Tuesday, November 19, 2013


In conversation with Byter Petra, I was asked to do an item on the origin of the term ”Bugalugs”.

It’s an expression I grew up with, always used in the context of playfully referring to someone else but without any nastiness towards that person.

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According to the Urban Dictionary, the expression is an Australian term of endearment, similar to "Mate" but usually used in a slightly more patronising tone and with less immediate masculine connotations. A good example is a parent describing a son or daughter, or an older person describing a young person. The term is usually used playfully.

"G'day, John, you couldn't keep an eye on bugalugs over here while I get something out of my car, could you?"

Unfortunately I have not been able to find anything definitive about the origin of the word.

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Some comments:

The Australian Oxford Dictionary dates it from the 19th century and says it is of unknown origin.

One commenter online has stated that: “Bugalugs is just a cute little rhyme usually when referring to mischievous children...possibly, but not always, said to children when they are caught listening to an adults conversation.”

Some English commenters have heard the term used in England as well: “It means nothing, it is just a term of endearment meaning something like "little scamp" or "little urchin" it is not an Australian saying, or at least not exclusive to Australia, my mother used to say it to me when I was young many years ago.”

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Comments that the term is correctly “buggerlugs” and concerns sodomy are incorrect. I have heard the term used in any context with a meaning other than those described above.

Accordingly we can also reject the suggestion by one commenter online, perhaps tongue in cheek, that the word consists of two parts, bugger and lugs, the latter being a slang term for ears. That person suggests that the word buggerlugs therefore means ears of a size large enough to afford a good grip while being sodomised.

By the way:

The word “lugs” to mean “ears” dates from the 1620’s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. It meant the "handle of a pitcher" and comes from “lugge” (Scottish) meaning "earflap of a cap, ear".

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There are various Oz slang terms that use the word "bugger" but likewise also have no connection to sodomy.

A sample of such words follow, together with their meanings, to assist overseas visitors to Australia.

1. Exclamation when something goes wrong, an expression of discontent. “I stepped in dog poo, Bugger!
2. A person or animal, often a small one, such as a child or small pet. Frequently prefaced by "little." Compare with Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s comment during the 1989 election campaign when a pensioner took him to task over tax cuts. Hawke muttered “silly old bugger” but later apologised. 

Bugger me: I am surprised.

Bugger me dead: I am extremely surprised.

Bugger off: Please leave.

Go to buggery: Please leave.

Bugger up: To make a mess of.

Bugger all: Nothing. Similar in meaning and usage to "fuck all", as in The Wog Boy:  "People say I know fuck nothing, but I know fuck all!"

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Australian children’s book author Tim Winton has written a book called The Bugalugs Bum Thief.  According to the cover summary "One morning the 496 residents of the town of Bugalugs awake to find that all 496 have had their bums stolen. It’s up to Skeeta Anderson to investigate."

There is also a wine by that name:

and a children's clothing range:

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  1. I just know that bugalugs is india2australia slang, but don't know what it really means, and in what case we usually use it

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  3. According to the Urban Dictionary, the expression is an Australian term of endearment, similar to "Mate" but usually used in a slightly more patronising tone and with less immediate masculine connotations.
    i personally thing it's a relationship word like Indian Australian Relationship

  4. Em I am from Scotland, this is a really Common word in Scotland and even Northern England. I live in Australia a d NEVER heard Anyone say this, I am guessing the word is just a British word used by immigrants from the UK. The only time I have heard this word in Australia is from my Scottish family.


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