Like I wrote in an article about “a muffins,” it happens that words and concepts can get lost in translation when they become part of a new culture. Most of the time it can be a little annoying but I can chalk it up to the idiosyncrasies of culture.

But this one is infuriating. Yesterday, in a newsletter from Women’s Health Sverige, I saw this headline: Grönt – och gott! 5 sätt att pimpa din nyttiga drink!

Green – and great! 5 ways to pimp your health drink!

There is no single word that gets my fire crackling the way this one does – and if you haven’t guessed by now the word isn’t “green.”

Swedish journalists, listen up! Unless you look like this guy, just don’t use the word pimp in writing or speaking.

The 1% of you who can use the word “pimp” are those who understand where it comes from and know what it means.

The verb “att pimpa” was absorbed into the Swedish language when MTV started showing Pimp my Ride here in 2006. That year, Aftonbladet published an article about the show, and had to define the word “pimp” for Swedish readers. They defined it as another word meaning “att piffa upp” –  to perk up, jazz up, fix up.

Aftonbladet neglected to mention that a pimp, in English, is someone who makes money by arranging sexual meetings with prostitutes. In Swedish – a “hallick.”

I don’t think most Swedes know this, and now the word pimp appears in the following kinds of contexts:

The only reason MTV could call their show “Pimp my Ride” was because it was a reference to the pimpmobile – an ostentatiously decked-out car typically used by pimps and gang leaders in blaxsploitation films of the 1970s (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pimpmobile#cite_note-jstor.org-1).

So, in fact, MTV was making a specific, and carefully considered cultural reference when they named their show. Plus, the host of the show was rapper Xzibit, with the theme song: “So you wanna be a player, but your wheels ain’t fly / You gotta hit us up, to get a pimp’t out ride.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/pimp-my-ride-cars_n_6663840.html

Not everyone is clueless

The word’s seepage into the Swedish language hasn’t gone entirely unnoticed, and I found a few great thoughts from Swedes who have taken issue with the word:

Sadly, the latest from Women’s Health indicates that the word is still floating around out there, with writers oblivious to the word’s troubled past and dubious connotations.

*Note: My issue with this headline is of course the use of the word “pimp” which is entirely ridiculous in this context, but after further research it turns out that even the substance of the headline is wrong. The Jila clock will not lose or gain one second in 15 billion years, according to extremetech. http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/203943-new-atomic-clock-wont-lose-a-second-in-15-billion-years