Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sorry for buggering up the commas post

An apology and a quiz
Update: commas quiz now works OK

A couple of weekends ago, I wrote what I thought was a really neat program, to test a theory I had about the use of commas. That is, that they almost always denote a pause. I spent all of Saturday writing the program, and it worked perfectly on a normal web page on my browser. So, feeling rather pleased with myself, I then wrote the text for my commas post.

On Sunday I started 'translating' the Javascript program for Blogger, which is a bit of a bugger. You have to change parts of the code, known as 'entities', which I'd already learnt the hard way that you had to do, so I wasn't expecting much trouble. But when I posted the blog, and clicked on the relevant button - nothing. 'Bugger!', I thought, and spent a couple of hours trying to find the problem. The real bugger is that to try it out on a normal web page you have to translate it back again, and so forth and so on.

 OK, Blogger probably wasn't exactly developed with interactive exercises in mind, and I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky buggers that we can use Javascript at all. But it's still a real bugger. (Am I repeating myself?)

As I was buggered if I could find the fault, which is probably tiny, I finally gave up, thinking, 'Bugger this for a lark. I've got better things to do than bugger about with this damned program,' and there seemed to be bugger all I could do about it. It right buggered up my weekend, I can tell you. And it's pretty well buggered up the post as well, making it rather pointless.

So apologies to anyone who was disappointed. When I get a spare moment I'll go in and take the exercise part out of the post and try to give it some sense. And hopefully get the exercise sorted out later.

You might just have noticed that I've been rather free and easy with a certain word here, whose closeness to the word Blogger somewhat intrigued me. I was thinking of something along the lines of 'buggered by Blogger' for the title of this post, but changed my mind. It could have been misinterpreted.

Bugger is a strange word, as although its original meaning relating to a certain sexual practice is a taboo subject, it has long been considered in the UK to be a relatively mild swear word. Also in the UK (and places where BrE is used), it has spun off a whole raft of derivative expressions.

The etymology of the word, which I didn't know before writing this, is quite interesting. We seem to have got it from the French word bougre, which itself came from the Medieval Latin word Bulgarus, meaning Bulgarian. This seems to have been originally applied to a particular heresy - Bogomilism, which was rife in Bulgaria in the early part of the last millennium. Heretics were often accused of 'unnatural sexual practices' by the church authorities, or of approaching everything (including sex) in the 'inverse way', so the word took on its sexual meaning.

Incidentally, the word buggery appeared in the first ever English dictionary, Cawdrey's A Table Alphabeticall [sic], published in 1604.

In modern French the uses of the word bougre are very similar to English. It can just mean guy, bloke, fellow, as in the English 'poor bugger', or it can be used as an expletive. They also have an adverb, bougrement, which we are unfortunately lacking - it's buggeringly cold would be a useful addition to our lexicon. More here, in French. The related Spanish word bujarrón seems to have only the sexual meaning. Shame.

A bugger of a quiz - match the uses of the word bugger on the left, with their meaning or function on the right.

Click and drop - Click on an expression on the right (abc etc - in grey) and then on its corresponding box(123 etc). If you change your mind just repeat the process.

1. It's a bit of a bugger.a)behave in a stupid or annoying way
2. The car's buggered, we'll have to take the bus.b)chap, guy, fellow, bloke
3. Dave's buggered off early today.c)waste time doing silly or unimportant things
4. I'm absolutely buggered, I'm off to bed.d)no way José!
5. Oh, bugger! We've missed the bus.e)exhausted
6. You've won a holiday! You lucky bugger.f)expressing surprise
7. I'm buggered if I'm working late again tonight.g)interjection, expletive
8. You're always buggering about with that old car of yours.h)broken
9. That's really buggered up our weekend.i)nothing
10. Stop playing silly buggers.j)spoil, ruin
11. How much money have you got? I've got bugger all.k)leave, go away
12. Well, I'll be buggered! Look who it is!l)nuisance, problem

Remember, as with all swear words - Handle with care

  • It is often difficult for a foreigner to judge when it is (or isn't) appropriate to use this sort of language
  • If you don't use this sort of language grammatically correctly, you can end up just looking stupid.
So, unless you really know what you are doing, best to avoid it.

Famous bugger moments in history

  • On his deathbed King George V was apparently told he might recover and be able to visit Bognor Regis, a seaside town on the South Coast, which doesn't exactly have the reputation as being the most exciting place on Earth. 'Bugger Bognor' is supposed to have been in his pithy reply.

Famous bugger moments on TV

  • In the comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth - Episode 5: 'General Hospital' - General Melchett, played by Stephen Fry, when told his aide-de-camp might be a German spy says,
    'Well, bugger me with a fish fork'
    Minutes later he pokes the open fire with a poker, possibly a reference to the expression -
    'Well, bugger me with a red hot poker'
    You can see it here. The relevant bit starts at 07:50
  • In the anarchic comedy from the eighties The Young Ones, posh self-proclaimed anarchist Rick (Rik Mayall), 'a hypocritical, tantrum-throwing, attention-seeking Cliff Richard fan, studying sociology and/or domestic sciences' (Wikipedia) and 'hippie, clinically depressed, pacifist, vegetarian and environmentalist' Neil (Nigel Planer) are travelling to a television studio to take part in 'University Challenge', a (real) TV general knowledge quiz show. Rick decides not to learn anything because he reckons he already knows it all, and gets Neil to test him. As usual, he ends up shouting at Neil:

    'You spiteful bastard, Neil! Just because you've done loads and loads of work for this, just because you're a creepy little swot you've done about 15 million tons of work for this, like a girl, and I'm so hard and street and cool that I've done absolutely bugger all, and you've done loads, look at it, loads and loads, loads and loads... .
    You can see it here, at about 1:25 in.
  • Toyota New Zealand Bugger commercial
  • The Fast Show - any of the Unlucky Alf (Paul Whitehouse) sketches. Alf is 'a lonely old pensioner living somewhere in northern England for whom nothing ever goes right. His hook is his resigned "Oh bugger!" as something terrible happens. He often predicts a bad event that is quite obvious, only to find something else occurs as he tries to avoid the first problem' (Wikipedia). Here is an example.

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