Lou Sorkin in Gelf; how do you spell “bed bugs”?

by nobugsonme on May 18, 2010 · 4 comments

in bed bugs, bedbugs, events, history, louis sorkin, new york city, spelling

Gelf Magazine has a new interview with Dr. Louis Sorkin, who they’ve dubbed “The Bedbug King of New York.” 

(We would hardly disagree, though we lean toward the more common spelling “bed bug,” which entomologists tell us has a scientific basis.  More on that below.)

Here’s a snippet of the new Gelf piece, to whet your appetite:

Gelf Magazine: Bedbug infestations are on the rise in New York City. What are some of the reasons bedbugs are thriving here?

Louis Sorkin: Multi-family housing and close proximity help spread bedbugs throughout the city. The biggest problem is people are not educated about bedbugs. Some people don’t even know what a bedbug looks like. And even people who do some research online may have better information about adult bedbugs but can’t identify infant bedbugs. Even pest-management people and researchers in pesticide manufacturing and salespeople in the industry read up on bedbugs but might not necessarily rear them or watch them for biology’s sake.

People may coexist with bedbugs and not realize they have an infestation if they do not react poorly to the bites. They might not notice they have a problem, and the bedbugs can spread through the building until someone finally notices the problem. The bugs can be transferred on clothes and bags to virtually anywhere in the city. A bedbug on a suitcase could lead to an infestation of an entire office building.

This brief excerpt helps convey why Lou is a great source information regarding bed bugs for those who have no familiarity with this beast.  He understands completely what people don’t know about bed bugs and what they need to know about bed bugs, and he is unceasing in his attempts to spread the correct information via any channels he is able.

And we’re so grateful to Lou for this.

Be sure and read the rest of this interesting interview with Lou Sorkin here!  And try and get out to DUMBO to see Lou if you can — it is sure to be a worthwhile and informative evening.

Again, the details of this event:

Geeking Out will be held Thursday, May 20th, at 7:30 pm doors open at 7:00 pm at the JLA Studios art gallery on 63 Pearl St [view in Google Maps] in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Admission is FREE. Drinks will be available. Please spread the word and bring your friends.

More on it in this Bedbugger post from May 10th.

As for the spelling of “bedbug,” Gelf Magazine is in good company.  Many media outlets such as New York Magazine, The Atlantic, and McSweeney’s follow the New York Times and The Times (UK) in referring to “bedbugs.”

On the other hand, they seem to be in the minority. There are almost three times as many hits in google for “bed bugs” as for “bedbugs.”  MSN, ABC, The Telegraph, the BBC, and Budget Travel talk about “bed bugs,” as do university entomology departments, extension offices, scientists, professionals, and fact sheets, like these from NYC’s Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.

Some sources are unwilling to commit (check out the first two lines of this NYCHA fact sheet, or these two articles from the Independent UK, which waver between “bed bugs” and “bedbugs”).

So which spelling is correct?

The Oxford English Dictionary (Second Edition, 1989, online) offers three variants: “bed bug,” bedbug,” and “bed-bug”:

1809 Farmer’s Almanack (Boston) July 1 Ladies, for mercy’s sake, see about the bed bugs.

1813 BINGLEY Anim. Biog. III. 181 The Bed Bug is a nauseous and troublesome inhabitant of most of the houses in large towns.

1861 MAYHEW Lond. Lab. III. 35/1 The bed-bug is not the only one of its congeners which preys upon man.

1909 Cent. Dict. Suppl., Bedbug-hunter, a reduviid bug,..which inhabits houses, where it preys upon bedbugs.

1964 M. HYNES Med. Bacteriol. (ed. 8.) xxx. 462 Bed-bugs live in hiding places such as the crevices of furniture and behind pictures, from which they emerge at night to suck blood.

That certainly is illuminating: we’ve been spoiled for choice for centuries.  (I suppose I should be grateful that “bed-bug” has fallen by the wayside — tough luck, Henry Mayhew!)

Bed bugs are in the order Hemiptera, and are what entomologists call “true bugs”; according to Wikipedia, their commonality is the possession of sucking mouth parts.  (Yes, we all know bed bugs suck.)

Entomologists have told us that insects with “bug” in their name tend to have it as a separate word if those insects are true bugs: bed bugs, assassin bugs, stink bugs, and so on.  Meanwhile, insects which are not true bugs, such as ladybugs, have the word “bug” joined into their name as one word, if it is used.

While “bedbugs” would put us in esteemed literary company, Bedbugger.com strongly favors “bed bugs,” in deference to this bit of information, and because we just have to side with the entomologists on this one.

However, while we try not to appear to be confused, we do admit to throwing in the very rare “bedbug” for the benefit of search engines, to help that sizeable minority find us.

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1 parakeets May 18, 2010 at 2:49 pm

I tend to prefer “bedbug” as one word since in some on-line searches I find it easier to search on “bedbug” without wading through references to “bed” and “bug.” But when I type on the blog, I do try to be correct and make it two words. So for now I use both though I do think one-word simplicity is winning. When I went to the First International Bedbug Symposium in Herndon Virigina several years ago this was a topic of discussion and I’m glad you brought it up here.

2 nobugsonme May 18, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Hi parakeets!
Thanks for your comment.
I would like to hear more about the discussion at the symposium on this. It’s my sense that entomologists are leading the charge with “bed bugs,” though perhaps I am wrong and some are willing to go in the other direction?

3 Lou Sorkin May 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

What I understand to be reason for one versus two word names.
Examples of common name, reason, insect order and correct insect order (if applicable):
dragonfly is one word because the insect specified is not a fly (order Diptera, but is Odonata)
butterfly is one word because the insect specified is not a fly (order Diptera, but is Lepidoptera)
mayfly is one word because the insect specified is not a fly (order Diptera, but is Ephemeroptera)
stonefly is one word because the insect specified is not a true fly (order Diptera, but is Plecoptera)
house fly are two words because the insect specified is a true fly (order Diptera)
robber fly are two words because the insect specified is a true fly (order Diptera)
honey bee are two words because the insect specified is a bee (order Hymenoptera)
bumble bee are two words because the insect specified is a bee (order Hymenoptera)
stink bug are two words because the insect specified is a true bug (order Hemiptera)
bed bug are two words because the insect specified is a true bug (order Hemiptera)
plant bug are two words because the insect specified is a true bug (order Hemiptera)
squash bug are two words because the insect specified is a true bug (order Hemiptera)

4 nobugsonme May 26, 2010 at 11:21 am

Thanks, Lou!

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