Column: Definition of a douche

(Above: Modern douche. Photo by rumkolat/flickr

Whenever I see a car with a bunch of stickers covering the bumper or trunk, I always think, “What a douche.” I can’t be certain that all of these drivers are douches, but according to psychologist William Szlemko and his colleagues at Colorado State University, at least one out of every six of these drivers is pretty douchey.
A story on Yahoo said the researchers “discovered that those having a larger number of personalized items on or in their car were sixteen percent more likely to get involved in road rage.”
Road rage is extremely douchey behaviour.

Once again science makes me look good.

Thank you, science.
I’m all for personalization when it’s an expression of creativity or means of enhancement. I like when couples personalize wedding vows, homeowners remodel and cats glow in the dark. But when you personalize a car with stickers you destroy the car’s natural beauty. Even if it’s an ugly car, you destroy its natural ugliness – which is a perverse form of beauty to many of us. In either case the car’s appearance has been altered negatively. Personalization is no longer a means of creativity whose end is enjoyment. Personalization of a car via bumper sticker is an act of personal property destruction.
The conclusion I drew from this study is that someone who is willing to destroy his own property first is more likely to destroy yours later through actions like – wait for it, wait for it – road rage.

This is why you should give wide berth to drivers with a “Dog is My Co-Pilot” bumper sticker. Any person who looks at “Dog is My Co-Pilot” every day, smiles in self-satisfaction and thinks, “That sticker remains entertaining and clever,” is clearly a psychopath who is six minutes away from slicing you in half and knocking on your lover’s door at 2 AM wearing a suit of your skin.

When the police find your corpse in the trunk of the guy’s car, with that “Dog is My Co-Pilot” sticker on the bumper, you can bet one of the detectives will look at the sticker, look at the captain, take a pull on his cigar and say with disgust, “There is no dog.”
Then the captain will roll his eyes and think, “What a douche.”

All of which brings us to the heart of this week’s column – the word “douche.”

This remarkable word has made the leap from feminine-hygiene noun to insult adjective. Sometimes when a person does something incredibly unintelligent, traditional pejoratives will not suffice. “That guy was a total idiot,” says very little. “That guy was a total douche,” says everything.
I like the word douche. I like it because the goal of the word is to correct bad behaviour. If douche has a negative connotation, and no one wants to be called a douche, then fewer people will do douchey things. Language corrects the behavioural market. A well-timed “Rick, don’t be a douche” from a hot babe can do more to prevent a bar brawl than a roomful of bouncers. This is the power of words. And hot babes.

(Above: The proper way to prevent a bar brawl. Sergio Savaman Savarese/flickr.)
Because I like the word – and because I want it to have the maximum sting when I launch it upon my enemies – I will attempt to define the word douche. If douche gets watered down, it will lose its effectiveness. This is true of all douches.
The traditional definition of douche is this: “a jet or current of liquid (as a cleansing solution) directed against or into a bodily part or cavity (as the vagina).”

It’s odd that douche has a negative connotation. Isn’t a douche, when you think about it, a good thing? Would you want to live in a world without douches? I wouldn’t. Moving on…

My definition of douche is this: “A douche is an individual who acts without considering how intelligent, reasonable people will perceive his or her actions.”
Under this definition, the following people qualify as douches: Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Ann Coulter, Hillary Clinton, Barry Bonds, Madonna, Greg from “Real World XX: Hollywood,” Damone from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” women who leave the house wearing more than two pieces of clothing with leopard-skin patterns, guys who take their shirts off at dance clubs, babies who cry on airplanes. (That is the ultimate in douchey behaviour. Being a baby is no excuse.)

I’m not the first person to attempt to define douche, but I like my definition best.

Urban Dictionary has seven definitions. This is the first one: “a word to describe an individual who has shown themself (sic) to be very brainless in one way or another, thus comparing them to the cleansing product for vaginas.”

I must disagree with any definition that in the process of accusing people of being brainless butchers a word (themself) while also calling an “individual” a “them” at the end of the definition.

Wikipedia says: “The metaphor of identifying a person as a douche is intended to associate a variety of negative qualities, specifically arrogance and malice.”

I agree that a douche can be arrogant or malicious, but he or she must be unaware of the consequences of his or her actions. If a person uses arrogance or maliciousness to gain some end, he is just mean or evil. (See: Simon Cowell.)

In researching this column (Joe does research?), I discovered that the Internet is flush with anti-douche activity.

There are Web sites dedicated to posting photos of douches.

