In 2010, National Doorwatch Chairman Ian Fox contacted the Oxford University Press, publishers of, among other things, the Oxford English Dictionary. Fox formally requested that the term ‘bouncer’ be removed as a descriptor of door supervisors.

Speaking to SMT Online, Fox outlined his case thusly, “This term is anachronistic, inappropriate and downright offensive to the new, modern, highly regulated profession of door supervision. It’s used to demean and give a negative stereotype of the hard-working men and women who are regularly called upon to deal with extremely challenging situations, many of which are predominantly alcohol and drug-related.”

12 years have passed since Mr. Fox gave that interview and, while the industry prefers to utilise terms such as ‘door supervisor’ and ‘security operative’, the public at large, along with a not inconsiderable number of door supervisors, have yet to completely let go of this cumbersome, outdated term.

In this feature, we’ll be making the case for the term ‘bouncer’ to be firmly and finally ejected from the premises and replaced, once and for all, by terminology more apt and respectful to the people who put themselves in harm’s way for the public, every single day.

Origins of the Word ‘Bouncer’

The word ‘bouncer’, first recorded in 1762, likely comes from either the Dutch word bonzen (meaning ‘to beat or thump’) or the German word bunsen, which has roughly the same meaningIn older English, to ‘bounce’ meant ‘to thump or hit’ someone or something.

In 1833, the word was recorded as meaning ‘a boaster, bully or braggart’. However, by 1865, Americans had begun using the term as we understand it today, specifically as ‘the enforcer of a bar or saloon’.

The Results

The term gained significant popular use following the publication of a book entitled ‘The Young Outlaw’, in 1875. The book, by American author Horatio Alger, Jr, features a boy who is ejected from a restaurant for being unable to pay for his meal. The chapter in which this incident occurs is called ‘Bounced’.

The word ‘bouncer’, first recorded in 1762, likely comes from either the Dutch word bonzen (meaning ‘to beat or thump’) or the German word bunsen, which has roughly the same meaning. In older English, to ‘bounce’ meant ‘to thump or hit’ someone or something.

In 1833, the word was recorded as meaning ‘a boaster, bully or braggart’. However, by 1865, Americans had begun using the term as we understand it today, specifically as ‘the enforcer of a bar or saloon’.

The term gained significant popular use following the publication of a book entitled ‘The Young Outlaw’, in 1875. The book, by American author Horatio Alger, Jr, features a boy who is ejected from a restaurant for being unable to pay for his meal. The chapter in which this incident occurs is called ‘Bounced’.

Before the century was out, this jocular Americanism had found its way into British conversation and popular slang. As the London Daily News wrote in 1883, “‘The Bouncer‘ is merely the English “chucker out. When liberty verges on license and gaiety on wanton delirium, the Bouncer selects the gayest of the gay, and — bounces him!”

For clarity’s sake, the word ‘gay’ refers here to a person who is ‘light-hearted and carefree’ (the older meaning of the word), not a homosexual.

As you can see, the connotations of the word ‘bouncer’ are clear. A bouncer is, by definition, a professional bully or hired thug, somebody who uses his fists far more frequently than his wits and controls situations by dint of being ready and willing to engage in violence whenever he deems it necessary.

Clearly, this is a term that no longer applies to British security workers.

Creation of the SIA

In 2001, the UK Government created the Private Security Industry Act. This act introduced many reforms and was created with the express intent of raising the standards of private security in the country.  The act called for the creation of a new regulatory body, the Security Industry Authority, or SIA, which was founded in 2003.

From the outset, the SIA has been responsible for the licensing, standards, and maintenance of the British security industry. Since this time, the security industry has evolved quickly and considerably. 

Today’s door supervisors may be similar in appearance to the bouncers of old, but that’s where the similarity ends. Modern door supervisors are trained in conflict resolution and verbal de-escalation strategies, and many are highly skilled negotiators and problem solvers.

When a situation cannot be resolved peacefully, today’s DS uses only reasonable force (i.e., physical force proportional to the threat being presented to them at the time of the incident) to restrain and remove the violent or intoxicated patron.

Violence against patrons is strictly forbidden in all but the most extreme cases. Such actions can lose a DS their license (and therefore their job) and even see them brought up on criminal charges.

Door supervisors are often trained to follow the pneumonic REACT when dealing with difficult, aggressive, or unruly patrons. REACT stands for Request, Explain, Appeal, Confirm, Take Action. It involves politely asking the patron to cease their activities, then explaining why these activities must be ceased, before appealing to them once again to cease, confirming that they will be removed by force if they do not cease and then finally, without causing any undue harm, ejecting the troublesome patron from the premises.

It can be a frustrating process, but the fact that it is so well adhered to shows the level of care and professionalism that today’s DS is capable of. Put simply, this is not the working practice of a stereotypical ‘bouncer’.

How the Modern Door Supervisor is Different

Essentially, ‘door supervisor’ and ‘bouncer’ are different occupations, albeit with a similar function. A bouncer is a tough, physically imposing figure who guards the entrance to a pub, club or venue, enacting violence if and when they deem it necessary. A door supervisor is more of a trained facilitator. Tough? Certainly. Physically imposing? Perhaps, but so much more than that.

A door supervisor is a protector who has been entrusted with the safety of the public and takes these File:Modern Bouncers.jpg - Wikimedia Commonsduties seriously. A Door Supervisor is trained and skilled in the use of de-escalation strategies and conflict mediation. A door supervisor is a brand ambassador, the first face patrons see before they enter the venue. A door supervisor guards against everything from drug use and sexual assault to the threat of terrorism. A DS will be the patrons’ first, best hope if somebody is injured or goes into labour, or a fire breaks out or a bomb goes off.

A door supervisor is ever watchful, professional, and respectful. They are trusted by sectors as diverse as retail, healthcare, personal safety, community support and the night-time economy.

Many of the ‘bouncers’ of old would struggle to even qualify for an SIA licence, much less maintain one for any period of time. The demands of the job are different because the job is different.

Businesses today don’t want ‘thugs’ or ‘hard men’ guarding their doors. To do so invites violence, lawsuits, court cases, and probable financial ruin. 21st century businesses want people they can trust, trained professionals who can protect their business, as well as their premises and customers and help to keep the community safer.

Today’s door supervisors work exceptionally hard, often facing considerable challenges and hardships that simply wouldn’t exist in most other professions. Quite frankly, they don’t deserve to be dismissed as mere ‘bouncers’, a word which denotes little more than a paid bully. They deserve better – and we feel they’ve more than earned it.

In our view, Ian Fox was right. The era of the ‘bouncer’ is gone – and that’s why the word should be gone as well.

Under Armour [WEB+app]