Shifting definitions…like shifting sands…

Had a strange discussion in my drama class yesterday. In a way it’s a blessing that the students trust me enough to ask these questions. What does pimp mean? What is a pimp? I was surprised at their definition of the word.

Pimping today means to dress it up, to look good. My naive little freshman who asked the question was genuinely curious because she could tell I gave the word a negative connotation.

So I told her.

A pimp is a man who runs a line of prostitutes – whores. She saw nothing wrong with that until I explained further.

A pimp is a man who abuses women and uses them to make money for him. They work, he gets the money. He also abuses them emotionally…using their love and/or need for him to get what he wants. Often he gets them into using drugs for further dependency.

That shocked her. Her world is bright and full of light and the thought of women loving a man who would abuse them was repulsive.

So we discussed how the meaning of the word has morphed from negative to positive – or how generations can view words and define them differently.

Her definition again – looking good, someone you look up to and want to emulate. My definition – a scumbag who abuses and uses those who love him.

While I kind of lead the discussion, our conclusion made sense to both of us. The rise of hip hop and rap began to glorify gangsters and law breakers. This music was primarily male driven. In poor neighborhoods often the only people with money and flash were the drug dealers and pimps. Eventually they became the icons – and it has spread to our middle class student population now.

What a lesson – for both of us. A sad one to me. A disturbing one for her. A word she took for granted to mean something positive now disturbs her because of its deeper and traditional meaning.

It’s no wonder there are generational gaps.


One thought on “Shifting definitions…like shifting sands…

  1. Pimp is not a good thing ever. The first time I heard it in a newsroom was in 2006. I was editing a news story for the 10pm show and Pimp Your Car was being featured in the newscast. I started asking around the newsroom and found out it was a loved show… I just don’t get how a word that represents women who are abused could ever be a positive descriptive.

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