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bugaboo

noun; compounding
a girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse that is annoyingly overprotective or overbearing
 
The word ‘bugaboo’ has existed in English for quite sometime and is a noun referring to ‘an imaginary object of fear.’ While it is possible that metaphor extension accounts for this semantic shift that created this new word, it is more likely that the new word is the product of compounding two previously existing words: ‘bug’ and ‘boo.’ The term ‘bug’ is compounded with the term ‘boo’ and the ‘a’ is added in between the terms as a linker. The sense of ‘bug’ that is being implemented in this context is the sense that means to annoy or to bother. This sense of ‘bug’ is being blended with the more recently formed sense of ‘boo,’ which refers to one’s boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse.
Etymology : ‘Bug,’ the noun meaning ‘insect,’ probably came from the Middle English ‘bugge’ refering to ‘something frightening, scarecrow.’ The verb ‘bug’ meaning ‘to annoy’ was first recorded in 1949 and perhaps reflects metaphorical extension as insects are often annoying pests. ‘Boo’ probably originated as an onomatopoeic word because it could easily be used to create a startling sound and is perhaps in imitation of oxen.
Source : ‘He’s a bugaboo. You definitely need to dump him.’ (conversation with a friend, September 2008). Also, I first heard it in the Destiny’s Child song titled ‘Bugaboo’ in 2000, but I did not hear it used outside the context of this song until this example in October of 2008.
Last modified: 4 December 2008


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