Everybody seems to have accepted the term as a way to describe a jerk, a cad, a boor, an asshole or a dweeb.
When was dirtbag – a term I could wrap my brain around, given its obvious reference to the unwashed and disgusting – replaced by the ubiquitous low-blow designation of douchebag?
I wonder if half the people running around calling each other that have a clue about the actual item they’ve employed to bitch-slap some poor slob for being a pri…er, a di…well, a not-very-nice-person.
Ah, maybe that’s it! So many of the popular putdowns have been references to male body parts, none of which have a comparable piece of apparatus to change the PH balance of said part, some guy probably decided to even the slaying field by enlisting an otherwise innocuous tool of feminine hygiene.
What a minute! Tool? Isn’t that another name we like to call people who are infinitely pitiful, obnoxious, out-to-lunch losers?
Come to think of it, speakers of the English language (and probably every other language on earth, but I don’t know that for sure and I don’t want to be a douchebag about it) have created a list of unflattering (to say the least) terms to call one another that could probably stretch from here to the next county.
When I was a child, I tried very hard not to be a doo-doo-head, something I learned from the little brats who ran around like wild indians causing all kinds of trouble. Out on the front porch every evening, my grandfather would shake his head and mumble about the cowboys who were driving their cars too fast to keep safe the little brats he happened to love .
As a teen, the hoods (short for hoodlums) would run their hands through their Brylcreemed DAs (duck’s ass) and sneer out of the sides of their downturned mouths and call me a social climber. Only our mothers referred to girls other than their own daughters who were somewhat loose as sluts. We called them cool!
In college, my pejorative vocabulary soared. The shit -for- brains GDIs (god damned independents) thought we sorority girls were lunch buckets who had to get our fraternity member boyfriends to take our exams for us. Those lunchy Alpha Chis they called us, the little twits. On a given Saturday night, just about all of us were out of it from drinking too much brewski.
As an adult I have seen dweebs morph to geeks, geeks become nerds, social climbers turn into yuppies, and for my kind, buppies. There were gangbangers, thugs, bikers, biker-chicks, and hos; not to mention the boatload of racial and cultural slurs that continues to grow as the social segments of our collective brains seem to shrink.
When I was a career counselor in the giant corporation I was employed by, I used to put employees through an exercise, asking them to make a list of their strengths or talents and a separate list of their weaknesses or developmental needs. I could predict with 99% accuracy the list of negatives would be at least twice as long as the list of positives.
Negative self-talk is almost as common as creating nasty names to call one another. Why is that? Have we somehow been taught to dwell on our faults? Is it a matter of simple transference, that thing that makes us want to come up with zany and nonsensical zingers to toss at and about others?
I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. On the contrary, we Americans seem to have come by it honestly. Take a look at some of the British pejoratives I found, just under the ‘b’s in this British slang dictionary:
big girl’s blouse: n chicken (as in person who is afraid, not as in bird). Exclusively applied to men: After we’d had a couple of beers we all jumped off the bridge into the lake, except Andy, who turned out to be a big girl’s blouse.
bird: pron. ‘beud’ (London); ‘burd’ (Scotland) n woman. Well, not really. Bird is used by blokes looking upon the fairer sex with a slightly more carnal eye. It’s not quite at the stage of treating women as objects but the implication is certainly there: I shagged some random bird last night (a popular usage), or: Hey, Andy, I think those birds over there are looking at us. You’d never describe your grandmother as a bird. It’s popular in Scotland to refer to one’s girlfriend as “ma burd" but do it in front of her and you’ll be choking teeth. About the only thing worse would be to call her “ma bint,” which will warrant a foot in the testicles and a loose tongue concerning your sexual prowess. The word itself is derived from the Old Norse word for “woman,” and the closest American English equivalent would probably be “chick.”
bloke: n guy. A bloke is a Joe Public, a random punter, ”any old fellow off the street. Unlike “guy,” however, it can’t apply to your friends. You can’t 'walk up to a group of your mates and say ‘blokes, what’s up?” as they’d all peer at you as if you’d been reading some ill-informed, cheap dictionary. Without question, the most common usage of the word is in the phrase “some bloke in the pub.”
Think about it. How many nouns can you come up with that refer to a positive aspect of a person? Things like trouper, mensch, team player, sweetheart, etc.
Inspiration for this post came from Cranky Cuss's delightful commencement adddress