You can find lists of douchey people.

And there is an iconic douche photo (worth checking out) that made its way around the Internet a few million times. The photo offers a definition slightly similar to mine: “an individual who has an over inflated (sic) sense of self worth, compounded by a low level of intelligence, behaving ridiculously in front of colleagues with no sense of how moronic he appears.”

I only agree with the last part of that definition – “with no sense of how moronic he appears.” If the individual had self-worth, that individual would not be a douche. It is the lack of self-worth that often leads to douchey behavior. Also, individuals can have high levels of intelligence and still be douchey. “South Park” covered this in 2004 with the episode Douche and Turd, a satire of the 2004 presidential election in which President Bush and Sen. John Kerry – both seemingly intelligent – were compared to a giant douche and a turd sandwich. The episode marked the cultural ascent of the word douche. Turd is still waiting for its day in the sun, so to speak.

(Above: A giant douche debates a turd sandwich. Thank you, “South Park.”)

Let’s break down one example of douchey behavior. A female friend of mine was recently being hit on by a guy. He said to her, “I didn’t know how attractive you were until I saw you in a dress.”

This is a completely douchey thing to say.

It implies:

1. Unless she always wears blouses and sweaters that cover her face, the guy does not think her face is attractive.

2. The guy only finds her attractive now that her legs and breasts are exposed.

3. The guy thinks she is so stupid that she will take his comment as a compliment.

This is a guy who did not consider how his comment would be judged by an intelligent, reasonable person.

What a douche.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Joe Donatelli

    Reader Abby Kincaid has alerted me to the existence of the book “Hot Chicks with Douchebags,” which appears to be a celebration of all things douchey.

    Check it out at

  • I think you’ve nailed the very essence of douchebaggery. I know that “douche” is one of my favorite words — I’d even say so should I ever become some famous that I’m featured on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.”

    And you are quite right about the bumper stickers. Bonus warning: The folks with the “Mean People Suck” bumper stickers are the one’s most likely to stuff you into a woodchipper and then seduce your girlfriend at the wake.

  • I completely agree with your definition, but I think you are missing a big piece of the puzzle, as is the rest of America.

    Douche/Douchebag is a term reserved pretty much for the guys. When one mentions a douchebag, you instantly think of a guy from Pittsburgh. But what about those girls who also fit the bill? The “female douchebags”, if you will..

    In my opinion, we, as a society, have failed until we can come up with a word that covers this growing populace. Perhaps it’s worthy of its own blog posting, but I’ve met a few girls who I couldn’t quite define with our own vocabulary.

    Take, for instance, the girl wearing a trucker’s hat. A total lame ass…. but we need a better term. Douchette, perhaps? We can do better..

  • Dan

    I like what DeMetri Martin said about bumper stickers: “When I see a bumper sticker, it’s like the driver is saying to me, ‘Hey, let’s never hang out.'”

    I describe a guy as a douche (I don’t think I’ve ever called a woman a douche, probably because the coming qualifier already describes most women) when I see obvious outward manifestations compensating for inner emptiness. For example, men wearing obnoxiously “trendy” outfits; men who don’t play sports or swim professionally, yet lift weights constantly and shave their arms and legs; men who do anything with their hair besides briefly comb or hastily gel; men who get tattoos that have no cultural or inherent significance, etc.

    That even covers men like Bush and Kerry, who cloaked their inner emptiness with tired political bromides.

  • I agree that we need a word to describe women of a similar caliber to douches. I’m racking my brain trying to come up with a similar cleaning product for testicles and all I can really offer is that we start calling female douches, “ball washers.” I briefly considered “wet rags” but that was not something I was prepared to call a woman to her face. Ball washer works nicely because, to be fair, it is the female douches who are perpetuating male douche behavior in the first place.

  • Could you please clarify something as I am far from up-to-date with my modern USA slang terminology. What about the word “tool?” Is it different from “douche?” If so, in what way? Discuss.

  • Megan

    Dude–what’s up with the spelling of ‘behavior’ as ‘behaviour’?!?!?!? Did you just swim across the pond or are you from Cleveland?!?!? What a douchey way of spelling.

  • steve

    @Berto: The word you’re looking for may be “Douchebaguette”.

  • Joe Donatelli

    Damn. How did that spelling happen? Damn you, Euro-Spellcheck. I knew I was playing with fire.

  • Simer

    douchebaguette sounds too much like an item at panera…a company which, if were a car, would have the bumper sticker “I profit from metrosexuality”


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