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When/why did "douche" become a synonym for "jerk"?

 
 
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:01 pm
I'm really curious as to how this came to be common terminology.

I've heard it used for years but it seems to have become the preferred word in just the last few.

Does anyone have any idea?
 
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:05 pm
@boomerang,
3/17/65 1:45 a.m.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  2  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:08 pm
@boomerang,
probably when douche became a word.

ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:10 pm
@ossobuco,
Any one here read Mc Carthy?
Diane
 
  2  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:13 pm
Boomer, it might have become popular when men figured out what douche means.

Oh, hah, so that's what it's used for, now we can sound cool, you douche bag.
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:18 pm
vinegar on the rocks, stirred, not shaken, with a pearl onion.
0 Replies
 
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 09:29 pm
@ossobuco,
I've only read The Road. What book did he write that references the word?
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 14 Mar, 2011 10:04 pm
@tsarstepan,
I dunno, I can't read him. though I've tried. I have two of his books waiting for me. (The first chapter of the first one did me in)

I was talking of Mary McCarthy, a nasty scholar of note.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 12:05 am
I remember douche bag being an insult since 1967 or 1968.
0 Replies
 
PUNKEY
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 01:41 am
When did "douche" become a synonym for jerk?

When "dick" went out of favor.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 01:45 am
Douche is the French word for shower, so the word has been around for a long time. Has anyone bothered to look this up?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 01:49 am
From the online etymological dictionary:

douche (n.) 1766, "jet of water," from Fr. douche (16c.), from It. doccia "shower," from docciare "to spray," from L. ductionem "a leading," from ducere "to lead" (see duke). Meaning "vaginal cleansing" is from 1833. The verb is first attested 1838. Related: Douched; douching.

also douche-bag, douche bag, 1908, from douche + bag. Amer.Eng. slang sense of "contemptible person" attested by 1967.

I'm not going to bother to reproduce the italics and bold-face here.
0 Replies
 
Francis
 
  3  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 01:56 am
@boomerang,
Quote:
On Douchebags

Recently, Mr. Belinkie had the brilliant idea of writing a post about that ubiquitous insult, “douchebag,” but he thought I, being the “resident third wave feminist,” should have the honors.

In reality, I hadn’t really thought much about the word until he asked me to write the post, and I hadn’t thought of it in a feminist perspective until he reminded me how I’ve written myself into the “angry feminist” corner of this blog. Oh well.

But it brought to mind important questions:

1. What in the world is a douchebag, literally and figuratively?

2. Where did the word come from and why is it currently so popular?

3. Should feminists use the word “douchebag” or not in everyday discourse?

Douches, if you don’t know, are interesting contraptions that some women stick up their cooters to spray their innards with water, vinegar (ouch), or some chemical solution in the hopes that they can wash away that icky girl smell. They come in a variety of smells (flavors?), such as Baby Powder, Mountain Breeze, Spring Rain, Island Splash, and Sweet Romance. I’ve never used one, nor will I for this post, because almost every doctor in the Universe agrees they are very unhealthy and that vaginas, like a good oven or a cat, are self-cleaning. Douching can actually lead to a less clean vagina, causing infection and other nastiness.

The douche contraption is made of a bag (the “douche bag”) or bottle filled with the cleansing liquid and a hose that goes up your cootch. There seems to be nothing wrong with this bag except for the fact that it is filled with the liquid of the douche.

But this isn’t how we use the term “douchebag” in common parlance. A naïve suburban girl, I had never heard the term until I entered college in 2002 and learned to understand its complexities to such a degree that I was able to deliver an verbal dissertation to my mother during Spring break about the differences between a douchebag and a tool.

To me, a douchebag is an asshole. A douchebag is almost always a man, particularly an alpha-male or a wannabe alpha-male. Frat boys tend to lean towards douchey; drunken frat boys almost always cross the line (which I recently learned was called “the Feder-line,” interestingly). Douchebags may very well be smart, but they act like idiotic assholes who don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves.

According to Urban Dictionary, however, there are two distinct definitions for douchebag:

* A douchebag usually assumes the form of a hair-gelling pretty-boy but can also be described as an overzealous, pompous, or vexatious asshole that most people wish were killed with a Mortal Kombat fatality.

Oh ho! Those are two very different definitions. Both of these people might be assholes, but one is a feminine asshole, and one is a masculine asshole. One is insulted because he acts like a stereotypical woman/gay man who cares about appearances; the other is insulted because he’s the stereotype of the over-aggressive man. One is problematic because he’s not masculine enough; the other because he’s too masculine. Back to that distinction in a moment.

To figure out which is the “correct” definition, we need to go back to the source. It’s like the old story of the zebra. Is a zebra white with black stripes or the other way around? The only way to tell is to look at the source. A baby zebra is black, so a zebra is black with white stripes.

So, to find out what the true definition of douchebag is, we need to find out where douchebags come from. What’s the etymology of the insult version of douchebag? Where did it come from and why do we say it now?

Apparently, douchebag is an olde tyme insult, much like “trollop” or “dingbat.” The OED says it was first printed in the 1930s and that it was popularized in the 1950s as a term of contempt towards women.

