A truly strong insult works by targeting someone’s character without dragging anyone else down with it. Still, there are countless words people use that only work by mocking other people who aren’t even involved in the matter — “bitch,” “pussy” or actual slurs like the r-word are just a few that come to mind. Insults like these make you look silly, too — if you’ve gotta ridicule another population in order to make your point, it’s safe to say you’re bad at landing an insult.
Fortunately, there’s one perfect insult that’ll forever be at your disposal, instead: Bozo.
It’s a word that’s made an appearance in myriad shows like The Simpsons, Cheers and Veep, but it recently had a particular shining moment. In a clip that went viral on Wednesday, April 13th, the word “bozo” was deployed by a student at University of North Carolina at Greensboro during an event hosted by the school’s conservative youth group, Young America’s Foundation. The event, which was titled “Men Cannot Be Women,” featured Ben Shapiro as the speaker. During a Q&A session with Shapiro, the student questioned him about his referencing of gender dysphoria in the DSM-IV handbook of mental disorders. “You sound like a bozo, bro,” the student told him. “And you get no pussy and can’t even make your wife wet, bro. So what’s good?”
Now, we’ve all heard the argument that Shapiro doesn’t arouse his wife, which circulated after his confusion surrounding the lyrics to Cardi B’s “WAP.” At this point, the insult is tired. Calling him a bozo, on the other hand? A true chef’s kiss moment. It’s a word that throws off your entire day. A stranger on the street could call me a cunt, and I wouldn’t think twice about it. But bozo? That’s a term that would leave you questioning yourself for days. It forces you to ask precisely what you did to deserve the insult; what it is about you that warrants the term. And if you search deep within your mind for long enough, you’ll undoubtedly come up with an answer.
Cunt, meanwhile, suggests that the person insulting you probably has some problem with women. It says everything about the insulter, and nothing about the insulted. Bozo is more calculated — calling someone an asshole or an idiot is too easy, a selection of the first word that comes to mind. But bozo, in its relative obscurity, feels filed away for a special occasion. When you call someone a bozo, your word choice feels strategic, and all the more effective for it.
Bozo has been in the English lexicon for at least a century, originally referring to a “muscular, low-I.Q. male” (the original himbo?). Whatever definition it first had, though, was transformed with the popularity of Bozo the Clown, beginning in 1946. While surely some of this “low-I.Q.” meaning was imbued within the image of this clown character, we’ve come to associate it more with a general silliness — even in a vacuum, bozo is just a plain fun word to say. Not to mention, the clown is acting; a bozo who behaves like a clown is not. A bozo has been caught with pie in his face, and he wasn’t even hired to put it there.
As such, it’s the perfect word to describe Ben Shapiro. Sure, he was certainly paid to speak at this event, but the barrage of public humiliation likely isn’t part of his fee. Instead, he constantly puts himself at the center of the circus for us to laugh at when he’s ostensibly a “political commentator.”
The guy’s a fucking bozo, full stop.