Date: Thu, 22 Jan 1998 23:12:05 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: Re: Baseball "Bugs" (an entomology)

At 12:52 PM -0500 1/18/98, Alan Baragona wrote:

This makes me wonder if the title of the classic 1940's vintage Bugs

Bunny cartoon "Baseball Bugs" is a pun on the old term. Would the

animators remember a slang term in vogue in 1906? Did the term survive

into the 20's or later, by any chance?

The director on that cartoon short was Isadore (Friz) Freleng -- the model

for Yosemite Sam according to Michael Maltese, see below. He was living in

Kansas City when Disney hired him in 1927 (or perhaps shortly before).

Freleng was born in 1906, though I don't know if he was born or grew up in

Kansas City, or not. Anyway, I believe Barry Popik mentioned several

midwestern cities (Cin., Chic.?) in discussing the development of "baseball

bug" during 1906. (But see also the British Columbia 1911 cite mentioned below.)

The story credit for the cartoon in question goes, as usual in Warner

cartoons of the period, to Michael Maltese, whose birthdate and residence in

youth I don't know. In movies, even cartoon ones, directors get better

documented than writers; what else is new? In any case, any bit of any

cartoon could be contributed by any number of folks in the cartoon studio,

regardless of screen credit.

"Baseball Bugs" is dated Feb. 1946 in the paperwork, and 1945 on the

on-screen title.

Many Warner cartoon shorts of the era build a pun into the name. "Baseball

Bugs" would have two meanings if "bugs" in the title also meant fans.

OED2 bug n.2, meaning 3a = anyone obsessed with anything, often with a

qualifying word (firebug, litterbug, jitterbug); earliest cite is 1841

"tariff bug." There's also a 1911 "baseball bugs" from the Victoria (B.C)

_Daily Colonist_. So it had gotten that far by 1911.

Perhaps see also OED bug n.1 (ghost, haunting spirit, bogy), which though

quite likely etymologically unrelated -- it's from Welsh, and bug n.2's

etymology is unknown -- may nonetheless have had some influence on the

semantic development of bug = insect = obsessed person. (Remember the ADS-L

discussion last fall of folk etymology, pro and con? This is an example of

the kind of folk-etymological, quite likely historically inaccurate belief,

resulting from similarity of sound and meaning, that with persistence and

the the passage of time eventually becomes in some cases part of the history

of the language....)

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]