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What Associations Do Americans Make with These Words

Ross at Play

Someone questioned a few things I have in a draft story.
What are Americans likely to think if someone said, out of the blue, in a conversation, "We call them the Colonel"?
My guess is they'd think of Colonel Sanders from KFC.

Also, do Americans think calling someone a 'blimp' is saying they are fat. The word has an old meaning in British English of a pompous, old military type, but I'd guess in America it would now just imply fat.

Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Ross at Play


"We call them the Colonel"?

My guess is they'd think of Colonel Sanders from KFC.


Call HIM "the Colonel" not "them."

And in the U.S. calling or otherwise comparing someone to a blimp is indeed a euphemism for saying they're very fat. It isn't uncommon for those comparisons to mention the Goodyear Blimp (often present at outdoor Major League sporting events) specifically.

Also popular: "Michelin Man" and to a much lesser(and declining) extent the Staypuff Marshmallow Man from the original Ghostbusters movie.

Edit: It should be noted that in the case of "Michelin Man" specifically, it also can be a (often self-) reference to overly bulky attire that makes one appear to be grossly overweight. Such as heavy winter coat, pants and so on.

Replies:   REP
Ernest Bywater

Often we say, "I'm gettin' dinner at the Colonel's." or

"Goin' to the Colonel for dinner." or similar statements to use the term Colonel or Colonel's for the KFC store.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
gmontgomery

@Ross at Play

The reference goes beyond Harlan Sanders. He was a Kentucky colonel. It comes from the practice of Kentucky's governor of awarding honorary letters patent for the rank of colonel.

My guess is they'd think of Colonel Sanders from KFC.

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Also, do Americans think calling someone a 'blimp' is saying they are fat.


Yes.

It comes from the airship type known in the US as a blimp.

There are two types of airships.

The more well known world wide is the dirigible. A dirigible, like the Hindenburg, has a rigid frame supporting the gas bag.

The other type of airship does not have a rigid frame for the gasbag, only the cabin itself is rigid. This type of airship was designated by the US government as a class B limp airship, which eventually got shortened to blimp in everyday speech.

Blimps are large a slow.

http://3iz4pu1r2cxqxc3i63gnhpmh.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/N3A-Spirit-of-Goodyear2-web.jpg

Replies:   sejintenej
Not_a_ID

@Ernest Bywater

Often we say, "I'm gettin' dinner at the Colonel's." or

"Goin' to the Colonel for dinner." or similar statements to use the term Colonel or Colonel's for the KFC store.


Except you're an Aussie. =P

But your usage wouldn't be out of place in much the U.S.

"Them" in reference to Colonel Sanders specifically (and KFC indirectly) as per the initial example would be incorrect however.

Now if you were going to "the Colonel's" to bother them for some chicken, that's another matter.

Replies:   Ross at Play  Capt. Zapp
tendertouch

@Ross at Play

If I heard "We call them the Colonel" (or him) I'd think military bearing - possibly former officer but you can always tweak an old senior NCO that way. The usage is different than "Going to the Colonel's" so it won't bring the same things to mind for me.

Blimp would be mostly fat but for me it also carries the connotation of a blowhard.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

Except you're an Aussie.

I'm allowed to write stories in that damn awful American English if I wish. :-)

"Them" in my OP was a typo.

The exchange I want occurs at a family dinner with two teenage boys.
One boy mentions the name of a girl from school.
The other says, "The Colonel."
Their mother asks, "Colonel Sanders?"
The second boy explains, "No, Ma. Colonel Blimp."

I want readers to get that some boys' nickname for her is 'The Colonel' - because she is fat.

Thanks, everybody.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

I want readers to get that some boys' nickname for her is 'The Colonel' - because she is fat.


Why colonel blimp and not just the blimp?

For many, a guy calling a woman the colonel would imply that he thinks she's "Finger licking good!".

The only way I see colonel blimp working is if there is an entire clique of fat girls at the school and the girl in question is the alpha fat chick.

Replies:   REP  Not_a_ID
Ernest Bywater

@tendertouch

Blimp would be mostly fat but for me it also carries the connotation of a blowhard.


Sort of the same for me, but would tend to be one or the other based on how it was said. I'd tend to expect an adjective like windy blimp for a blowhards as against a lazy fat person.

Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

One boy mentions the name of a girl from school.
The other says, "The Colonel."
Their mother asks, "Colonel Sanders?"
The second boy explains, "No, Ma. Colonel Blimp."


Sorry, Ross, as an Aussie I wouldn't see that association that way. But then, some of those sort of associations are regional based, so i can't rule it out - just wouldn't be seen that way where I grew up in Sydney.

However, if you called her the opera singer or Brunhilde - yeah, big and fat would be an expectation. Opera singer form the saying - 'It ain't all over 'til the fat lady sings.' Which refers to the final solo by the large lady who's usually the lead female singer.

