[Ads-l] Bobo

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Jul 27 21:25:13 UTC 2015

I'm traveling so I don't have access to all my references  and I can't send to ADS-list on my Kindle, but this is relevant if rather old now:



On July 27, 2015, at 11:10 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Bobo

Has anyone heard/pointed to use of bobo to describe (derogatory) a
sycophantic groupie, particularly of the "minority" nuoveau riche, such as
a professional athlete or rapper/producer?

Two places one might hear it are reruns of Law&Order and Boston sports
radio talk shows (John Dennis is particularly fond of it to describe the
entourage of football players).

Aside from the noted usage, I'm also curious about origin. IIRC "bobo" is
"fool" (bordering on schlemazl) in some South American Spanish. To the best
of my knowledge, if it is in Mexican or Central American dialects, it's a
recent migration.

Wiktionary and several other sources list it as "bourgeois bohemian", "a
materialistic person who affects an anti-materialistic persona". I can't
say I've ever heard this one "live", so I have to wonder if this is someone
promoting his own coinage, a l=C3=A0 Urban Dictionary.


[Side note: Dennis also uses "popo" as a standard on-air emphatic euphemism
(they don't shy away from ass, shit, penis and vagina on the show, as they
might in other broadcast media, so there's no real need for euphemisms).
So, in his case, there may be no real etymology other than reduplication.
(po-po, wee-wee, kaka, dodo -- yes, I know what a dodo is but there's a
view of it as a version of dumb-dumb -- see below. "Dudu" in Hebrew is both
a diminutive for David and "crazy fool".)]

UD is not particularly helpful, but it does have one disfavored entry for
"A benevolently dumb person. Not to be confused with a moron which is a
dumb person with a negative connotation." It also lists another entry for
"fool in Spanish" (not in so many words". Someone else ran with "Bobos in
Congress" as blind followers (lit., "an ignorant monkey who doesn't know

But it also lists a bunch of entries (with alternate spelling) for "fake",
"counterfeit", "canvas shoes, such as ZIPS or Keds" (interestingly, no
Converse). One of these does point to reduplication, suggesting "bogus" as
the origin.

Yet another pair of entries point to reduplication euphemism for "boobs"
(both body parts and people). (Goes well with "po-po".)


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