This is a common expression in the South. But why would anyone think a bug's ear is cute? Most "bugs" don't even have ears. However their ability to detect high-pitched sounds is "acute." In eighteenth century England "cute" was often used as a synonym for "acute"...and frequently acquired the expanded meaning of "quick witted" or "mentally sharp." By the mid to late nineteenth century in the United States cute came to mean pretty or charming, rather than acute.
So..."bug's ears" might be "acute" but they're hardly cute.
Maybe "cute as a baby's ear" would be a better phrase. Here is a photo of an Ocracoke Baby's Ear (Sinum perspectivum) that I found on the beach a few days ago.
|Baby's Ear Seashell|
Whether you're talking about a baby's ear or a Baby's Ear, they're both cute!
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a video of Philip Howard telling the story of the 1861 wreck of the Black Squall. You can watch it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news032113.htm.