What is the polite word for "pimp"?

« previous post | next post »

Hate speech laws, in my opinion, are in general offensive and counterproductive, but the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act contains a provision that really takes the cake. Section 3(1) provides:

No person shall publish, issue or display or cause to be published, issued or displayed before the public any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that

(a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a class of persons, or

(b) is likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt

because of the race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or class of persons.

You can't "expose a person … to hatred or contempt because of …source of income"‽ I'm sympathetic to the goal of discouraging the idea that, say, toilet cleaners or leather workers are inferior to other people, but aren't there some occupations that are legitimately and more-or-less universally held in contempt? Are there ways to describe a pimp, a torturer, a pirate, or a slave trader that don't expose them to hatred or contempt? I hope not.


  1. Angelo said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 12:37 am

    Procurer is polite for pimp.

  2. john riemann soong said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 12:55 am


  3. Nathan Myers said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 1:44 am

    Steve Martin, in one of his films (which one?), was unable to utter the word "pimp". He kept repeating the "p-". I recall suggesting he finish it up with "procurer", but that was evidently not the direction he wanted to take the film.

  4. KindKit said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 1:57 am

    The intent, I suspect, is to forbid name-calling against people who receive public assistance (so no terms like "welfare queen"). But yes, the law as written is clumsy, even if one accepts banning hate speech as desirable.

  5. Daniel said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 2:22 am

    A polite word for "pimp"? "Souteneur" springs to mind, a word that I personally love just for the sound of it. It's such a lovely sonorous word, although obviously the profession to which it refers is decidedly less great.

  6. GAC said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 2:28 am

    Hmm …

    Given the professions you mention are mostly illegal, I'd presume it doesn't apply. Then again, I could see good reasons for including prostitutes among the protected individuals, given that history records a number of famous prostitute killers that targeted them specifically.

    Also, looking at legality — does "pimp" also apply to male owners of legal brothels? I've only heard it in the context of illegal sex brokers, but it's not much of a semantic stretch.

    Also, "pirate" isn't such a bad word anyway, given the hero-worship of the Caribbean pirates and the common perception of electronic piracy being a pretty mild offense if it has any value at all.

  7. Dave Stern said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 2:32 am

    Torturer: Enhanced Interrogator

    Pirate: Buccaneer American (tip of the hat to Diesel Sweeties there)

    Slave Trader: Human Capital Procurement/Management Consultant

  8. GAC said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 2:32 am

    Ah … damn it! I didn't read well. Speech of course is a different issue than violence. Though I still say sympathy should be extended to certain illegal professions, whether you actually decide to express that sympathy isn't really my problem.

  9. Bill Poser said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 3:03 am

    I'm not aware of anything in the statute that exempts illegal occupations. As for the male owner of a legal brothel, in Alberta there is no such thing. Prostitution is legal in Canada, but running a brothel is not.

    With regard to sympathy for illegal professions, I agree that some deserve it. That's why I didn't use "whore" as an example, though it is also complicated in Canada by the fact that prostitution is legal. (Keeping a brothel is illegal, as is solicitation, so in effect what is legal is outcall service where the prostitute is an independent contractor rather than an employee of the service.)

  10. Mary Ellen said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 4:01 am

    Don't forget "source of income" doesn't necessarily mean "job". I'd guess that this provision was meant to protect people who are unemployed, or who collect welfare or child benefit or something …

  11. Panu said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 5:36 am

    In Finnish, the usual word for "pimp" is "sutenööri", which came in from Swedish but is probably French or faux-French in origin. (The usual word in contemporary Swedish is "hallick", though.)

    The Finnish word "pimppi", though, means the female sexual organ. For some reason, the Finnish writer of Jewish extraction, Dan Steinbock, who emigrated to America, used the word "pimppi" in the meaning "pimp" in his book about the seedy side of New York, "Eikä Jumala lasta siunaa – Manhattanin varjoissa" ("And God Won't Bless the Child – In the Shadows of Manhattan"), which gave the otherwise rather gloomy book a touch of unintentional hilarity.

    "Sutenööri" is IMHO a rather neutral word, but somehow older dictionary-makers shunned it. The standard major German-Finnish dictionary by Lauri Hirvensalo dates from 1966 (!), and translates the German word for pimp, Zuhälter, as "portonsuojelija", which sounds terribly quaint and contrived (literal translation is "a harlot's protector").

  12. Stephen Jones said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 5:57 am

    So no more attacks against prescriptivists. Even if they're not paid for it, the injunction against criticizing those with mental disabilities still applies.

    Though we could claim they view their affliction not as a disease but as a badge of honor.

  13. Brett Dunbar said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

    Torturer: Information retrieval specialist.
    Pimp: Agent, Manager.

  14. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

    Since the law was likely written by attorneys, they might have slipped this in because they were tired of all the lawyer jokes and wanted a legitimate way to sue for them.

  15. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

    In French, the neutral, and fairly technical sounding word is "proxénète". The European standard slang term is "maquereau" (f. "maquerelle") or "maque". I don't know if there is a standard slang word in Quebec, but I don't think it's "maquereau".

