big bugs

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
These are pretty big bugs, just like Brute said. One of them, I believe, is a politician all the way from the state capital.’
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They watched as Brutal unlocked the door to the exercise yard, where another two guards were waiting to join him, and led Delacroix out, bound for his command performance before the grand high poohbahs of Cold Mountain Penitentiary.

Source: The Green Mile by Stephen King
Context: The guards are escorting convict Delacroix to the admin room in the Cold Mountain penitentiary to show the deputy warden and others the tricks that Delacroix’s mouse can make.

big bugs is a slang for poohbahas, right? I could not find any such definition. So I am guessing it and thus my question.

Glossary:
command performance: requested/ordered performance.
poohbah: a person having much influence or holding many offices at the same time, especially one perceived as pompously self-important.

Thank you.
 
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  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am sorry I don't know the meaning of 'big bugs', but if it does indeed mean 'Pooh-Bahs' then I must congratulate you on probably being the first person in history to mention the two terms in the same sentence.

    Pooh-Bah is also slang, but from a different century, a different continent and a different culture from big bug, and I wonder how many people who know the meaning of one have even heard of the other. :)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I thought after my last reply I should do some research. It seems I got the century wrong, and the term is used on both sides of the Atlantic. The OED has an entry for Big Bug:
    big bug n. [apparently < big adj. + bug n.1, although compare discussion at bug n.1] an important or powerful person; cf. bug n.1 2.
    1826 Wall-Street as it now Is i. ii. 9 The attorney cannot be under the influence of big bugs, can he?
    1896 J. C. Harris Sister Jane 24 He don't belong to the big-bugs.
    1932 E. Waugh Black Mischief viii. 300 He seems to have been quite a big bug under the Emperor. Ran the army for him.
    2004 B. Dylan Chronicles I. iii. 115 The big bugs in the press kept promoting me as the mouthpiece, spokesman, or even conscience of a generation.​

    The reference to bug n.1 2 links to
    2. A self-important, pompous, or conceited person; a pre-eminent or powerful person. In later use only in big bug​
    with a quote from as early as 1536.

    I would not really compare this with a Pooh-Bah, who was known more for his holding multiple offices simultaneously than being a genuinely powerful person.
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you for your further findings. Can I ask how you got this entry from OED. I do have a Oxford English Dictionary 2017 on my iPad. And I find no such entry.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Hi jacdac, It is from www.oed.com which contains the full Oxford English Dictionary online. It is only available to subscribers, but members of most British libraries get access for free. :)
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you. $295 for annual membership is heavy. I will check if my local library has access to OED.
     
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