The word may be unfamiliar to you – it was to me, until a few weeks ago – but you undoubtedly know a jabroni or two. We all do. He – it’s always a he – isn’t mean enough to be called a jerk. He’s annoying, but not as obnoxious as a douchebag. He’s not as contemptible as an asshole, an epithet Geoffrey Nunberg defines, in his 2012 book The Ascent of the A-Word, as having at its heart “a culpable obtuseness—about one’s own importance, about the needs of others and the way one is perceived by them.” *
To call someone a jabroni, by contrast, is to mock rather than to condemn. The very sound of jabroni – a coined word with an Italianate flair – evokes ridiculousness and loserdom. Unlike jerk, asshole, and douchebag, the word doesn’t originate in obscenity; it comes instead from the colorful, carnival-influenced world of professional wrestling.
Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, credited with popularizing “jabroni.”