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I am reading Martin Booth's Gweilo. Booth mentions several times that his inflexible father was called "Commodore Blimp" behind his back by his colleagues in the navy. I do not understand this reference. I know commodore as a navy rank and blimp as an airship, but I do not understand why this nickname is mocking or funny. Can someone enlighten me?

Here's an excerpt:

'Just because the mercury touches eighty, Joyce, it doesn't mean we have to abandon all our bloody standards.'

There was a pause.

'You know what they call you, don't you?' She did not wait for a response. 'Commodore Blimp.'

'I don't give a bloody damn,' my father answered,

closed as primarily opinion-based by Jason Bassford Supports Monica, JJ for Transparency and Monica, Reinstate Monica, Rand al'Thor, J. Taylor May 30 at 9:19

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    Most likely it's because he was overweight. Either that or he was full of hot air (bluster). But I have no idea, not having read the book myself. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 23 at 21:11
  • The specific quote, in which the character epitomizes the stereotype of Englishmen abroad (wear your dinner jacket no matter the temperature - standards must be maintained even where they make little sense) to me infers that the active meaning in this quote is specific to the blustery hot air component of this epithet. I myself am unfamiliar with the book, and so do not know if the character is in fact a Naval Commodore: if he isn't in fact so ranked, this would tend to further the "rigid, unbending blowhard" implication. – GerardFalla May 23 at 21:26
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    Possibly related: Colonel Blimp, a 1930's cartoon about a blow-hard army officer. – The Photon May 23 at 23:04
  • @ThePhoton That could be right. The time period matches too (the book is set in the early '50s) – Szabolcs May 24 at 6:28
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about language usage (the OP understands the terms) but literary analysis. It would be a suitable question for Literature. – Reinstate Monica May 25 at 22:56
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As The Photon suggests, this is almost certainly a reference to the character 'Colonel Blimp' invented by the cartoonist David Low. He was a pompous elderly army officer who expressed old-fashioned ideas in a bombastic manner. The author's father, being a naval officer, was given the nickname with a navy rank substituted.

  • I agree, Kate. Colonel Blimp was named from the WW1 word 'blimp' meaning a non-rigid airship (that is not one with a frame like the Zeppelins, R100, R101 etc). Particularly barrage balloons which were a passive air defence system using their mooring cables to damage aircraft were referred to as 'blimps' in the WW2. – BoldBen May 24 at 8:43

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