The motivation for writing this is simple. The difference between Douchebags and Assholes can get muddled at times; often the two terms are used interchangeably. But Assholes and Douchebags, as you’ll see after considerable analysis, are quite different.
First of all, let’s look at the relevant base definitions for the two. I will exclude definitions that don’t apply to persons, since that is the context in which we were working today, and also any that don’t help my argument, to be totally honest with you.
- Asshole: M-W.com: a stupid, incompetent, or detestable person; urbandictionary.com: Someone being arrogant, rude, obnoxious, or just a total dickhead....
- Douchebag: M-W.com: an unattractive or offensive person; urbandictionary.com: A douchebag usually assumes the form of a hair-gelling pretty-boy but can also be described as an overzealous, pompous, or vexatious asshole that most people wish were killed with a Mortal Kombat fatality.
You can already see there differences beginning to emerge just from the definitions which I’ve selected, although, as you'll see, I disagree with the term "vexatious asshole" in the Douchebag definition. But before I continue with my completely unscientific analysis, I must note that for the sake of clarity and simplicity, I will only be using the male pronouns and possessives, because 1) 99% of the time when you’re calling somebody an asshole or douchebag the person is male and 2)Constantly typing “he or she” and “his or her” annoys the piss out of me. Also, I doubt any women will complain that I’m excluding them from this anyway. If you want to create a “Bitches vs. Cunts” node then by all means, but I want no part of it.
First, just because I think it would be interesting, let’s look at the etymology of the two terms. According to etymonline.com, "asshole" was first used as a nautical slang for backside around 1860 and was popular to use by 1930, the ass part a variant of arse, the “r” dropped in America as with many other words (“arse” and “arsehole” chiefly used in Great Britain). As for douchebag, well it came from the bag women used to douche and somebody at some point decided it would be a perfect term to use for insulting purposes. The use of the term might originate with an early-80’s Saturday Night Live skit, but who knows, really?
I think that the difference between the two terms can be summed up thusly (and quite vaguely): An asshole may not necessarily be a douchebag, and a douchebag may not necessarily be an asshole. In other words, they are not interchangeable, so stop using them interchangeably. Lets look at it more in-depth:
I remember one morning years ago, maybe it was late-2003 or early-2004, I saw a man driving his little crappy hatchback zoom into a lane, cut off a school bus, turned into a QuikTrip, park right in a handicapped spot, and disembark the car, clearly showing no signs of any type of disability. That, as I had pointed out in a writeup that was eaten, was Asshole In Its Purest Form. As for douchebag, I don’t have a personal experience that defines this term with such clarity, but I do recall a recollection by a radio DJ with a perfect example of one: a middle-aged gentleman (using the term loosely here) at a restaurant, smathered with cologne, adorned in jewelry, sporting an overdone tan, wearing sunglasses and a silk shirt unbuttoned enough to reveal a significant amount of chest hair. And he was talking on his cellular phone very loudly as if the business he was conducting was so important that everybody else had to hear about it.
Let’s use these examples as a starting point to pick apart the two guys and compare and contrast using three categories: Actions, Self Worth, Dress.
Asshole: He is liable to do things that are in near or total disregard for the welfare and/or happiness of others. We are all selfish to a certain extent of course but an Asshole ramps that up a few notches. He may not perpetrate truly evil acts, such as homicide or a planned brutal assault (however, he might), but he definitely would cut you off in traffic – on purpose – if it suits him. He will butt in lines, tailgate, scream at servers who don’t bring him the dish exactly how he wants it regardless of if he’d actually requested said differences or not, lie without any sort of noble intentions, steal, cheat, stand you up with no good excuse, promise to call in the morning but never does, and a myriad other things that have a tendency to piss people off. To disassociate them from individuals who are scatter-brained, an Asshole’s non-consideration for others is mostly conscious. They just don’t give a shit about you. He rarely, if ever, will do a favor for somebody without getting something out of it for himself.
Douchebag: A “DB” (as sometimes abbreviated) may not cut you off necessarily in traffic, but he might drive slow in the fast lane whilst talking on his phone. (In this case “slow” might actually be the speed limit. But still.) A DB will talk loudly on the cell phone in public places even though no discernable circumstances necessitate doing so, he might be dining with a trophy girlfriend or wife and ignore her the entire time whilst talking loudly on the previously mentioned phone, attempt to cut in line whilst semi-politely giving some reason (usually having something to do with how important he is), will order something off the menu but request so many changes from the waitress that by the time he gets the dish it is almost entirely different than the default, and a myriad other things that give you the sense that he feels he is special and that the rules do not apply to him.
Assholes: An Asshole’s self worth can vary widely. He may think he is the center of the universe, or he may have no discernable sense of self worth at all. But he will treat you as if you matter less than he does, no matter how much he values himself. Somebody who is picked on or mistreated in some other way by an asshole can turn into an asshole himself, mistreating others even lower on the social ladder to make himself feel better.
Douchebags: No scale here. A Douchebag has a high sense of self worth, feeling superior to any and all around. Which is why a Douchebag conducts himself in inappropriate ways that will embarrass himself more than others and he is often blissfully unaware of this fact. Mostly he is irritating, perhaps because others around him might be envious that he is such a galactic dork but he is somehow getting away with it. But sometimes he can entertain. A Douchebag can be a living, breathing comic strip character unable to break the fourth wall, unaware that he is being laughed at (silently most of the time) by onlookers, too distracted by phone, sunglasses, big head, and totally awesome flipped-up shirt collar to notice it.
