Daily Archives: November 26, 2010

bugaboo

Ah, beddie-bye! Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite! And, snap, off goes the light. And then you start thinking… What is there under my bed? Is there something hiding in that dark space under there? What if I look down under the bed, and I see… a six-foot-long insect… and it looks at me, opens its mandibles slowly, hungrily, and says “Boo!”

Ah, did I spook you? Oh, but you’re a big boy now. And of course, when you were a kid and were afraid of such things, you would always be comforted by the presence of your mother or father. Company chases away the ghouls – and the whim-whams, jim-jams, and heebie-jeebies that send you into flying fantods. Conversely, loneliness brings out the hobgoblins, bugbears, bugaboos.

So where’s really lonely? Really, really lonely? Imagine being a prospector in the mountains. High mountains, with big spires of rock. Desolate. No one around, not for hours or days of walking. Just you, and the critters, and the great loneliness. As you camp in your tent at night, you are surrounded by nothing human – but you hear the wind in the trees, the clattering of scree; it could be a chorus of banshees screaming about your tent. Oh, yes, this is a place to fill your mind with imagined spooks. And no wonder if, your prospects not panning out, you decide to take a powder and flee the camp. But before you do, especially if you’re a Scotsman, you might have named your claim after the boggarts that bother you: Bugaboo.

As, it seems, one Scottish prospector did, in the mountains near Inverness – that’s Inverness, British Columbia. And the pass and creek that were in the claim came to have the same name, and from them so did the range they were in: the Bugaboos, with their glaciers and granite spires, all part of the Purcell Mountains.

And now being now, the prospects for those peaks come from a different goldmine: a bit of Ski-Doo, indeed, but also lots on the same street as Picabo: skiing. Heli-skiing, to be precise. Yes, there are holidayers in these Canadian mountains, thanks to Canadian Mountain Holidays and other operators. They’ll take the powder – no bumps to boogie in the bugaboos! And it just happens that, given where I grew up, I knew today’s word first in the plural and in relation to heli-skiing – along with Monashees.

Come to think of it, the word has a bit of a sound of something you could shout for an echo off those granite cliffs as you boogie by on your boards, no? Even if the voiced stops give it a warmer, softer, damper sound than the dry, hard, powdery areas covered by the range. (It’s hard for me not to think of the Bugaboos as being shorter and rounder, just on the basis of the name.) Well, so it goes: after all, the word wasn’t invented for the mountains.

And how was it invented? Why, from bug plus boo, of course. The boo is the same one ghosts say. The bug is not the insect one, however – although the insect bug may have come from it; no one’s completely sure. No, this bug is via Middle English bugge, possibly from Welsh bwg, which refers to a ghost. And our bug here, which is the same one in bugbear, means an object of terror, especially an imagined one. Such as the one under your bed. Oh, yes… exit powder hound… enter sandman.

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