Is "bum" offensive?

Long story short, I’ve been calling patient’s rear-ends their bum’s at work (“you need to move your bum back in your chair more so you don’t fall out, Mrs so-and-so”) and a Nurse brought up today that I might be offending some of the more delicate elderly ladies by calling a bum a bum.

I can’t really see anything offensive about it: in my book “bum” ranks down there with “bottom” or “posterior” as being completely inoffensive.

So, who’s right? Me or the Nurse?

According to Flanders and Swann it is:



Well, for myself I find it rather childish and… oh I dunno… vulgar? Mind you, I am a prig, so don’t mind me. It’s not a word I use often, though I do with my kids sometimes. I think, for what it’s worth, that it could offend some people. But hardly ever fatally.

It could be worse.

I heard that when Harry Truman was president, a reporter once asked his wife Bess if she could please get the president to stop using the word “manure” so much. Her reply was something like “You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to get him to call it manure!”

I say you call an ass an ass. And after you’re done talking to your nurse, say “bum” as much as you want. :slight_smile:

I don’t know. Unless you have allready established an informal rapport with the patient, then saying bum seems unprofessional. But with a good rapport then anything that the patient finds amusing is good, and plenty of old ladies have very raucous senses of humour.

In the Sixties, the BBC wouldn’t play the Kinks song “Plastic Man” because it included the word “bum.” So it hasn’t always been “completely inoffensive.”

I think they prefer the term “domicile impared”.


Antique US advertising sound bite:

“Ajax! bum bum The foaming cleanser!”

As an Aussie I hear bum all the time and it doesn’t bother me but I think maybe for the older ladies, behind might be a better word to use.

Look. At. Me.


Tom Green

I think you should use bottom. But that’s just me.

You could always do your Forest Gump impression and tell them to move their buttocks.

Maybe you should say “can” instead. :smiley:

If you’re in a medical setting, you should be on the safe side and use the technical medical names for body parts. Instead of “bum,” you should say “hiney.”

Okay, bum is out I guess.

However! No one’s given me any monosyllabic nonoffensive alternatives other than “ass” and “can.”


Bum strikes me as slightly silly, but not vastly unprofessional – especially considering the lack of a useful alternative.

(By way of contrast, one doctor once asked me if I had blood in “the feces… you know, the caca.” Uh, thanks, I knew what feces are.)

strange…in my family, ‘bum’ is the polite word! :confused:


In America, bum, rather than be considered even in the slightest bit offensive, fits squarely into that Cute Cuddly Whimsical Words Used By Those Dear Old Adorable Brits category. Similar fates seem to have been assigned to shagged, wanker, et al.
(Side note: I can’t be the only person to see the thread title and instantly assume it to be about hobos… I mean, indigents.)

Can’t remember if this was Monty Python or not:

There’s nobody loves you like your Mum,
even when she spanks you on your bum…

Bum deal
Bum steer
Bum a smoke?
Bum’s rush
Bummer, man :cool:
Bumstead, Dagwood

Bum strikes me as a very inoffensive word. Be proud of your bum! :smiley: