- Colonel Blimp
Colonel Blimp is a British cartoon character.
The cartoonist David Low first drew Colonel Blimp for Lord Beaverbrook's London Evening Standard in the 1930s: pompous, irascible, jingoistic and stereotypically British. Low developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks.
Blimp would issue proclamations from the Turkish bath, wrapped in his towel and brandishing some mundane weapon to emphasize his passion on some issue of current affairs. Unfortunately, his pronouncements were often confused and childlike. His phrasing often includes direct contradiction, as though the first part of a sentence of his did not know what it was leading to, with the conclusion being part of an emotional catchphrase.[clarification needed]
Blimp was a satire on the reactionary opinions of the British establishment of the 1930s and 1940s, epitomized by Winston Churchill. Colonel Blimp was intended to portray Low's perceptions of British politics at the time. Although Low described him as "a symbol of stupidity", he added that "stupid people are quite nice".
George Orwell and Tom Wintringham made especially extensive use of the term "blimps", Orwell in his articles and Wintringham in his books How to Reform the Army and People's War, with exactly the above meaning in mind.
In his 1941 essay "The Lion and the Unicorn", Orwell referred to two important sub-sections of the middle class, one of which was the military and imperialistic middle class, nicknamed the Blimps, and characterised by the "half-pay colonel with his bull neck and diminutive brain". He added that they had been losing their vitality over the past thirty years, "writhing impotently under the changes that were happening".
A more likeable version of Blimp appeared in the classic British film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp starring Roger Livesey and Deborah Kerr. It was made in 1943, when the war was at its height, by Powell and Pressburger. The "Blimp" character was named Clive Candy and is not actually called "Blimp" other than in the title. Prime Minister Winston Churchill sought to ban the film due to its sympathetic presentation of a German officer (played by Anton Walbrook), albeit an anti-Nazi one, who is more down-to-earth and realistic than the central British character.
The character has survived in the form of a clichéd phrase – highly reactionary opinions are characterised as "Colonel Blimp" statements.
In a recent book, historian Christopher Clark used the term "blimpish" to characterise the Prussian Field Marshal Mollendorf who distinguished himself as an officer in the Seven Years' War but whose conservatism and opposition to military reform was considered to have contributed to Prussia's defeat in the Battle of Jena. In his review of Garner's Modern American Usage, David Foster Wallace referred to the "Colonel Blimp's rage" of Prescriptivist journalists like William Safire.
- ^ a b "Century's 'best cartoonist' on show". BBC News. May 8, 2002. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1974819.stm. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
- ^ David Low biography, UK: Cartoons, http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/artists/davidlow/biography .
- ^ Orwell, George (1941-04-15). "London Letter". Partisan Review. "The Home Guard is (…) an astonishing phenomenon, a sort of People's Army officered by Blimps."
- ^ Orwell, Sonia and Angus, Ian (eds.) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell Volume 2: My Country Right or Left, (London, Penguin)
- ^ Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom. The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947, London: Penguin, 2006, pp. 124–25
- ^ Wallace, David Foster (April, 2001). "Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage". Harper's Magazine. "...certain journalists whose bemused irony often masks a Colonel Blimp's rage"
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