Pimhole!

Pimhole is an area of Bury, just off the M66. More relevantly though, it was used in a Fry and Laurie sketch way back in 1990 as a fake swearword. The joke was that the BBC wouldn’t let Fry and Laurie swear on the telly, so they’d had to make up their own swearwords, like pempslider, frunk, fusking and pimhole.

Last week YouGov carried out a poll asking about attitudes to swearing on the television and asking people which words they thought were acceptable before the watershed, which should be limited to after 9pm and which were totally unacceptable on the television. As an experiment, we also added one fake swearword – pimhole – to the list to see how people would react.

25% of people, naturally enough, said they didn’t know. A further 14% said that it would be quite alright to say pimhole on the telly before the watershed (I have no idea how many recognised its provenance or suspected it was made up). However, 38% of people thought that pimhole should only be broadcast after the watershed and 23% thought it should be totally banned on the television. The survey suggested pimhole was regarded as being more offensive than words like bollocks or bastard.

There are various explanations why – I expect the main reason was context. The question was all about bad language on television, and pimhole was included in a list of swearwords including some that are considered extremely offensive. It’s likely many respondents assumed that pimhole must, therefore, be a swearword. The very fact that people hadn’t heard of it may have lead them to assume that it was particularly crude or offensive.

It’s also possible respondents may have been guessing what “pimhole” might have meant and coming up with very offensive meanings (and after all, the point of the original Fry and Laurie sketch was that the fake swearwords did sound as it they might be very rude). In the 20 years since the Fry and Laurie sketch, urbandictionary even has entries making assumptions about exactly what Fry & Laurie meant by pimhole.

It goes to show that what is a swearword is very much down to context – put an innocent word (admittedly one that sounds slightly rude) in the context where you find swearwords and a significant minority of people assume that it must indeed be something obscene.

My write up of the rest of the results is here and the full tabs are here. The rest of the poll found more people thought there should be tighter restrictions upon swearing than were themselves ever offended, and with the normal heavy age skew with older people far more likely to support restrictions and be offended by swearing on the telly. In terms of specific words, racial slurs, “spastic” and, erm, Jeremy Hunt, were regarded as the most offensive words.


27 Responses to “Pimhole!”

  1. “23% thought [pimhole] should be totally banned on the television.”

    So 23% of the population are pimholes?

  2. Whilst not directly related to polling, this thread does put me in mind of one endlessly amusing facet of living abroad – namely that English overseas is *not* censored.

    I’m used to it. But it shocks English visitors.

    For example, if the lyrics of a pop track are “f*** this” – the radio over here just blasts that out. At any time of day or night. Even on the equivalent of Radio 2.

    Likewise children and adults can – and do – say things like “Motherf——” out loud and without any redress. Even on prime time TV, even in public and directly to their grandparents.

    It’s no problem and, if anything, it shows that you have a good grasp of English!

    Makes you wonder though – after all, a word is just a word. Why worry about words when there is so many other pimholes in the world to worry about?

  3. What a fecking strange piece of research.

  4. AW :-)

    Actually rather encouraging about the last bit where the derogatory words for minorities were found most offensive.

    Should also make you think about leading questions a bit more too (I know, I do go on about this).

  5. Getting round the censors has been a challenge enjoyed by many comedians and comedy writers for many years I seem to recall.

    I sort of recall a Morecambe and Wise sketch where reference was made to “a country member” with the reply being something like “yes, I remember”.

    But perhaps that’s my memory failing me miserably.

    So, it’s ok to say v*gina (I did that in case of moderation) but not c*nt.

    .

  6. The Fry & Laurie sketch is on YouTube – it’s one of my favourites.

  7. It worries me that I know these, but…

    smeg, santorum, frunt, chunt, quaint, melonfarmer, mother-funster, yippie-kay-ay-kemo-sabey and, of course, belgium.

    Regards, Martyn

  8. Pheasant pluckers lend themselves to reverse spoonerisms, as Ronnie Barker so brilliantly exploited.. ‘Ah well, god bless the queer old dean.’

  9. My main concern about the media isn’t the swearing, it’s the fact that much of it has become the goverment’s propaganda arm – witness the biassed reporting of the student protests, the lack of any coverage of police violence,the pro- war ocverage and the endless mantra that the cuts are necessary/inevitable.

  10. @ Martyn

    You forgot Truy, Labaur and C*egg ;p

  11. Anthony, in the context of the announcement of the greatest cuts in funding for local services in living memory, please could we have something a bit more substantive to discuss?

    This isn’t a steady drip-drip-drip of cuts, it’s an almighty splash.

    Is there any polling evidence out their that might give an indication of likely public responses and how significant they might be to political support? Iif not, does YouGov intend to commission some polling?

  12. @AW:

    Was this an online poll? If so, would it not be possible that a large amount of people will have googled ‘Pimhole’ whilst doing the study and put down that it should be banned as a laugh?

  13. Well, my latest erudition landed straight into mod so you will all have to await my wit.

    I must admit that the first time we have a Tory in the firing line, we were treated to a picture of unadulterated enthusiasm by the LD sidekick Stunnel, sitting beside him.

  14. It’s the old problem of interviewee psychology…

    People said they wanted “pimhole” banned because although they had never heard of it before they maybe thought they SHOULD have heard of it – and didn’t want to make themselves look foolish.

