scumbag - scum bag

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  • lablady

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I agree that "lowlife" is a good synonym.

    Interestingly, the Word Reference dictionary has it listed as two words.
    (scum bag)

    I've always thought it was only one word, as you have it in the thread title. Maybe others can clear up that little detail.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I agree that "lowlife" is a good synonym.

    Interestingly, the Word Reference dictionary has it listed as two words.
    (scum bag)

    I've always thought it was only one word, as you have it in the thread title. Maybe others can clear up that little detail.
    Ah interesting! I also searched the dictionary first, but just for "scumbag". I think that often with these words dictionaries often take their own preferred version, which doesn't necessarily mean another isn't acceptable.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I agree with the definition given above.

    However, I would like to say that to my ears, at least, scumbag is a much more derogatory term than lowlife, and sometimes may be offensive. I would be cautious about using it.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I agree with the definition given above.

    However, I would like to say that to my ears, at least, scumbag is a much more derogatory term than lowlife, and sometimes may be offensive. I would be cautious about using it.
    Sometimes? Surely both terms are normally offensive? I know that friends might joke around and insult each other with terms they don't really mean but in the context surely it's clearly an insult?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Sometimes? Surely both terms are normally offensive? I know that friends might joke around and insult each other with terms they don't really mean but in the context surely it's clearly an insult?
    Yes, both words are derogatory and insults.

    However, what I take to be the origin of the term scumbag still has some resonance for me, and thus I find this term more offensive.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In AE as I know it, scumbag is far more vulgar than lowlife. Both are insulting, but the former is considerably worse. When I learned the term, many decades ago, it was understood to mean a used condom. That's not an especially nice thing to call anyone, even a lowlife.
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Interesting, thanks both. I can honestly say that before this thread I didn't view "scumbag" as much different from "lowlife". That said, I do view both as quite an insult. Someone who has earnt disgust (a murdering granny-beating thug perhaps) as opposed to someone who is just pitiable.
     

    out2lnch

    Senior Member
    English-Canada
    In AE as I know it, scumbag is far more vulgar than lowlife. Both are insulting, but the former is considerably worse. When I learned the term, many decades ago, it was understood to mean a used condom. That's not an especially nice thing to call anyone, even a lowlife.
    I too have heard this useage of the word, but I wasn't sure if you were effectively calling someone a used condom, or if some wit decided to apply the term normally reserved to lowlifes to these as well.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    In AE as I know it, scumbag is far more vulgar than lowlife. Both are insulting, but the former is considerably worse. When I learned the term, many decades ago, it was understood to mean a used condom. That's not an especially nice thing to call anyone, even a lowlife.

    I'm old enough to remember when "scumbag" was used as slang for condom. But it has been used so often that it pretty much has lost its vulgar impact.

    It is similar to "on the rag" used to mean "irritable", but was a vulgar phrase for "feminine sanitary napkins". This has been so removed from its original meaning that I think that it is OK to use in common speech.

    Likewise I think "scumbag" has approached that threshold.
     

    Tim~!

    Senior Member
    UK — English
    Likewise I think "scumbag" has approached that threshold.
    It certainly has in the UK. We and our press will refer to any malefactor as scum. It's not a compliment, of course, but it's perfectly acceptable to print it and have it on TV at any point of the day. An old lady might refer to muggers as scum when interviewed by a TV reporter, for example, even though a litany of other words would be kept to herself.
     
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