Assholes: The frustrating thing about assholes is that it is usually tough to spot them until they engage in observable acts of assholery. Basically what that means is an asshole can be dressed in just about anything. You can encounter an asshole wearing torn up denim shorts with a faded old Metallica concert tee shirt or you can encounter one in a full business suit. However there are certain things that assholes tend to wear that can sometimes announce themselves. First, shirts that say “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” or something else of that ilk is a sure sign that it is draped around the torso of an asshole. But the most frequent, and commonly known, type of wardrobe that is almost universally the fashion item of an asshole is the classic Wifebeater.
This can be a tee shirt of any color or design but the characteristic every Wifebeater must have is that it is sleeveless – either it came without them or they’ve been cut or ripped off to show off the upper arms. The only time a Wifebeater will have sleeves is if they are rolled up so to form a convenient carrier for a pack of smokes. The Wifebeater is so-named because of the propensity of men who were these to beat their wives on a semiregular or regular basis. This type of dress is usually grouped with a white trash lifestyle, a trailer park staple. But Wifebeaters have been spotted on men of various socioeconomic classes.
Douchebags: DBs are almost universally wearing clothing that is in good shape, even though they are often out of style or are of poor taste to some degree. But out of style or not, a Douchebag will proudly wear his outfits as if they are the most stylin’ duds available. He will even sometimes flip the collar up, and even though he doesn’t necessarily have to do that to be a DB, it is almost a scientific law that every man spotted wearing his collar up is a Grade A Douchebag… and proud of it. But at any rate, this collar-flipping will invariably be accompanied by the first three or so buttons undone at the top of the shirt, exposing not only a bunch of gold jewelry and other bling, but copious amounts of chest hair as well.
The next item will only draw the ire of sports fans, but a Douchebag will almost always, when attending a hockey game, whereupon wearing a home team jersey, tuck it into his pants. This may be difficult to understand to non-hockey fans, as it is common to tuck in baseball shirts, but this is just wrong WRONG WRONG. Hockey jerseys must NEVER be tucked in, under any circumstances, unless you are a douchebag and not a real fan of the game or the team and are just attending because your coworkers got tickets and had enough disposable income to purchase a jersey even if it’s for one of the only hockey games you’ll ever attend in your life. I think maybe this rule applies to the NBA as well as the NHL but I wouldn’t know and I never will because I couldn’t care less about the NBA.
As far as Actions go, the biggest difference you can see is that an Asshole’s disregard for the welfare and/or happiness of others around him is largely willful and hurtful. A Douchebag’s disregard for others is not so much willful as it is ignorance. And a Douchebag’s disregard for others hurts himself more than anybody else, for it is an ignorance of others’ feelings about him. A DB’s actions are not likely to ever land him in jail, and if a DB ever does end up in prison, look out, because it would be mean streets for a DB in the pokey. It would just take one time for a DB to wear his collar up on the orange jumpsuit (if any of them have collars) and it would result in a ride down Asskick Boulevard. Assholes, however, end up in prison often, and it is one place where being an Asshole can certainly be an advantage, preying upon those that are weaker for survival. The point is, an Asshole engages in acts that are immoral and often illegal, whereas a Douchebag’s actions are generally harmless and if anything bad does happen as a result of a DB’s actions it would only be an indirect consequence (like a person driving in a rage around a Douchebag driving slow in a fast lane and the rager causes an accident).
In terms of Self Worth, as already stated, an Asshole’s self worth varies whereas a Douchebag always thinks very highly of himself, which is often in conflict with what others think of him. A DB is generally happy but an Asshole can be absolutely miserable which is often a motive for his mean-spirited actions, i.e. if he is miserable it’s only fair if everybody around him is as well.
As far as Dress goes, an Asshole will wear just about anything that suits him and generally does not care what others think. He might even show up to a wedding in cut-off jean shorts and a tee shirt that says “Fuck Off.” A Douchebag cares very highly about what others think, it’s just that he is often wrong as to what it is that they think. Even if a Douchebag might be cognizant that the outfit he’s wearing is morbidly outdated, he thinks that if he wears it, because he’s so cool, that he’ll bring it back into style instantly. He’s just waiting for that call to his cell phone from MTV’s House of Style. And he gets away with wearing it, and thinking wrongly about what the other patrons in the restaurant think of his glittery shirt, gold necklaces, proud display of his chest hair, and parachute pants, because most people are nice and don’t have the balls to tell him what he or she really thinks.
Except maybe an Asshole. In fact, one of the only worthy contributions an Asshole can make to society is to go up to a Douchebag and inform him of how much of a Douchebag he is and to button his shirt up, change pants, put down that phone and shut the hell up. It is probably the only time an Asshole will receive, and be worthy of, a standing ovation.
The Fabled Asshole/Douchebag Combo
Sometimes, if you don’t mind the Ghostbusters analogy, the beams can cross, and, although it is extremely rare, an Asshole/Douchebag combo can be born. But such a combination is only possible where it is a person who is an Asshole first and Douchebag second, not the other way around. And if you disagree with me you are WRONG. And if you think you know a major douche who can be an asshole at times, you’re looking at an Asshole, because it takes an Asshole to do Asshole things, which can include wearing those gold necklaces or parachute pants. There is no conclusive evidence that the Douchebag-First/Asshole-Second combination exists and such a creature is relegated only to myth and legend, liken to Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Jersey Devil. All claims of sightings of these people are unsubstantiated.
So, barring this rare Asshole/Douchebag combination, you should never use the two terms Asshole and Douchebag interchangeably. Most of the time, the person that you can’t stand is either one or the other, so, using this guide, hopefully you can now know which term to apply.
For the douche, for the douche... this party just took a turn... FOR THE DOUCHE!