It’s not every day you get to write about etymology and entomology at the same time.

The word “bug” didn’t always mean “creepy crawly beetle or insect”. In early English it meant something more like “malevolent spirit”.

In 1535, the “Bug Bible” translated Psalm 91 to contain “Thou shall not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night” (later translations would use the word “terrors” instead), and in 1599, Shakespeare’s Hamlet refers to “bugs and goblins”.

In American English, “bug” is no longer used in this sense, but the connotation lives on in the idea of spies “bugging” a telephone, words like “boogeyman”, and the reference to an illness as “that bug that’s going around”.

I strongly suspect that it also informs The Real Housewives of New Jersey insult “boogawolf”, but the matter is not well-studied.

Which brings us to the infamous just-so story of Grace Hopper peering into the innards of the Harvard Mark II, seeing a moth, and declaring the “bug” found.

Although she was not the first to refer to a technical problem as a bug, I believe she was the first to achieve the spectacular three-way pun of 1) a literal insect 2) a technical issue and 3) a specter haunting the machine.

All the bug trackers I’ve used (Google’s Issue Tracker, Bugzilla, and so on) use insects in their logo, but the medieval meaning is more appropriate. After all, I know my code is correct, yet it gives the wrong answer. Must be ghosts 👻.