Not bloody likely!



  • The notorious phrase from Act III of Shaw's Pygmalionthat introduced the expletive 'bloody' to the British stage. The wordoccurs during a tea party in which the cockney Eliza Doolittle, playedin the first London production by Mrs Patrick Campbell, has been introducedto polite society. Although she has learned to speak in the accentsof the upper classes, her conversational habits remain those of theEast End. When a dashing young man inquires if she is walkinghome, she replies: "Walk? Not bloody likely! I am going in ataxi."

    The morning before the play opened in London in 1916, theDaily Sketch thundered, "It is a word which the DailySketch cannot possibly print and tonight it is to be uttered onthe stage...this evening the most respectable audience in Londonis to hear this appalling word fall with bombshell suddenness fromMrs Pat's lips." Shaw's biographer, Hesketh Pearson, noted thatwhen the offending word was spoken the opening-night audience gaspedas one, "their intake of breath making a sound that could havebeen mistaken for a protracted hiss." The laughter that followedwas timed at 75 seconds by the stage manager's stopwatch.

    The phrase Not Pygmalion likely! was a popular Britisheuphemism of World War I and the years thereafter.