One of the best parts of the German language is the verb to shower, duschen. Shower the noun is Dusche. This can definitely provide some comic relief when we hapless English speakers wander into the shower gel drug store aisle only to be confronted by a lavender scented product called DUSCH DAS. (Shower this) Hee hee hee . . . it says douche . . . har de har har. I secretly chuckled under my breath the day my very attractive young lady German teacher got frustrated with the leaky shower in her apartment and said, "Ich muss Dusche!!!" Ah, good times.
After awhile, though, you stop thinking of douche bags whenever anybody says they have to shower, and it's just another word. What never occurred to me was the the Germans might be curious as to why people in American movies were always calling one another douche bags. But apparently they are. German and English share many cognates, and the Germans would have no reason to think that to douche in English would be all that different from duschen in German. Over a fun lunch of Goulash, potatoes, and Bavarian beer, I had this conversation (in English) with one of my European women friends:
European Friend: Can I call somebody a douche bag, or is it an insult?
Ivy: You can certainly call somebody a douche bag, but it is definitely an insult.
EF: Oh ok, good to know. So, in English, it's an insult to call somebody a wash bag?
I: Well, it's not really a wash bag. A douche is a completely unnecessary, and often medically harmful, vaginal cleansing product. Vaginas don't need to be cleaned with harsh, fragrant chemicals. Douches are bad, that's why it's an insult in English.
EF: A what? Cleaning of what?
I: It's a sexist pre-sexual revolution thing. Women were taught that their bodies were dirty, so they had to scrub their vaginas with special cleansers to make them more appealing to their husbands. But, of course, douches caused all sorts of other medical problems.
EF: (with her hand in front of her face and her head turned away) I'm going to need a minute.
A few hours later, I emailed her the vagina douche page from the CVS website. I am happy to report that we are still friends.