Alex Wild’s Myrmecos blog has a new post engaging with the age-old question: Is “Bedbugs” one word or two? and finds that internet searchers and printed matter — books, at least — don’t agree:
According to Google’s ngram viewer, a measure of word frequency in scanned books, ‘bedbugs’ as a single word is used far more frequently….
Yet Google trends, which measures search terms, reports the converse…
As I noted in the comments, choosing a side was one of the first things we had to do when the site was set up in 2006. Here’s a post from 2009 revisiting the question.
The venerable New York Times may be obsessed with bedbugs, but scientists tell us that according to the naming systems used in entomology, true bugs (Hemiptera) have “bugs” as a second word, to distinguish them from insects which are not Hemiptera, a point Myrmecos also notes; Lou Sorkin gives lots of examples of this naming principle in the comments on our 2009 post.
Now, on another note, have a look at the trend for “bedbugs” and “bed bugs” mentioned in books:
Christopher Moore asks in the Myrmecos comments, of the ngram image above:
What is really curious to me, however, are the long-term peaks. They both peak at the onset of the World Wars! Why on Earth would this be?
Actually, it looks like there are multiple peaks related to each of the periods of World War I and World War II.
The detail isn’t close enough for me, but I would suspect they are aligned with the greatest movements of people — which may have occurred earlier in the war (troops and others went to war, people on the home front often had to move or take in lodgers) and again at the end of the war and aftermath, when troops and workers displaced by the war went home and many refugees moved around Europe and the world.
More people moving around = more bed bugs.
Think of the claim that the 2000 Syndey Olympics brought bed bugs to all areas of Australia (as in this Australian news report from 7 Perth) and likewise spread them around Europe and North America (see David Cain in this 2007 BBC report).
And then multiply that level of human movement many, many times over.
That’s my hunch, though, I’d be interested to hear your opinions on that. Please hit the comments below!
Thanks to Myrmecos, and to Bedbugger user EffeCi (a.k.a. Franco Casini, whose amazing bed bug photo galleries need no translation) for bringing the Myrmecos article to my attention.