Replies:   Dominions Son
REP

@Not_a_ID

to mention the Goodyear Blimp


And then there are the references to the Goodrich blimp. :)

Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

However, if you called her the opera singer or Brunhilde


American high school boys are not going to go for an opera reference unless in involves Bugs Bunny.

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

What are Americans likely to think if someone said, out of the blue, in a conversation, "We call them the Colonel"?


That could depend on several factors. What was the conversation about before the 'Colonel' statement? If it was about food, then thinking about KFC wouldn't be unusual. A conversation about the military would probably result in thoughts of rank structure. If the topic was neither, then the response would probably be 'huh?'.

...in America it would now just imply fat.


Yeah, that would be what I think too.

Capt. Zapp

@Not_a_ID

"Them" in reference to Colonel Sanders specifically (and KFC indirectly) as per the initial example would be incorrect however.


The only time I might expect to hear KFC referred to as 'them' would be if someone was talking about KFC and the person who made the statement "We call them the Colonel" meant that they referred to any KFC as 'The Colonel'.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
REP
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The only way I see colonel blimp working is if there is an entire clique of fat girls at the school and the girl in question is the alpha fat chick.


I don't see that working very well DS. There are several normally unrelated cliques being used. Linking the Colonel, Colonel Sanders, and Colonel Blimp wouldn't make much sense to me. For me:

The Colonel would refer to a military rank.

Colonel Sanders is that elderly man in a white suit.

Colonel Blimp has no meaning for me. I checked and found it refers to a British cartoon character.

I doubt I would probably get the inference that Colonel Blimp was a nickname for the girl, unless there had been a prior reference to the girl being fat, but I'd have to stop and work it out. That would pull me out of the story.

ETA: It would probably be better to rewrite the exchange or cut it out altogether.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Yes, "blimp" = fat.

The colonel. I'd need it in context.

Dominions Son

@REP

There are several normally unrelated cliques being used. Linking the Colonel, Colonel Sanders, and Colonel Blimp wouldn't make much sense to me. For me:


Note in the proposed passage, Colonel Sanders and Colonel Blimp are not connected except by confusion over a reference to "The Colonel".

Yes, Colonel is a military rank, a high level officer rank, being just below a general. As such it could be used to refer to a clique leader. In that construct, Colonel Blimp would be the leader of the blimps or fat kids.

Replies:   REP
Ernest Bywater

This wikipedia article may help some people get the UK reference on Colonel Blimp.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonel_Blimp

Ross at Play

From what others have said, I think my first part is working as I want ...
A mother hears one of her sons saying the nickname he and his friends use for some girl at school is 'the Colonel'. She cannot see any link and is confused. She thinks it is most likely referring to Colonel Sanders so she asks for confirmation.

I think the last part is working as I want ...
When the mother is told (and readers see) the word 'blimp' they understand the nickname is intended an insult because she is fat, i.e. shaped like the Goodyear Blimp.

I am not sure the middle link will work for Americans. I expect most Brits and Aussies will have heard the name Colonel Blimp before. They would at least know it was the name of a person or character who was held up for ridicule.

I doubt many know the original Colonel Blimp was a cartoon character from the the 1930s. Until I looked it up, I did not know the original reason the character was ridiculed was because they were a pompous, old, upper-class, British twit - rather than for being particularly fat. That does not matter as long as readers know the name refers to someone to be ridiculed.

The only question I have left for Americans is:
Does the name Colonel Blimp ring some indistinct bell in your memory, and does that memory extend as far as knowing the name refers to someone to be ridiculed?

Not_a_ID

@Dominions Son

Why colonel blimp and not just the blimp?


I probably would have gone for Major Blimp if only because of the Major B---- double feature. As well as the other plays on Major _______.

But for "under the radar" discussion of "the Colonel" at least provides a few moments of ambiguity until further conversational context reveals KFC is not being discussed.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Not_a_ID

@Capt. Zapp

The only time I might expect to hear KFC referred to as 'them' would be if someone was talking about KFC and the person who made the statement "We call them the Colonel" meant that they referred to any KFC as 'The Colonel'.


Which would still be wrong, and wrong enough most(but not all) people wouldn't explain it that way.

I could see "We call them[KFC] 'The Colonel's'" as it's a (fictitious) ownership claim of any KFC Restaurant as being "owned" by "Colonel Sanders."

I'm sure there's a technical term that an English Major could dig up to describe that weird practice of an owners name being synonymous with something they own or possess in some form. For example "Brian's House" turning into "Brian's" but as extended to KFC, that doesn't mean anybody or everyone at his house is even named Brian, or any other kind of weirdness. Which is why "We call them 'The Colonel'" just pegs the meter for being weird in general. It being a typo certainly explains that happening.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Until I looked it up, I did not know the original reason the character was ridiculed was because they were a pompous, old, upper-class, British twit - rather than for being particularly fat.


