Forgive the indelicacy of today’s mood but this is a locution I have been pondering for some time.

When I first heard “douchebag” used as a term of opprobrium, it was applied to unpleasant or repulsive older women — usually by the kind of men who find any woman older than 25 and not of centerfold pulchritude to be unpleasant or repulsive. These days, it seems more likely to be applied to the kind of people who would formerly have  said it, which is rough justice of a kind I suppose.

There used to be a persistent graffito on a retaining wall at the end of Chain Bridge going into Washington from North Arlington, reading “Hose Bag City,” with a helpful graphic. It was emblazoned quite largely, and repeatedly, at a point where idling drivers could be edified, despite city efforts to paint it over. I always wondered who was so motivated.

Anyway, now the whole douchebag thing has passed solidly into the language, even heard — back when I was first in practice — on the lips of a Canadian grandmother who worked for the National Prayer Breakfast, of all things, but whose prim patience broke down after several days of the William Kennedy Smith rape trial.

“Edie” — I actually dropped her arm — “I don’t believe you said that.”

“Did I call him something very bad?” she asked. “I hope so.”

I think that application captured the sense of the expression as much as anything. Washington really is full of douchebags — former frat-boys who think they are all that and a bag of chips, blustering their way through life equipped not with courage but with a greasy jocularity that in the face of any obstacle gives way to huffy entitlement, their cocky posturing undermined by conspicuous preoccupation with peer approval. Dear God, just walk though the Capitol.

I still felt the appropriateness of the term eluding me until I considered that these are guys — dressed up or down, depending on social layer and age cohort — who see themselves as bulging with potent essence ready to be hurled into the waiting orifice of life, when they really most resemble insensible, pinkish, plasticky reservoirs, capable of ejecting at best watery vinegar or some synthetic distillation you wouldn’t touch without gloves on.

Maybe I’ve got too much time on my hands today. It’s just that this one had been baffling me for a while.


15 thoughts on “Douchebags

  1. We don’t have that term in the UK or in Aus. (Thankfully, now that I’ve looked it up. Yuk). Long may it continue to be a word we only hear in US movies.

    • It’s supposed to be gross! Otherwise what effect would it have? And I’m pretty sure it’s well-known in the UK by now (you’ve been away awhile, woo).

      I like it even better than “asshole” as there is a skank element involved that is so well suited to certain individuals. And it’s a step further than “scumbag”, which can also come in handy.

      Can’t ever have too much vocabulary, that’s what I say!

      • Actually, at first blush, I found it not so much gross as unfair. I mean, being female, a douchebag is just one of those things you deal with and rely on (in my case, my sinuses would never survive without it, but that’s another story). When I first ran across it, my thought ran something like “is everything connected with a woman’s genitals considered disgusting and pejorative? If so, why do men seem so preoccupied with obtaining access to them?” (The answer, I think, being that a lot of men — possibly a majority — only have sex with women to prove they’re not gay, but that too is for another conversation.)

        Still, it captures something.

  2. “Douchebag” hitched a ride into my vocabulary on George Carlin albums in the 1970s.

    The video was fun.

    And as a university-town child who learned to despise frat boys at an early age, I find “blustering their way through life equipped not with courage but with a greasy jocularity that in the face of any obstacle gives way to huffy entitlement, their cocky posturing undermined by conspicuous preoccupation with peer approval” to be pure brilliance.

    I never regret living three thousand miles away from the nation’s so-called capital.

    • Thank you. I spent some time trying to arrive at a clear description of a quality of character we all know when we see it but rarely dissect. Which is a hideous visual.

      I owe Zeus for the video, incidentally, which tickles me when I consider that he is mainly known for posting music videos involving harpsichords.

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