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Bimbo is a term that emerged in popular English language usage in the early 20th century to describe a physically attractive but unintelligent woman. Use of this term began in the United States as early as 1919, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which cites the American Magazine issue of November that year. The sense here was of a stupid man (see below). The etymology is given only as "slang (orig. U.S.)". Further cites in the OED show the male sense being used by P.G. Wodehouse as late as 1947, in Full Moon. The first cite in the OED for its female meaning is in 1929, from the scholarly journal American Speech, where the definition was given simply as "a woman".

A similar stereotype is "dumb blonde".

History

This word derives from the Italian bimbo[citation needed], derived from bambino (Italian for child), a masculine-gender term that means (male) baby or very young (male) child (its feminine equivalent is bimba). Its first usage in English was for stupid men[citation needed]; it now is understood to mean a woman unless modified as male bimbo, himbo, or mimbo. Some still prefer the explicitly female variant, bimbette, which has also entered The American Heritage Dictionary. Others use bimbette for a younger bimbo, because the suffix -ette signifies a smaller version, as in French.

Like so many words, the meaning of 'bimbo' changed over time. According to the book Flappers 2 Rappers by Tom Dalzell, "bimbo" meant "great person" in the 1920s. It wasn't until the '30s that it was even associated with females. Oftentimes songs like "My Little Bimbo Down on the Bamboo Isle" (1920) are characterized as being blatantly sexist when in reality the listener is simply ignorant of the original meaning of the words used in the lyrics. The 1929 silent film Desert Nights describes a wealthy female crook as a bimbo. In The Broadway Melody, an angry Bessie Love calls a chorus girl a bimbo. The 1950s song "Bimbo", about a toddler, was one of the early hits for the popular American singer Jim Reeves.

A beauty contest game called Miss NIDA Bimbo is an online game in which players, of a large range of ages, including grandparents, can purchase operations such as facelifts and breast implants in order to impress virtual boys, with proper warning of the dangers it may cause in reality. The game has received condemnation from parents, especially in the British region.[1]

In the '90s, 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.

See also

References








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