  16. marie-lucie said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

    The French original of the Finnish word is "souteneur" 'pimp' (literally 'supporter'), which in France is the neutral word which could be used in normal conversation, at a stylistic level between the technical, legal term "proxénète" (cf the criminal offence "proxénétisme") and the slang term "maquereau" (literally 'mackerel'). Note that there is no feminine counterpart for "souteneur" as there is for "maquereau" which refers to the same type of person (a man living from the avails of one or more women's prostitution, usually street prostitution), but "maquerelle" is a slang word for the madam of a brothel.

  17. Tybalt said,

    April 29, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

    The intent, I suspect, is to forbid name-calling against people who receive public assistance (so no terms like “welfare queen”).

    More accurately, the provision is intended not to prevent "name-calling" against welfare recipients, but instead to prevent hate speech against them. For example, labelling welfare recipients as sub-human and advocating their extermination – a trope I saw produced in a public speech quite recently.

    I'm as opposed to speech codes as anyone is, but it makes no sense to trivilalize them. The prevention of "name-calling" is neither the aim nor the effect of human-rights-based speech codes.

  18. Daniel said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 1:17 am

    "any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that

    (a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a class of persons, or "

    Taken at face value, this means job adverts requiring a minimum qualification or experience are illegal.

    Obviously, that is not the intent of the law and will not be its effect, but "discrimination" is something we all do very often, usually pretty harmlessly. A clumsily-worded law, but probably no worse than most of this type of law around the world.

  19. Jonathan said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 10:18 am

    I suppose "sawbones" and "shyster" will be illegal terms now too? A word lie that iis presumably a sign, symbol, or emblem. This would also make illegal an editorial cartoon caricaturing a fat banker with big bags of money, or depicting a greedy politician whose source of income is bribes. Shouldn't we have contempt for that?

  20. John Cowan said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

    Mack < mackeroo < maquereau is of course very much part of American English. As for pimppi, it was probably the usual Americanized Finnish form — such reallocation of standard words to meanings matching similar English words is extremely common in immigrant dialects. Unfortunately the relevant sections of The American Language postdate 1923 and are not online, but I happen to remember fitta, which in standard Swedish means 'to farrow, to give birth to piglets' but in Americanized Swedish meant 'to fit' in any of its English senses.

  21. David Marjanović said,

    April 30, 2008 @ 8:37 pm

    the German word for pimp, Zuhälter

    This word is entirely printable, however, and can be used in the TV news, too.

  22. Panu said,

    May 5, 2008 @ 6:21 am

    "As for pimppi, it was probably the usual Americanized Finnish form — such reallocation of standard words to meanings matching similar English words is extremely common in immigrant dialects."

    It certainly is, but Steinbock had at that time lived in New York just for two or three consecutive years, and he had been a writer and media pundit in Finnish for several years before. So, I think it was not spontaneous immigrant dialect, it was rather a pretentious and unlucky attempt at fake immigrant dialect. Genuine Finnish-American "Finglish", such as the quaint and nice use of the Finnish word "rohto" for "illegal drug" ("rohto" means drug in the old sense, medicinal herb, while illegal drugs are called "huume" in modern Finnish, a neologism), sounds very different.

  23. Bob said,

    May 7, 2008 @ 7:17 pm


  24. Wilson said,

    May 25, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    Are there still people naïve enough to believe that a pimp is not a slavemaster? A pimp is not a procurer. A pimp is not a panderer. A pimp is not a manager. A pimp is not a protector. A pimp is a slavemaster.

    A pimp finds an unhip young woman, preferably a teenager, breaks her in, turns her out, puts her on the block, and takes every penny that she makes on "his" time, which is every second that she spends on the street actively hustling butt. The money thus earned is recognized by both pimp and whore as being "his" money, none of which the pimp spends on his whore(s) for any reason. E.g., if a whore is busted, she simply does her thirty days. A pimp neither hires a lawyer nor pays the fine.

    As whores become accustomed to "the life" / "the game," they learn to put together a "trick book." The trick book contains the names of men or even women that the whores can call upon to buy a piece when they are on their own time. This is the way that whores earn the money to support themselves.

    Needless to say, if a whore is dumb enough to let the pimp find these off-the-clock earnings, that money also becomes his money.

    How do I know? Been there. Done that. Didn't have the heart for it. Whores are motivated by the fear that their pimps will subject them to torture, if they don't work, and will even hunt them down and kill them, if they try to get out of the life / the game.

    Since the breaking in consists of torture designed to instill that fear, referred to by pimps as "respect," (to tell it like it is, respect basically means "fear" whenever and however it's used in Black English) and was not anything that I could stand to do or stand to have done – breaking-in can be outsourced, like any other job – I had to get out.

    In others words, there can't possibly any euphemism for "pimp" for anyone who knows what a pimp really is.

  25. Timm! said,

    July 4, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

    "Pimp" is going weirdly mainstream. Sitting in the waiting room at the OBGYN while my pregnant wife had a check up, I saw a stack of Parenting magazines, free for the taking. Right there on the cover, in the biggest typeface, was the issue's lead story: "Pimp my Stroller."

    My jaw about hit the floor.

  26. Jack Johnson said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 2:14 am

    Panderer is the correct word

RSS feed for comments on this post