Colonel Blimp is a pompous character created by British cartoonist David Low. Entering the English language in 1937, by definition, a “Colonel Blimp” or just “Blimp” is an ultra-conservative, pompous individual. It can also be used as an adjective to describe what someone has said as in, “I can’t believe he made that Colonel Blimp statement.”
Colonel Blimp is a bald, red-faced, mustachioed, man with considerable girth. In fact, his surname is derived from the shape of his body. And, like the dirigible, both the blimp and Colonel Blimp are full of hot air.
The word “blimp” first came into existence when dirigible airships were first produced. The word is onomatopoetic in that it is the sound that is made when the gasbag is thumped with the thumb; no word on whether the same can be said for thumping the colonel. In literature, if “blimp” is spelled in the lower case, it refers to the airship; if it is capitalized, it refers to the colonel.
Typically, Colonel Blimp is depicted in a spa or gym as the character is a part of the leisure class in Britain. Thus, it is assumed that when he makes pronouncements about how aggressive the British military should be, readers know that neither he nor his offspring will have to fight those battles. He is also depicted as nearly naked which coincides with the uninhibited nature of his wisdom. And, like his physique, his viewpoints can be ugly.
Colonel Blimps have existed as long as humanity. That may be why the term has at least 44 synonyms. In the United States we are dealing with our own 21st century Colonel Blimp as we watch our electoral catastrophe spiral out of control. And while our Colonel Blimp makes for great sound bites and outstanding political cartoons, it would probably be better for our country if the politicians were more responsible, and the cartoonists had to look elsewhere for fodder.
This cartoon by Bill Bramhall suggests that after 80 years, nothing really changes.