Friday, November 09, 2007

BBC Politically Corrects the Skimmington

On this evening's episode of QI on the BBC, the topic of the Skimmington was mentioned, but completely misrepresented. It was referred to solely as the ritual of 'rough music', which was one of its names, and we were told that it was a community punishment meted out to wife-beaters and philanderers. In fact, it was the opposite; its targets were husbands who were themselves the victims of domestic violence or infidelity.

The name 'skimmington' was never mentioned; this was originally a large skimming ladle, often used by violent wives to assault their husbands. Also not mentioned were references to the skimmington in the works of Hogarth and Hardy, or in Samuel Butler's poem 'Hudibras'. No mention of its various names: Charivari, katzenmuzik, shivaree, the kind of interesting trivia which typifies the usual QI episode; no mention of the fact that Charivari was taken up as the name of a Parisian satirical magazine, and then a copy-cat version in London which later changed its name to Punch; no mention of the fact that it seems to be the origin of the practise of tying tin cans on to the back of a newly wed couple's car.

The skimmington is pregnant with interesting facts. It must have been difficult for BBC researchers to ignore these; it is not easy to research the topic at all without discovering these things. Yet, nothing of this was ever mentioned. 'Rough music' was a punishment for wife-beating, philandering, and also sometimes, for being hen-pecked. The politically-corrected BBC is deceiving us yet again.