Monday, October 15, 2007

Pimp My Wife? The Danger of Using Pop-culture terms you don't understand

Today, I received an e-mail about a program called Pimp My NGO. A friend told me about a friend of hers who sent her an e-mail about his idea, "Pimp My Wife." There is one thing about this of which I am certain, they don't have any idea what this term means. I know where they got it. MTV has made the concept popular with the show "Pimp My Ride" which transforms people's cars. In the US, people get that the term is completely tongue-in-cheek. However, when the concept is carried overseas where understanding of a term like pimp is sketchy at best, this can be a bit dangerous. So, let me tell you why.

First, let's talk about the word pimp. Does anyone know what a pimp is? A pimp is the guy who "manages" a group of prostitutes. Pimps are known for several things: beating their "ladies of the night," making money off of them and returning barely enough to live in squalor, and driving a specific type of car. So, is this REALLY what you want to say? Let's talk for a second about the car thing. It's important in understanding why MTV chose this title for their show. There is a certain profile for "pimp cars." They tend to be large American made cars. Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars seem to be the most popular. They are typically very wild colors and feature things like fuzzy dice in the windshield. Basically, in an America where cars have very little personality (except the newer offerings from Chrysler like the PT Cruiser), pimp cars were full of personality (I don't necessarily mean that in a good way, by the way). So, the show title makes sense for MTV if they're taking a boring ordinary car and spicing it up. I hope they aren't literally making it look like a car that a pimp would drive, but...

When we take the term and try to adapt it, it loses the only connection to the actual meaning. So, when my friend told me about this "Pimp My Wife" concept for a makeover show, I was horrified. I explained to her what pimp means and she was horrified as well. She realized that saying you would "pimp" your wife was seemingly equivalent to saying that you planned to prostitute her out. I am absolutely positive that wasn't what the guy meant, he was just following pop-culture and MTV. And "pimp" my NGO also comes across very negatively. Saying that makes me think that the NGO is willing to do literally ANYTHING for money. My oh my. Is that REALLY what they wanted to say. I seriously doubt it.

It is very scary when people take a term they don't understand and adapt it to (they think) suit their purposes. I hope this may give some folks pause to think, do I really understand what that expression means?

Happy Embarrassing Poor Expression Usage!

10 Comments:

At 8:24 PM , Anonymous Qwaider قويدر said...

The meaning was lost in translation to mean something like ... "spoil" I've seen the MBC show that has the same name. that would reverse translate to "Spoil my car" or "indulge my car"

By the way, I hate the term, here and there! But I liked it in Hustle and flow .. you know, "it's hard out there for a pimp"

 
At 11:46 PM , Blogger Bilalٍ said...

Thank You, well said.
Thats what I have been talking about, IMITATION without thinking. Lets stop for a second and think before we imitate others without thinking!

 
At 1:57 AM , Blogger No_Angel said...

some jokes i guess fall on deaf ears in this instance, and whats worst than that it seems u didn't check what u were criticizing !
I thought that was the whole point about pimping ur wife and pimping an NGO joke that was never meant to be taken seriously !
colloquially pimp my wife means having sex with her nowadays...
anyways see this, i just love the bling imitation comment ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMG1vfrRkG8

 
At 2:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being called a pimp is a term of endearment in the US....I use it and am called it regularly....of course it doesn't mean I manager the women of the streets!! But if you take the translation of the word in Arabic, if someone calls you that, then you get to re-arrange his face!

 
At 2:18 PM , Blogger Hani Obaid said...

I agree with all of the above, but I must say:

"I can't stand the PT Cruiser".

There, I let it out.

 
At 9:15 PM , Blogger Dave said...

For an example of the term "pimped out", just check out Huggy Bear on rerun episodes of Starsky and Hutch.

 
At 1:30 PM , Blogger Jundi said...

pimp is gawwad in arabic .. this is never ever a compliment o_O

 
At 3:01 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Q, lost in translation is exactly it.

Bilal, precisely.

No Angel, I guess I don't understand what I didn't check? Were you in fact a recipient of the "pimp your NGO" e-mail? Did you also talk to my friend about her embarassment over her friend who is "pimping" his wife? Regardless, there is no situation in which I would consider using the word pimp a joke. It's an ugly word with an uglier meaning...

Anon, I have no idea what part of the US you are in or what age demographic, but at no point would I consider pimp an "endearment".

Hani, I'm with you on the PT Cruiser. I am SO not a fan. But, you must admit it is unique.

Dave, indeed. That's what I'm talking about.

Jundi, nor is it a compliment in the English that I speak amongst my peers.

 
At 12:51 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

If anyone ever saw the 80s spoof "I'm Gonna Get you Sucka" featuring the Wayans brothers, there is a great example of a 'pimp' in that movie, with fish tanks in his shoes and ... well, I'm sure there is some clip of that film on YouTube. Too funny.

I don't think 'pimp' is a term of endearment, however.

 
At 12:21 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Umm Farouq, I LOVE that scene. The fishbowls were too funny.

 

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