In the 19th Century, and even into the 20th, being fat was actually a status symbol. It meant you were a person of means who had no worries about scarcity of goods(in particular, food).

So "Rich Guy" pretty much was synonymous with "fat dude" in many social circles, and the "stuffy" types are the ones most likely to be sedentary and thus likely to become fat("the idle rich"). As could be noted by the matter that the exceptions were mostly "new money" types, but it wasn't limited to just them, and those exceptions likewise tended to have a number of active ongoing pursuits.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Not_a_ID

I probably would have gone for Major Blimp ...

That will not work. If you search Wiki for 'Major Blimp' it finds nothing. The first suggestion it offers is Colonel Blimp. That is the one I mean.

So, your answer to my question is the name Colonel Blimp does not ring any bells in your memory?

Ernest Bywater

Three names are associated with Colonel in my mind, and the minds of those I asked:

1. Colonel Sanders of KFC fame.

2. Colonel Saunders aka Red Saunders - Australian Army Officer and hero who was a full blood Aboriginal. well known for his sense of humour.

3. Colonel Crittendon of Hogans Heroes fame pompous British officer.

Replies:   AmigaClone
Ernest Bywater

Maybe her name should be Goodyear - I think everyone would get that as being a fat blimp.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Maybe her name should be Goodyear - I think everyone would get that as being a fat blimp.

"Everyone would get that" is a problem.
Teenagers invent cruel nicknames for use among themselves that are one non-obvious step away from their actual meaning. Adults who overhear them talking should not be able to understand what they are saying.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Ross at Play

"Everyone would get that" is a problem.
Teenagers invent cruel nicknames for use among themselves that are one non-obvious step away from their actual meaning. Adults who overhear them talking should not be able to understand what they are saying.


That's not what i experienced both growing up and since. Most teens who wanted to give people hurtful nicknames picked ones that were obvious to everyone, otherwise they were a waste of time. Friendly nicknames were another matter and tried to be hidden.

AmigaClone
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I would add Colonel Mustard with the pipe in the kitchen... from one of the versions I know of "Clue"

Ross at Play

All I want to know is whether the name Colonel Blimp rings any bells in the memory of Americans, or is it only Brits and Aussies who'd have ever heard it.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

All I want to know is whether the name Colonel Blimp rings any bells in the memory of Americans, or is it only Brits and Aussies who'd have ever heard it.

One thing is for sure, it doesn't ring any German bells.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@robberhands

All I want to know is whether the name Colonel Blimp rings any bells in the memory of Americans, or is it only Brits and Aussies who'd have ever heard it.


A few of the responses earlier said it doesn't, and I'll add few Aussies would make the association without having it explained to them. However, some older Brits would likely make the association.

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

Does the name Colonel Blimp ring some indistinct bell in your memory,


I had never heard of it before.

Capt. Zapp

@Not_a_ID

Which is why "We call them 'The Colonel'" just pegs the meter for being weird in general.


No more for me than 'hoovering' the carpets. :)

Replies:   Ross at Play  Not_a_ID
Ross at Play

@Capt. Zapp

No more for me than 'hoovering' the carpets.

How else was J. Edgar supposed to remove bugs that weren't needed anymore?

Replies:   Dominions Son
Geek of Ages

The colonel I think of first is Colonel Mustard. While I'm aware that KFC has Colonel Sanders, its something I would never think of. And I've never heard of Colonel Blimp before, or the other colonels people have mentioned.

In terms of rank given to indicate a girl runs her social group, Queen (or Queen Bee) would probably be the way to go. Princess might work, but that has different connotations. If you really wanted military ranks, then I'd go with General; that's unambiguously at the top. Most Americans could tell you that, but not where a Colonel falls in the ranking vis-a-vis Major, Lieutenant, Sargent, or any of the others.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

In terms of rank given to indicate a girl runs her social group, Queen (or Queen Bee) would probably be the way to go.

It's not that kind of story ...

The poor girl's best friend thinks of her as "the dreg on the social ladder at school" - so low down that nobody else can qualify as being among the dregs! :(

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

Does the name Colonel Blimp ring some indistinct bell in your memory


No

Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

My inclination would then be to find some sort of moniker or nickname that she would be called. For example, Patricia might be known as Fatty Patty.

Ross at Play

I'm giving up on this thread now ... at least until the stupid puns start coming.

It is clear enough by now that a large percentage of readers will not even recognise the name Colonel Blimp as one they've heard before. I already knew very few would know who he was, and that would have been okay if only the name at least sounded familiar.

I'm not going to use anything that's an obvious insult. The story is written for humour and the insult must be something that needs an explanation. If I can't think of anything else that works, it will probably end up as one of those darlings the author was unwilling to kill off.