    It’s like people who laugh at jokes without understanding them: they are simply responding in a way they think is socially acceptable.

    (For much the same reason, the polls used to underestimate the Tories and would habitually over-estimate the number of voters who were genuinely willing to pay more tax for better public services: people give the answers they think they are supposed to).

  15. Noticable that the cuts are 9.9% not 10%. Seems like a sort of “99p shop” psychology to make it seem smaller.

  16. If you thought a reputable polling company was
    a) having a laugh at your expense
    b) wasting your time with pointless pimhole research
    would you
    c)lol
    d) feel mildly insulted
    or
    e) assume that the telephone researcher had a speech impediment, and be too polite to say anything.

  17. Labour still ahead today 41 42 9 just what I needed to cheer me up after seeing the Gunners get beat

  18. Sorry to bring this up, but has anyone else seen the story on the news about the journalist allegedly dragged out of his wheelchair during the student protests?

    Boy, I am fuming at this. Words fail (or would get this post put in moderation.)

    It’s gives me a lovely warm feeling to know our boys in blue are here to protect us ;-)

  19. This reminds me of the time a news reporter was fired for using the word “niggardly” only to be rehired after controversy brewed. That’s because the word sounds the deplorable n-word. Only it’s not related to the word at all, it is a synonym of the adjective/adverb of miserly or cheap. It’s not that commonly used though and the subsequent outrage, firing of the reporter, counter outrage, and rehiring of the reporter resulted.

    I’ve never heard of pimhole before. I don’t think it’s a cussword though.

  20. @ Nick Hadley

    “Guess so. That’s about the percentage of the electorate who voted Lib Dem at the last election, isn’t it?”

    Lol. Tell me how you really feel. Didn’t you say your son voted Lib Dem? With your dad as an old school blue blooded Tory, you’re son as a raging Cleggmaniac, and you as a staunch Labour supporter, I can’t imagine what Christmas dinner must be like in the Hadley household.

    I saw on the Guardian website today Ed Miliband’s decision to bring on Lib Dems to help advise his policy review. I think it’s creative. I really liked what he had to say about the protests and the violence. I thought he was on target.

  21. Don’t worry Garry.

    The boys in blue are going to get their own share of the medicine and are unlikely to be waving notes in miners’ faces like they were in the 84-85 strike.

  22. It’s an interesting take on where we’ve come from th e original meaning of ‘swearwords’…oaths that were once invested with noble potency and the breaking thereof being cause of legal and spiritual scandal…. since taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain breaks the second commandment…. has been trans-substantiated by common usage into meaning any vulgarism related to breaking wind; sexual misconduct or defacating….

    What poetry is in that linguistic journey? The Norman Conquest conquered by Anglo Saxon.

  23. They won’t be waving notes at miners because there aren’t any miners left thanks to Thatcher. I mean protesters in general.

  24. @ Gary K

    “It’s gives me a lovely warm feeling to know our boys in blue are here to protect us”

    Whatever gave you that impression?

    (P.S. they wear black now ;))

  25. Martyn –
    “Santorum” is the surname of a former Senator on the Republican Right, Rick Santorum – that would be where they got the name from.

  26. @SocialLiberal

    “Lol. Tell me how you really feel. Didn’t you say your son voted Lib Dem? With your dad as an old school blue blooded Tory, you’re son as a raging Cleggmaniac, and you as a staunch Labour supporter, I can’t imagine what Christmas dinner must be like in the Hadley household”.

    I’m keeping the notes short because I’m having to type left handed due to an operation I had today on my right hand. Blessedly short, some of my critics may say! Yes the Hadley household is indeed a mixed one politically. Both my parents were staunch Tories, my wife voted for Thatcher in 1979, and has regretted it ever since, my oldest son is a rueful ex-Cleggite and my youngest son, now old enough yo vote, is leaning towards the Greens. Just leaves the daft old Dad as the lifelong, unapologetic Labourite – and long may it remain so!!

  27. @ Barnaby Marder

    ““Santorum” is the surname of a former Senator on the Republican Right, Rick Santorum – that would be where they got the name from.”

    I think that the term “santorum” was not created for Senator Rick Santorum. I think it just happenned to be a hilarious coincidence.

    @ Nick Hadley

    “I’m keeping the notes short because I’m having to type left handed due to an operation I had today on my right hand. Blessedly short, some of my critics may say! Yes the Hadley household is indeed a mixed one politically. Both my parents were staunch Tories, my wife voted for Thatcher in 1979, and has regretted it ever since, my oldest son is a rueful ex-Cleggite and my youngest son, now old enough yo vote, is leaning towards the Greens. Just leaves the daft old Dad as the lifelong, unapologetic Labourite – and long may it remain so!!”

    Hah. There is nothing wrong with political diversity in the family. Your wife can be forgiven for voting for Thatcher. My dad voted for Gerry Ford. And he voted against the retention of Rose Bird. And he’s voted for Republican mayoral candidates. Yet I’ve forgiven him.

    In my family, we talk politics all the time but fortunately we’re all of the same political persuasion. It’s funny because sometimes we’d have people over for dinner who are surprised that we discuss politics so much. But the debates are never too heated because we’re never that far apart. The only exception to this was when my late grandmother would join us. She was a staunch Republican who thought Richard Nixon was the greatest president in U.S. History.

    Hope your hand feels better.