Theoretically, then, feminists should not say douchebag, because, like “bitch” or “****,” it’s nasty towards the female gender. Heart of Women’s Space agrees that the link between these terms is fair because “douchebag,” like “bitch and “****,” is only insulting because it’s related to women and their inferior plumbing. This argument definitely gives me pause, because I did make a conscious decision not to use the word “bitch” anymore for that very reason. I tried to give up “****” but ultimately decided to co-opt it with some of my friends in college. If black people can use the N-word, then we should be able to call each other “**** muffins” and “my little cuntykins” all we want, right? **** power! The film, Atonement, I think, also brought back the sexy side to the word “****,” which is pretty neat.

I am loath to give up “douchebag,” though, because I had always used it against men who were nasty to women. I didn’t mean that they were womanly; I meant that they were trying to use their patriarchal nastiness to get play. Douchebags are guys who take advantage of drunk freshmen at parties and then act all offended when someone accuses them of rape. Douchebags, in my mind, are assholes who are on the top of the social hierarchy and therefore are allowed to act as douchey as they want. Amanda Marcotte, feminist extraordinaire of Pandagon, is with me on this one, so I guess I can pull an appeal to authority and win this one.

Let’s go back to physical douchebags for a second. Are they really associated with women? Sure, only women use them, as far as I know. But the fact is that douches are associated more with the patriarchy than with women themselves. The only reason women ever used douches was to clean themselves so men would like them. Men didn’t like the “gross” vagina smell, so drug stores started selling douches and advertisements started telling women that if they didn’t clean themselves boys wouldn’t like them. So here’s my argument:

-Douches=tools of the patriarchy
-Douchebags=patriarchal tools
-“Douchebag”=not offensive to women

So I’m going to continue to call people douchebags. Proudly.

Incidentally, Gawker claims that the word is overplayed and had a contest to find a replacement term. See the comments for some excellent ideas. I’d say we should just stay away from any terms derived from genitalia altogether, since genitalia are actually pretty great. “Asshat” seems to be catching on and has a nice image attached to it. “Cumstain” isn’t bad, because while cum in itself isn’t bad, I don’t think anyone wants a cumstain. And, of course, we can’t forget about “anus,” because that’s where the poop comes out.

Old Goat
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 02:15 am
@boomerang,
When did "douche" become a synonym for "jerk"?

About fifty years after "jerk" became a synonym for idiot, I think.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 08:06 am
Thanks to all for your replies!

I had looked the word up, even though I knew what it meant, hoping to shed some light on how it became an insult. It didn't.

The essay Francis posted comes fairly close to what I was thinking but I was wondering if maybe there was some connection to the old wives tale about douche induced abortion and that maybe the term referred to someone who shouldn't have been born.

It seems like such a strange thing to call someone.
0 Replies
 
PUNKEY
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 08:08 am
I have never heard of a woman on woman use of this word. We just don't say it to each other.

Only women know how uncomfortable and burdensome and irritating douching is. - all things men. So I hear it woman on man. Men should not use this word.

BTW - the whole idea of douching is a Madison Avenue ploy. Douches, sprays, wipes are all unecessary. Many men love the smell of a woman. A woman's body is both frightening and fascinating to most men. Henry Ford Jr. said that anyone who could bottle the smell of pussy would be a millionaire.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 08:39 am
A douche bag -- the object -- can be used both as a vaginal wash and as an enema. Basically, the douche bag is a device for eliminating, in one use either a smell or sperm after a sexual encounter, in the other, constipation.

So, the idea is of a douche bag is not appealing. In the second televised dramatization of The Forsyte Saga, Irene, who hated her husband, douched immediately after sex to avoid having his child. When I was a college student, there were warnings issued to women that douching was not effective birth control. I would not, however, equate douching with aborting because it seems that douching would only prevent sperm from reaching the ovaries, but, I might be wrong because I am only surmising.

During the late 60s and early 70s, the advertising and over-the-counter cosmetics industry went crazy over vaginal odors. There were all sorts of products to eliminate this dreaded affliction, from FDS (for feminine deodorant spray) to the rather Victorian euphemism of Cupid's Quiver.

Frankly, the products and the ads were insulting. I remember an editorial or letter to the editor written by a man railing against these things. He wrote that women do not smell any worse than men do. The truth of the matter is that the perineum does tend to smell.

At the same time, as more Americans went to Europe -- often as backpacking students -- a traditional European piece of plumbing, the bidet, was discovered. Some tourists became enthusiastic fans while others were repulsed by them. Of course, there was the old foot bath routine. I had a bidet installed in my other house. They're wonderful. A woman can use one during her period. They're also helpful if you want to skip a daily shower (actually, bathing eliminates odors generated by the perineum more effectively than showering) because you are plagued by dry skin or because you want to conserve water. I wish I still had one.
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 08:41 am
@plainoldme,
I forgot the sentence about the name of an object with an embarrassing or suspect use easily lends itself to use as an insult.
0 Replies
 
Bella Dea
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 11:23 am
@Old Goat,
Hey, you old goat, you.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Mar, 2011 05:02 pm
@Bella Dea,
Oh my gosh!! It's Bella Dea!
 

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