chimney sweep scene mary poppins movie
© Everett/ShutterstockThe British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has lifted the age rating for the 1964 tale of Julie Andrews' magical nanny from a U to a PG
Have you ever spotted it?

Mary Poppins has had its age rating lifted from U to PG because it contains 'discriminatory language' - but the word in question is so obscure you may have never noticed it.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) now considers the 1964 tale of Julie Andrews' magical nanny to be not suitable for children to watch alone, despite the film enchanting generations of youngsters.

The reclassification is due to the use of the word Hottentots. The dated term was historically used by Europeans to refer to the Khoekhoe, a group of nomadic herders in South Africa, but is now regarded as racially offensive.

mary poppins admiral boom hottentots
The moment in the film 'Mary Poppins' that the BBFC thought meant it should now by classified a PG rating
Admiral Boom, played by Reginald Owen, who believes he is a naval commander in charge of a ship, uses the word twice in the film. On the first occasion, he is seen dangling from the roof in a boat where he asks one of the Banks children if they are 'going to fight the Hottentots'.

Later in the film when the chimney sweeps, whose faces are blackened from soot, dance on the roof the admiral exclaims 'we're being attacked by Hottentots'.

According to the BBFC's guidelines on PG content, 'some scenes may be unsuitable for young children'.

They add that while children of any age can watch, parents are advised to consider whether the content may upset 'younger, or more sensitive, children'.

The BBFC looked at historical context - the film is set in early 20th century London - but the fact the language is not condemned means it now exceeds guidelines for a U film.


Comment: How in the 'historical context' would anyone of the era of the setting of the film or the era in which it was made, plausibly "condemn" the term. These people are attempting to retroject their own tender sensibilities into the past. They have no connection to reality.


The BBFC said: 'We understand from our racism and discrimination research... that a key concern for... parents is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence.'

It added: 'Content with immediate and clear condemnation is more likely to receive a lower rating.'

The BBFC recently dropped Brad Pitt's movie Fight Club from an 18 to a 15 despite 'sequences of graphic and brutal violence'.

Who were Admiral Boom's Hottentots?
african tribe Khoikhoi hottentots
© Corbis via Getty ImagesThe issue relates to the use of the word Hottentots – a term regarded as racially offensive to the Khoikhoi people (pictured)
The word Hottentot is thought to come from the Dutch and was first recorded in the late 17th century, with white Europeans using it to name the Khoikhoi people in southern Africa. It is thought the word was created by Dutch settlers who arrived in the Cape in 1650s and was probably in imitation of the 'clicks' in the language of the Khoikhoi. It began being used in English in the 17th century. But over time it came to be regarded as a derogatory and offensive term.