Replies:   Capt. Zapp
Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

All I want to know is whether the name Colonel Blimp rings any bells in the memory of Americans, or is it only Brits and Aussies who'd have ever heard it.


No, at least not for most Americans not old enough to remember WWII.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

How else was J. Edgar supposed to remove bugs that weren't needed anymore?


Clearly you aren't familiar enough with J. Edgar Hoover. He would never have considered a functional bug no longer needed.

Replies:   Ross at Play  AmigaClone
Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

He would never have considered a functional bug no longer needed.

Yeah. I suspected I was being bugged at the time I wrote that.

REP

@Dominions Son

Note in the proposed passage, Colonel Sanders and Colonel Blimp are not connected except by confusion over a reference to "The Colonel".


I read in a serial fashion. I see 'the Colonel' and then 'Colonel Sanders'. I can see a link between the two. Then I read 'Colonel Blimp', and try to link it to the first two references. 'Colonel Blimp' is meaningless to me, and I don't see how it relates to the first two references. Since the intent of 'Colonel Blimp' is not clear, I have to stop and think about it to determine what, if any, link is present. I may never understand what is meant if I don't know the girl is fat.

That verbal exchange takes me out of the story. That can be a bad thing to do as it irritates some readers.

As EB said:

I wouldn't see that association that way. But then, some of those sort of associations are regional based


Regional associations may need to be explained to the reader. If you have to explain what your character's comment means, you probably shouldn't have your character use the association. Although it can be explained in the context that other characters didn't get the association. Better to use something that almost everyone is familiar with if explaining has a negative effect on the flow of the story.

AmigaClone

@Dominions Son

He would never have considered a functional bug no longer needed.


At this point you get those bugs that are no longer functional - J. Edgar would want those hoovered up yesterday, and replaced the day before. After recovery, the non functional bugs would either be restored to operational status or completely destroyed.

Not_a_ID

@Capt. Zapp

No more for me than 'hoovering' the carpets. :)


The first commercial vacuum cleaner was a "Hoover" (named after the inventor) and that is how "Hoovering" is a thing. It just didn't gain wide-scale adoption, unlike a number of other brands which wound up becoming the generic term for their product.

WDecou

@Ross at Play

All I want to know is whether the name Colonel Blimp rings any bells in the memory of Americans, or is it only Brits and Aussies who'd have ever heard it.

I think it's a Commonwealth thing. Unless they're an Anglophile of a certain age, Americans won't make the connection.

Capt. Zapp

@Ross at Play

I'm not going to use anything that's an obvious insult.


How about using initials for her insulting nickname? If the other character is familiar with the person and the nick, they won't question it, but if they are not, it can generate the inquiry you suggested.

JohnBobMead
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Does the name Colonel Blimp ring some indistinct bell in your memory, and does that memory extend as far as knowing the name refers to someone to be ridiculed?


Yes. I didn't know precisely who Colonel Blimp was, but I knew he was a pompous ass. I've no clue where I came across this knowledge.

ETA: I'm not sure I'd qualify as an "Anglophile of a certain age." I'm 57; does that fall within the proper spectrum? I did read all of Dorothy Sayers' works years ago, was Colonel Blimp contemporaneous?

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@JohnBobMead

I did read all of Dorothy Sayers' works years ago, was Colonel Blimp contemporaneous?

Yes. He originally appeared as a cartoon character in a British newspaper in 1934.
He name was often used during WW II by those wanting to criticise the military for being pompous asses.
This is a Wiki article about him.

Replies:   JohnBobMead
JohnBobMead

@Ross at Play

Yes. He originally appeared as a cartoon character in a British newspaper in 1934.
He name was often used during WW II by those wanting to criticise the military for being pompous asses.
This is a Wiki article about him.


Hm.

Looking at when the Lord Peter stories were published, I realize that while I tracked down and purchased Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon, I never actually read them; for some reason I didn't warmed to Harriet Vane. I should try them again, it's been 30+ years, after all.

I became aware of Lord Peter Whimsey when PBS aired the five dramatizations staring Ian Carmichael in the 1970s. His Lord Peter and Glyn Houston's Bunter are the true quill for me; accept no substitutes!

Anyway, since I didn't actually read the two Lord Peter novels written 1934+, that's not where I encountered references to Colonel Blimp.

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

supporting the gas bag.

someone who never stops talking

"We call them KFC"s - as an abbreviation for the full name of all members of the chain of food outlets

StarFleet Carl

@Ross at Play

What are Americans likely to think if someone said, out of the blue, in a conversation, "We call them the Colonel"?
My guess is they'd think of Colonel Sanders from KFC.

Also, do Americans think calling someone a 'blimp' is saying they are fat.


You're missing the possessive. The Colonel's - meaning KFC.

Blimp, whale, tub of lard, never met a buffet she didn't like, Oprah ... :)

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