Pogey bait

What is a pogey? (or why you should look things up online before making them features of your blog)

My dad used the term ‘pogey bait’ to refer to the stuff in grocery stores meant to temp small children (like lollies and jacks and water pistols and cheap dolls). My mother later used it to refer to the type of things you use as stocking stuffers.

I always thought it was a term my family had invented, like Oonkie Monsters and Oxymoronic Badminton (remind me to post about these later).

I was wrong.

After all Lauren’s questions about what a pogey was, I also noticed that people were googling ‘pogey bait’ and ‘capturing pogey’ and ending up at The Dreamstress. Much as I would like to think that I am responsible for making a word a new cultural phenomena, I’m not that vain (or gullible!).

So, I googled pogey.

Should have done that before I started using it!

In Canadian slang, pogey is the dole. Ooops.

And the term ‘pogey bait’ comes from Marines stationed in China, who used it to refer to the candies and cigarettes that they traded for things that they wanted, like…ummmmm…well…errrr…y’know, those things that Marines have always wanted.

Does it help if I tell you that ‘pogey’ bears a phonetic resemblance to a Chinese word for a woman of negotiable intimacy? Double Ooops.

So now I have really conflicting feelings about the term.  For me, it’s a happy childhood memory – something I thought was fun and quirky.  All my associations around it are really sweet.

When I started using the term here on the blog everyone liked it.  I didn’t have a clue there was another meaning until I noticed the pings from the searches.

And then it turns out that ‘pogey bait’ is a tiny bit vulgar, and a tiny bit culturally insensitive.

So what do I do?  Continue to use a phrase that made me happy for a long time, or drop it, because it once meant something not very nice?

For now, I’m going to try to re-brand the term, to make it what it meant to me.  In my mind, ‘pogey bait’ will always be the temptingly sparkly and shiny trifles that make up a crafter’s stash, and the pogey is the crafter who is so easily tempted to add more shiny trifles to their stash.



  1. Rebecca says

    Oh no!! Why does it seem that those quaint family terms used by one’s parents always seem to trace their origin to military slang, and why does it never seem to be polite, flattering military slang? (Wait…IS there such a thing? Hmm…point.)

    Well! As I happen to speak colloquial English, live in Hawaii, and like YOUR definitions of “pogey” and “pogey bait,” I will be glad to spread the usage! I will also pass this on to my two children (suspect “Leave the pogey-bait alone!” is going to be a new favorite parent-phrase). I will also make sure to let them know the origins and evolution of the terms (family of word-geeks, that’s us) and remind them that they should not use it in polite company unless they are absolutely sure that they can outrun any aunties or uncles they might offend.

    Thank you for giving a name (at last!) to all of the dazzling and shiny bits which take up so much happy space in my Stuff.

  2. Laurel Parker says

    Fascinating, wonderful post! Thanks Leimomi.

    Rebecca, there is a reason you’re running into military slang. It’s your location in the Pacific. Servicemen from all over the world leave their slang behind when they pass through. It gives you all a wonderfully rich language though.

    My family (which is also Leimomi’s) has always made up words, and I think preschoolers do the best job of it. One of my favorites is Gorneyhoard. A gorneyhoard is someone or something that messes with your stuff ( can also be used as a verb). My son made it up in advance of his sister’s arrival. He was fine with a baby arriving – but apprehensive about her gornehoarding his stuff. A gorneyhoard, he explained, was related to the kimneycat (no explaination what that is). One of it’s many attractive features was it had a rotten tail.

  3. My mum and dad always called wine ‘plonk’, which always embarrassed me, especially as a teenager, lol.

    I have since found out that it comes from the ANZACs WWI military slang, ‘vin blanc’ in French became ‘plonk’ to the ANZACs!

    Love English!

    • Is that where it comes from? Totally makes sense, but sounds terrible! I always thought ‘plonk’ meant the cheapest, worst wine – but as a non-drinker I don’t know much, and don’t pay a lot of attention.

  4. Pete says

    As an old US Marine, I can tell you the phrase was often used during the VietNam War to mean sweets or candy. And that “pogey bait” was presumed to be used to entice children (both male and female) into compromising positions. . Offering another male “pogey bait” was considered to be an insult to his sexual orientation.

  5. I love the fact that your dad used the phrase to mean tempting bits of ‘tat’ – and that it has such happy memories for you. Living in England, I’d never heard of pogey bait before – and your family’s definition of it made me laugh out loud.

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