem with the girl’s exclamation, but HER mum did take notice and promptly turned on her heel, looked at the girl and snapped, “Whatdidyousay?” The little girl replied, “I said pugger! I said pugger,” frantically trying to dig herself out of the trouble that she was already in.
You see, in Americans’ eyes words like bugger are just innocent little things those lovely, quirky British people say. The best evidence for this is the sheer number of times Cpt Jack Sparrow says “bugger” in Disney-produced Pirates of the Caribbean (what I would consider a children’s film). I reckon if we counted them all up it would be hundreds.
The problem is bugger and its definition is NOT a good word, in fact it is a BAD word. However, I too think that it’s just another one of those little English colloquialisms that is just oh so cute and have selected it as my word of choice when I am surprised, frustrated or injured. I usually equate it to other innocent phrases like “Old boy ” and “Cheerio,” until the other day when I dropped a can in a supermarket and shouted out the same as the little girl did all of those months ago. A man close in age turned to look at me with surprise and chuckled at my choice of words and so I was again reminded that it is, in fact, a rude word.
Of course, I was also reminded that I now have a British daughter, even if I haven’t grown up with it being a bit of a bad word, it will be to her in the years to come. And whether I have to implement a ‘naughty word jar” for myself or pull out the bar of soap, the mission begins of trying to un-learn those bad words, those words that are harmless in America, that have become a part of my lexicon, but could land The Duchess in hot water if at a young, tender age she is sweetly standing in front of her teacher’s desk, showing off one of her phenomenal pieces of work, drops it, and decides to shout “Oh bugger!”