Douche — Long-lasting?

December 6, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

A couple of years ago, I heard a thirty-ish professor evaluate something as “douchy.” The douchy item might have been a song, or a band, or maybe it was an article. I don’t remember, and it’s not important. But it did make me realize that this word was not in my active vocabulary. I was reminded of that again when a Facebook friend linked to this picture posted on the Facebook page of Kicking Ass for the Middle Class.

Sean Hannity in among the other douches.

I have never called anyone a douche. Not even Sean Hannity. I must be too old; my lexicon of epithets must have solidified before douche and douchy came on the scene. But when was that?  Surely, there are linguists who can tell us. And what was the path of diffusion?*

I also wonder whether douches are here to stay.  I have the impression that negative epithets are relatively durable.  Popular phrases come, and then they go. In a few years, will events still result from perfect storms?  Will ingrates be throwing people under buses, while creative folk push envelopes and think outside boxes? These phrases are swell, but I suspect their time is limited.  Ditto, I hope, for “my bad.”  Happy campers are fading away like old soldiers, and all the superstars have been replaced by icons. 

But shitheads and assholes have been around a long time and show no signs of leaving. Is it their location on the other side of respectability that gives them long life?  Douche has its origins in body parts and actions usually kept out of sight, but the word itself isn’t quite over the line. In this way, it’s like suck, as in “this post sucks.”  And maybe it does. But I did want to reprint that drugstore photo of all the douches.

* UPDATE:  The Language Log was no help in this matter.  A search for douche turned up mostly references to douchebag, and most of these were in the comments.  One post does have a link to a 2009 New York Times article about words you can say on television.  It quotes the creator of “Community”:  “This is a word that has evolved in the last couple of years — a thing that sounds like a thing you can’t say.”  He he’s got the history right (it’s only the last couple of years).  The Parents Television council counted 76 douches on 26 prime-time network series in 2009 (and the year still had seven weeks to go, though the year-end Christmas specials would probably be pulling down the average). That 76 compares with thirty in 2007 and a mere six in 2005.

(HT:  Jamie Fader)

1 comment:

ry said...

Well, I know "douche" and "douchey" were common insults in high school hallways in the Phoenix area in the late 1990s. Sounds like it took TV a while to catch up there.