‘Bling bling’ [or ‘bling’ for short] was a term used in a ‘rap’ number by the Cash Money Millionaires (Christopher Dorsey, aka, BG), in 1999, and perhaps, previously by the Silvertones, from Jamaica . It quickly joined the national lexicon, and international lexicon (OED in 2003). At first it was familiar to a certain youth culture, but since it so aptly described an actuality it spread, to the snarky disdain of the clued-in hip.
Bling refers to the shine and clink of ostentatious, extravagant and garish jewelry and ornamentation of the ‘gangsta’ culture and its imitators. Once seen, easily remembered. Perhaps, it is the most well known, and understandingly used, and transferred term of that subculture. Bling is ugly, loud and expensive; well serving its raison d’être.
Its perfection in portrayal of absurd reality strikingly came to me in response to two pieces of filming: in the film, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, about Saint Francis, there is a scene, in church, where the rich citizens wear expensive, colorful, and for the most part, beautiful costumes, but about there necks hang huge, bejewelled squares, and away from them―the poor in rags. This bling is the sign of station, without any practical use BUT identification; the other one: Craig Ferguson and crew in lip synchronisation to Fatboy Slim’s, It’s a wonderful night, had a chorus of animal hand puppets wearing bling about their necks. Bling is an advertisement of ugly and unnecessary wealth. This is easily seen by saints and jesters, but not by the ambitious, or those desirous of society’s acceptance.
To diverge on a tangent: Ferguson is in a public niche of his own. He can barely, at times, conceal his knowledge behind buffoonery. In his comedic monologue he once, self-consciously, mentioned reformation history. On one show he mentioned, knowingly, Aristotle and, then later, Picasso. In interview he brought up Aquinas, and in another, Augustine, for questions. I do not know what his past schooling and reading has been, but at least some of it was academically significant. On american, commercial, network broadcasting such references might be unique. These are topics, occasionally, mentioned on public radio and television, and are, therefore, anathema to many.
He needs to fill airtime. He has been employing puppets for humor, and they are funny. Ed Sullivan had Topo Gigo act in a similar rôle, and Señor Wences.
Ferguson reuses several set lines and pieces for familar comic effect: he will remind you, that, “your cat will eat you when you die”; that all dogs speak like Scooby Doo and George Jetson’s Astro; on maps Narnia always borders the place in question; that the glorious land of Scotland is on the northern part of an island, that has the insignificant England beneath her; that all non-anglo, teutonic peoples speak vit dah zame accent, und haf a schared fetisch; Craig portrays himself as sexually ambiguous; and it’s a great day for America, everybody (as he hits the camera).