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What's the best word for small kind animals such as earthworms, butterflies and caterpillars but not the bad bugs like flies, mosquitoes and cockroaches?

The word may refer to the bad bugs, but it should sound sweet and kindly, and girls may use it as a nickname.

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I think whatever nickname you come up with could be used by girls or boys; seems like an unnecessary distinction to me. – onomatomaniak Nov 10 '11 at 8:46
Butterfiles are alright but (at least in American culture) earthworms are traditionally seen as associated with mud and dirt and therefore "gross" to little girls and "cool" to little boys. Caterpillers as well, though less so. Bugs in general are seen as a "boy" thing unless they're exceedingly pretty like butterflies are. – Yamikuronue Nov 10 '11 at 13:27
up vote 8 down vote accepted

In English these are all simply bugs. There is no cultural notion of good vs. bad, but there are a few expressions like snug as a bug that imply this.

I think bug is about as close as you can get, something like little bug works fine as a cute nickname. Otherwise there are only negative forms for insects, such as pests or vermin.

Instead of trying to fit one word for a class of "cute insects", you could choose a particular kind. This also makes it more personal and endearing. Consider:

  • Honeybee
  • Pillbug
  • Ladybug (ladybird)
  • Butterfly
  • Cricket

I can add that Czech also has the same idea of "cute bug" ("brouček") as a diminutive nickname, so I understand your question. There's no real equivalent in English.

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I think bug is sometimes used as a "nickname". I have the feeling American parents [did?] use it for their kid sometimes, along the lines of slugger, or sport. But I'm not American; maybe I've just seen too many Disney movies where they make this kind of thing up. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '11 at 11:14
@FumbleFingers my daughter was often "Bellebug", a play on her name. – Andrew Vit Nov 10 '11 at 11:36

What about creepy-crawlies.

That tends to be used when portraying insects more positively.

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Yes, it is positive. But they seem like have hard joints, maybe more suitable for boys? – Xiè Jìléi Nov 10 '11 at 8:44
Are you suggesting that this would be a good nickname for a girl? (which is the OPs intent). – Mitch Nov 10 '11 at 15:24

In the US, grasshopper is used as a sobriquet, and (less frequently) katydid and honeybee too. If you want other insect names or tags to try out as nicknames, consider bumblebee, worker bee, maybug or mayfly, damselfly, dragonfly, and leafhopper.

I don't know of a small-insects class-name with positive connotations (i.e. regard creepy-crawly as negative, and believe beastie denotes animals rather than insects), and don't know of any nicknames based on such a class-name.

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In informal contexts, you could try beastie (Scottish?), creepy-crawly or, in South Africa apparently, gogga.

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Diminutives always make things sound cuter, so how about 'buggy'.

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Well.. buggy make me think of a piece of program error-prone.. The problem is, the word bug- sounds a little rude, would girls like it? (In Chinese, 虫子 chóng zi sounds more gentle, or むし mushi in Japanese, though..) – Xiè Jìléi Nov 10 '11 at 8:54
It makes me think of the vehicle you drive around a golf course. – Urbycoz Nov 10 '11 at 12:02
You could make it "cuter" by going with something like buggy-bug – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 10 '11 at 15:44

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