A great point from an emailer, who copied me on a message to 913 news magazine columnist Emily Parnell:
I read your article in the Aug. 8 Diversions part of the 913 section of The Star. I enjoyed it as I often do. But if you are not aware, the term 'buggered it all up' is not something which should be spoken or written in polite company. The first word is English, which has extremely deviant sexual meaning. I was appalled, having lived in the UK for 20 years, to see it in the newspaper. Anyone else familiar with the wording, or who happens to be British, would not be happy with its use. Just so you know. I don't want you to embarrass yourself again in print!
For those who don't know the meaning of the word, I'll let Mr. Google be your guide. But yes, the emailer is absolutely right that it has a literal meaning that is much more commonly known to those familiar with British English.
Here, I'd actually bet the columnist meant to use "boogered up" -- a phrase I've heard since I was a little kid in the Midwest. Yes, it probably traces its origins to "buggered." But it also has a much more benign association for American ears with the icky meaning we all know from childhood.
I've changed the online version of the column to the more genteel variant. But it's worth pointing out.
This makes me think of a recent incident that made the rounds on the showbiz blogs, when a member of U.K. boy band One Direction used the notorious "c-word" in public. Most Americans I know consider that one to be the worst curse in the language, because of its intensely sexist and derogatory nature. But I also have several Brit friends who toss it around somewhat freely, telling me it does have the same literal meaning, but it's far less caustic to them -- more on the level of "jackass" to Americans. These things can go both ways.