Martha and I recently had a houseguest who stayed for ten days until he died.
He’d always be flying through the dining room–where I do most of my work–to break my concentration. Bob (we called him “Bob”) grew ever bolder, landing on the table closer and closer to me, as if daring me to kill him. I was amused by this for a few days, and I even grew to respect his audacity. I assumed that Bob would, in the way of his kind, soon be only a fond memory.
I only began to find all this irksome after I read the Wikipedia article on the common housefly. Armed with this freely-editable information, I started looking at Bob like the disease-carrying, feces-eating biological automaton he truly was. Rather than seeing an audacious, adventuresome insect taunting me for sport, as Bob as buzzed by my ear I would think of him spreading germs and bacteria and malaria. And I started to obsess over Bob the Housefly well out of proportion to his physical size or actual importance.
Unlike its sibling words “peg” and “big”, the word “bug” isn’t particularly fun to say. However, it is a lovely, well-evolved word. It sums up this multi-faceted, waste-loving creature in one short syllable that ends with a mild explosion of gulping.
As a verb, it has similar connotations: Bother me, and perhaps I’ll consider you on the same plane as our former houseguest. Whom I killed on Thursday with my bare hands. (And a paper towel.)