Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Daily Hump: Bugibu who?

When people think bugaboo they generally think baby strollers and carriages. Well, I'm here to change that.

As quoted from Weird Wide Words in Tuesday's post, bugaboo has a Welsh root, bwg, meaning "ghost". The -boo appendage is simply an interjection meant to add to the word's scare-factor. Although funny-sounding, there's nothing amusing about bugaboos; they're objects of anxiety (albeit exaggerated), or recurring or persistent problems. Bugaboo first appears in the English language around 1740. The Online Etymology Dictionary reports that bugaboo was
...connected by Chapman [got me] with Bugibu, demon in the Old French poem "Aliscans" from 1141, which is perhaps of Celtic origin (cf. Cornish bucca-boo, from bucca "bogle, goblin").
Per the OED, the specific line from "Aliscans" reads:
Et puis d' infer iras o Bugibu, Aveuc ton Dieu Mahom[et] et Cahu.

And then from Hell will come, o Bugibu, with your God Muhammad and Cain*.
[translation mine]
I was curious how Muhammad got mixed-up in this so I did some research. "Aliscans" is an example of chansons de geste, early French epic poetry, which generally tell stories about the Arab invasion of the south of France. Why would a French author sic a (potenially) Celtic demon on the Saracens? My guess is Bugibu hails from Brittany and his name is of Breton origin**--that'd still place him about 600 miles from Arles (Aliscans' location), but it's a helluva lot closer than Wales or Cornwall.

Given the name's demonic association, it seems odd that a company would call itself Bugaboo to market infant transportation devices. Then again, the company is Dutch so who knows what they're smoking.

*According to some Cahu was a pagan god, reinterpreted as the devil [See Old French Online]

**Or possibly Bugibu is a holdover of the Celtiberian language which was spoken in central Spain and is presumed extinct by the 4th c. AD.

Bugaboo [American Heritage Dictionary]
Old French Online [U of Texas]
La Geste de Garin de Monglane [Wikipedia]

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:: posted by David, 8:08 AM


Maybe they call those strollers Bugaboos because they scare the crap out of new parents. They cost like a billion dollars. Yes, billion with a "b". That's a lot of dollars.
Blogger Loocite, at 12:03 PM  

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