the PC (pipe cleaners) brigade vs the PC (politically correct) brigade




Release the ‘Political Correctness gone MAD’ hounds, to chomp on this question from Nathan from Nottingham:

Recently my wife bought a load of stuff from the community art shop including a bag full of pipe cleaners of various colours and sizes.

As I was playing with them with my nearly-2-year-old son, showing him how to bend them into a little pair of glasses or a stickman, I said, “These are called pipe cleaners.” Then my wife piped up (pardon the pun), “You can’t call them pipe cleaners any more, it’s not politically correct.” Apparently it would be promoting pipe-smoking.

Call me stupid but up until that moment I had no idea they were called pipe cleaners because they were used to clean pipes, especially not smoker’s pipes. I thought it was just hypothetical cos, yeah, that would clean a tiny pipe if you ever needed to clean one.

I asked about their new name. They’re now called… chenille sticks. Seriously?! If we have to rename them why not focus on what they are for (craft wire?) or what they are like. I suggested the name “fuzzy benders” before realising that probably wouldn’t catch on.

So answer me this, would any kids really take up pipe smoking because of exposure to pipe cleaners? And can you please think of a better name than ‘chenille sticks’ (or ‘fuzzy benders’)?

Readers, do propel yourselves to the comments to answer the following questions:

1. Did you take up smoking as a direct result of playing with pipe cleaners when you were a child?

2. Have you ever cleaned any sort of pipe with a pipe cleaner? (Keep your answers U-rated, thanks)

3. Since hardly anybody is going to answer ‘Yes’ to question 2, if pipe cleaners rarely actually clean pipes, what would be a more appropriate name for pipe cleaners? (Again, I invite you to keep it suitable for the children.)

4. The term ‘politically correct’ hardly makes sense, does it?


15 Responses to “the PC (pipe cleaners) brigade vs the PC (politically correct) brigade”

  1. anon Says:

    1. I did not. I grew up with “pipe cleaners” as craft supplies in the 90s and 2000s and have never smoked one drag or puff of tobacco in my life.

    2. Not that I can recall… certainly not a tobacco pipe. I do believe, however, that I may have used one to clean a straw.

    3. …straw cleaner? I’d say craft stick, but I think that’s already taken by popsicle sticks, er, tongue depressors, er, craft sticks.

    4. In general or as it applies to this debate? No real opinion either way.

  2. Popeye MacArthur Says:

    I do smoke pipes. I do use pipe cleaners to clean them. My childhood exposure to pipe cleaners, then known as “pipe cleaners”, had absolutely nothing to do with me now smoking a pipe. The arts & crafts people can call them whatever they bloody well please, as long as I can still buy actual cotton PIPE CLEANERS at me local tobacco shop. Where I, an adult, buy my tobacco. For my pipe. As for renaming things to make them “less threatening” or whatever… some people maybe just need to get a life.

  3. Jessica Johnson Says:

    My recent Dollar General receipt calls them Tinsel sticks but I’m assuming that’s because they were made from tinsel. And no, never took up pipe smoking. I have never used them to clean pipes but have used them to clean straws and sippy cup spouts.

  4. Danforth Olson Says:

    I have cleaned some pipes my dad had when I was a kid, I am fifty now. I do not smoke now even though I was exposed to this term as a kid.

  5. Ferzano Says:

    I was 12 when i was first introduced to pipe cleaners and soon i became a pipe cleaning smoke addict. Life would of been different had it been called fuzzy wires. Perhaps then i wouldnt seek out pipes to clean which led to my smoking addiction.

  6. Chasing Embers Says:

    1) No
    2) Yes
    3) If you clean grout with a toothbrush, is it no longer a toothbrush?
    4) PC is for those without spines.

  7. Jeff Roberts Says:

    Anyone know of similar renamings in the realm of crafts? I passed some “scented wax cubes” in the store today. Were they once “stinky dice” and might have promoted gambling or poor hygeine?

  8. xx Says:

    My grandfather smoked a pipe, and had packets full of plain white pipecleaners, for the purpose of (shock and horror!) cleaning it. He used to get somewhat irritated that we would steal his pipe cleaners for craft purposes, and eventually started purchasing us multi-coloured ones to get us to leave his personal supply alone.

  9. Indra Says:

    1. No. That’s crazy talk. Correlation and causation are not the same thing.

    2. As a child, I used them to make flowers to give to people as presents. Sometimes, if I were feeling especially crafty, I would make cats. I think because I am aware of them (and their name) from childhood, I actually DO use them all the time for cleaning out tubing and pipes. I use them to clean my french horn and mellophone mouthpieces, tubing and valves. They’re also perfect for cleaning metal tubing – like gas capillary lines, valves, inlets, etc. I also like them for cleaning laboratory glassware.

    3. They have the capacity to clean pipes. We’d be depriving future generations of optimal cleaning power. I’m not sure I’d look at a valve and go “IF ONLY I HAD A FUZZY BENDER OR CHENILLE STICK TO CLEAN THIS”. More importantly, change frightens me.

    4. It does not.

  10. machalllewis Says:

    No, it was my desire to look both big and clever that made me take up smoking.

    This sounds like the usual kind of myth that gets made up by certain papers in order to discredit the notion of political correctness, for example when they pretended the word Christmas had been banned that one year.

  11. birgitte Says:

    1: No.
    2: No, but with both my parents being pipe smokers, seeing other people doing it was an everyday occurrence
    3: Pipe cleaners, They are pipe cleaners.
    4: Did it ever make sense?

  12. pldmgh Says:

    I use pipe cleaners quite often to help clean out the steam wand of the espresso machines at work… Surely those kind of pipes are a harmless name-giver for the craft version, and steel youngsters for a life of menial tasks?

  13. Finlay Says:

    I thought they were for pipes as in plumbing, somehow. This is a rather ridiculous assertion.

  14. Mike Says:

    1. No. Smoking made me take up smoking. Sweet sweet smoking.
    2. Yes, A tobacco pipe. Not mine. I’m an archaeologist.
    3. Thunderbird Island palm tree trunks.
    4. No it doesn’t. The correct substitute for sense is vehemence.

  15. Sam Says:

    1. No, but I might take up pipe smoking so I have an excuse to play with pipe cleaners.
    2. Maybe, but it was a long time ago, and I don’t remember what I would have been cleaning, other than that it wasn’t a smoking pipe.
    3. I’m not sure, but a fuzzy bender seems like a good way to spend the weekend if most of your friends are cops. As there seem to be more pipe cleaners than pipes (at least in my life), maybe the more efficient solution would be to rename pipes.

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