Bimbo, in its popular English language usage, describes a woman who is physically attractive but is perceived to have a low intelligence or poor education. The term can also be used to describe a woman who acts in a sexually promiscuous manner. The term itself is not explicitly negative, but is most often used as a derogative insult towards a woman.
Use of this term began in the United States as early as 1919, where it was used as a slang term for an unintelligent or brutish male. Its first inclusion in an official dictionary for its female meaning was in 1929, where the definition was given simply as "a woman".
The first usage of the term Bimbo in English was for an unintelligent male, although it now most commonly used to refer to a woman unless modified as male bimbo or himbo. For clarity, sometimes the explicitly female variant bimbette is used, which has also entered The American Heritage Dictionary. Bimbette can be used to indicate a younger bimbo, as the suffix -ette signifies a smaller version.
In popular English, the term Bimbo tends to have two similar and often overlapping connotations. The first refers to an attractive woman with poor intelligence or education, while the second refers to a woman with low sexual inhibitions and who often acts in a promiscuous manner. With the popularisation of cosmetic surgery, a person who has undertaken such practices in order to increase the perceived attractiveness can also be referred to as a bimbo.
Although the term with its current meaning has always had negative connotations, in recent years its pejorative qualities have lessened so "bimbo" can also be used as a more neutral term. It has retained its definition as women who are attractive but perceived to be unintelligent or promiscuous, but in media such as women's magazines and gossip magazines the term is not specifically used in a negative fashion. Instead it is mainly utilized to imply the common traits associated with a bimbo and to classify a particular person as one.
In 2010, the Daily Mail reported that some research has suggested that women with low IQ - termed "bimbos" by the Mail - may seek to compensate this by seeking more materially secure and stable spouses in a variant of Darwinian sexual selection. This behavior may be the root of the 'gold-digger" aspect of bimbo stereotypes.
Because of the association of the word with people in popular culture, the stereotypical bimbo appearance has become that of an attractive blonde woman with a curvy figure and large breasts, often wearing heavy makeup and revealing clothing. Despite this stereotype, however, none of the above mentioned traits are strictly needed for a person to be considered a bimbo. The common inclusion of blonde hair is due to the traditional European belief that blonde hair is beautiful and as an extension to the "dumb blonde" stereotype.
This word derives itself from the Italian bimbo, derived from bambino a masculine-gender term that means (male) baby or very young (male) child (bimbo's feminine equivalent is bimba). Use of this term began in the United States as early as 1919, and was a slang word used to describe an unintelligent or brutish man.
It was not until the late 1920s that the term Bimbo began to be associated with females. The 1929 silent film Desert Nights describes a wealthy female crook as a bimbo and in The Broadway Melody, an angry Bessie Love calls a chorus girl a bimbo. The first use of its female meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1929, from the scholarly journal American Speech where the definition was given simply as "a woman".
An unintelligent man can be referred to as a 'himbo', a backformation of bimbo.
In Germany during the 19th and 20th century, the word "Bimbo" had the dual meaning as racist term for a person of African descent. The word in relation to its original meaning, however, is rarely used. Although sometimes the word "Bimbo" is used, associated but separate phrases, such as "dumme Blondine" (= "dumb blonde"), are more common instead.
Bimbos in popular culture
- Bimbo (song)
- In the 1990s, the Danish band Aqua used the word Bimbo in their major hit Barbie Girl, using the dumb blonde archetype as well ("I'm a blonde bimbo girl..."), which was noted by Mattel in the legal conflict against Aqua and their record company for the representation of the popular Barbie doll.
- A beauty contest game called Miss Bimbo is an online game in which players attempt to use virtual characters to win contest, earn IQ points and impress virtual boys, through makeovers, clothing, exercise and the purchase of operations such as facelifts and breast implants. Although the game itself does not promote such activities in real life and is often viewed as a parody, it has received condemnation in the media from parent groups, especially in the British region.
- Blonde stereotype
- Sex and intelligence
- Valley girl and Essex girl carry similar connotations to a young bimbo or "bimbette", but are non-synonymous.
- Kogal and Ganguro also carry similar connotations as a Japanese version of a "valley girl" or bimbo.
- ^ a b "Slang of the 1920's". http://local.aaca.org/bntc/slang/slang.htm. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1929
- ^ a b "Why 'bimbos' are cleverer than they seem". Daily Mail. 2010-06-20. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1288045/Why-bimbos-like-late-Anna-Nicole-Smith-cleverer-seem.html?ito=feeds-newsxml. Retrieved 2010-06-23.
- ^ a b Encyclopedia of Hair, pp. 149-151
- ^ a b "Etymonline". http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=bimbo&searchmode=none. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1919
- ^ "Aqua Now Faces Lawsuit Over "Barbie Girl"". MTV News. 12 September 1997. http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1424996/19970912/story.jhtml. Retrieved 2010-06-23. [dead link]
- ^ "Parents upset over online Miss Bimbo game for children". Taipei Times. 2008-03-30. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/bizfocus/archives/2008/03/30/2003407697. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
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