A TV news anchor (for the record, a woman), having just introduced a segment about a zoo gorilla, giddily turns to her co-anchor (for the record, a black man) and declares: “He kind of looks like you!”

Across the U.S. a wire-pack explosion of sentiment condemns the sensibility-starved newswoman as every kind of jerk, from bigot to ignoramus. Somewhere in the Midwest, this assessment ensues:

Person 1:
I wonder who hired this bimbo.

Person 2:
Bimbo? Clearly you don’t realize that the word is a misogynistic putdown.

Person 1:
It can be. However, the universal definition of bimbo includes the meaning, “a foolish, stupid, or inept person.” Bimbo is not gender-specific; it may be used, correctly, to describe women and men.

Person 2:
I beg to differ. The definition of bimbo, based on common usage, is “a foolish, stupid, or inept woman.”

Person 1:
Your assertion of common usage — that is, of a cultural definition — is relevant: the rationale being that repetitive, widespread use of a word over time, in a given application, leads to common understanding and acceptance (e.g., the word bad, in which, in the ‘80s, Michael Jackson infused an urban meaning: “hip, awesome, cool”).

However, cultural definitions pass the test of meaning only so far: a word’s cultural definition cannot usurp its universal definition.

Given the TV anchor’s cavalier comment about her co-anchor’s looks, it might have been more appropriate for me — but only for the sake of enhanced clarity — to describe her rather as an oaf or boor. However, I wholly stand by my choice of bimbo.

The reasons:

  • My use is acceptable; i.e., it cannot be disputed as incorrect.
  • To use the language wonderfully is to use it for full effect. My use of bimbo achieves this goal, because it aptly describes the foolish TV anchor, and does so full-frontally, boldly.

The English language is at once maiden and shrew: accommodating and graceful, yet a head-scratcher for its mood swings. Ultimately its beauty is in its fine lines: its nuances.

I’ve enjoyed our debate about bimbo, and hope that my clarification of the word’s elasticity has helped bolster understanding.

In closing, allow me to use bimbo correctly in a sentence: “President Trump is a bimbo.”