Monday, September 26, 2005

The Persistence of American Slang

I was watching the hit show Family Guy last night and I noted a scene where Peter helps Kevin Federline appear as a douche bag. Peter defines a “douche bag” as a person with an unkempt appearance, body odor and “an unwarranted sense of accomplishment”.

So, why is the term “douche bag” still being used while other slang terms bit-the-dust decades ago? I'm suprized to hear my kids college friends use "douche bag" as a common term since it dates to the 1960's era of "far out" and "right on".

Because everything on the web is the Gospel Truth, a quick search reveals a 17th century letter titled, “Verily, Thou Art A Douchebag” in the hilarious USCD MQ Magazine where we see this comment that reminds me of a well-known database theorist:

“Thy ignorance of affairs financial so obviously makes itself known that I need not illustrate it further, and yet by the idiocy of your readers I am compelled to do so.”

A more reasonable origin appears here, where this site notes the origin of the common usage for douche bag at about 1963:

By 1967, according to the OED, the term came into its more prominent contemporary usage: "Douche bag, an unattractive co-ed. By extension, any individual whom the speaker desires to deprecate."

Lord DoucheBag

One of the all time funniest SNL skits was Lord and Lady DoucheBag. SML made them a snooty British couple, and here is the transcript from this hilarious master comedy.

Garrett Morris starts the skit by announcing in a formal English accent ”Lord and Lady DoucheBag”. The rest of the skit is a platform for all of the possible usage of the word “douche bag”, a very informative lesson in grammar:

"Where the devil are those Douchebags?"

“Parliament has always had its share of Douchebags, and it always will.”

SNL douche bag skit

Most of the SNL audience was not aware that this skit was based on the popular use of douche bag amongst some factions of society and the term may be centuries old.

As a teen in the 1960’s we would never consider using our parent’s lingo like “23 skidoo”, “the cat’s meow” or my favorite “root hog or die”. So why do kids today continue to use terms like douche bag which were coined by their parents generation?

It looks like folks like my favorite Pol Jon Stewart love to use douchebag in his fun and informative The Daily Show

douchebaggery. These terms can mean a variety of different insults, and have become popular in the comedic media (for instance, comic and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart once named conservative columnist and television pundit Robert Novak a "douche bag of liberty"): An insult is a statement or action which affronts or demeans someone. ...

- Someone who is annoying, bossy or embarrassing.
- Someone who is stupid, intellectually challenged or mentally deranged but less than clinically insane.
- Someone who is unintelligently lying or scamming.
- Someone who is arrogant, elitist or snobby.

So, what does a douche bag look like?

Now, I’ve never seen a douche bag, and I’m not real sure that I want to see one. I’m sorry, but there are some things that men don’t talk to women about, and this intimate hygiene item is one of them. C’mon guys, the ladies hide that stuff from us for a reason. My guess is that a douche bag has just got to be really, really gross.

Seriously, if you don’t want to see what a real douche bag looks like, do not click this link. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

More on word origns

If you like word origins, make sure to gat Dr. Cerutti’s new book “The Words of the Day”, a fascinating exploration of the origins of common English vernacular: