to catch a bug

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sun-and-happiness, May 14, 2009.

  1. sun-and-happiness Senior Member

    I'm feeling down. Aurélie just stood me up again. It seems she caught a bug. She doesn't want to go out this evening. She's pushing it.
    What does "to catch a bug" mean? I think it's an idiom, but I didn't find it anywhere. Thanks.
  2. ewhite

    ewhite Senior Member

    Poor Aurélie is suffering a viral or bacterial infection. To catch a bug usually implies a non-specific malady that is not long-lasting.
  3. mplsray Senior Member

    It's not a separate idiom: Catch is a verb for "acquire a viral or bacterial illness," as in catch a cold. The word bug can mean "a virus or bacterium," so that to catch a bug means to come down with a viral or bacterial illness.

    In support of ewhite's comments, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary also adds the sense of bug as an illness, including (definition 3b), "an unspecified or nonspecific sickness usually presumed due to a bug."

    A virus or bacterium which is capable of killing would likely be referred to as "a nasty bug," especially in headlines. A search of the Internet shows "nasty bug" to have been used in reference to MRSA and to the H1N1 flu virus, for example.
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
  4. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    In the context here, the speaker doesn't want to be ashamed of being stood up. He picks the apologetic excuse that Aurélie has a fictitious illness. My understanding of someone getting a bug is that they are really ill.
  5. sun-and-happiness Senior Member

    Do you mean that it isn't an idiom? I haven't understood.
  6. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    To me, "to catch a bug" is to fall ill with some unspecified contagious illness. Most often it describes a cold or perhaps flu.

    Note that there is a similar idiom with a different meaning: catch the bug
  7. mplsray Senior Member

    Yes, I meant that catch a bug (or, for that matter, catch a nasty bug) are not idioms, but terms derived from already well-established meanings of catch and bug (and nasty). We would expect, for example, The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary to list catch a bug as a subentry under catch or bug if it were an idiom, but the term is not there.
  8. Iknownothing Member

    British English
    You can often hear in BrE "there's a nasty bug going around / round"

    Example: "A lot of people are off work in the office at the moment". "Why ?" "There's a nasty bug going around / round."

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