Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Curious Case of Pinky Pinky: The Toilet Tokoloshe


There was once a Tokoloshe, her name was Pinky Pinky – she lived in the girls’ school toilets, sang a song that introduced her and told you about her parents. She’d then end the song by demanding you give her something. Thanks to Pinky Pinky, her choice of location and her singing – I've yet to feel completely comfortable using public toilets.

I first heard about Pinky Pinky when I was in Sub A (now known as Grade 1). She terrorized girls my age, demanding money or (as I recently heard) stole their panties. I think she’d also want whatever pink item you had on you. If you couldn't give in to Pinky Pinky’s demands – you were in big trouble. I don’t remember the details of what she’d do to you but what I knew is that it would be painful. Pinky Pinky was so dangerous she even made it into a national newspaper – although they used a blurry picture.

There were different stories told about how she looked – none mentioned a beautiful creature. Her looks were things horror movies are made of. I’ve never met Pinky Pinky and no one directly close to me ever had an encounter with this mean Tokoloshe but I believe she existed. And that is why even today I’m not comfortable walking into public toilets alone. Throughout my primary and high school years I never used the toilet during class time – the first time I did was once in matric.

It’s more than 20 years since I was in grade one but Pinky Pinky lives on, that’s how powerful her story was. I don’t know who created Pinky Pinky, when she was created and why they used her to scare girls. I was chatting to colleagues about this story and they all knew about Pinky Pinky – one was from Kimberly, another somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal and two different parts of Gauteng.

I'm thinking about Pinky Pinky because I believe there is a powerful lesson for communicators in this Toilet Tokoloshe story.

Let’s imagine that Pinky Pinky was created during a time girls were attacked in school toilets. The objective is simple – keep the girl-child safe from these toilet attacks. To decrease the number of attacks, the client (government) requires messaging that will encourage girls to not enter the school toilets alone. But one can’t cause alarm. (the public is not told about this increase in attacks)

The communication company then creates this Pinky Pinky character one night over pizza and beer. The idea seems ridiculous but they decide to try it. They won’t lose much because the idea requires minimal financing. They ditch traditional forms of communication and go back to the basics of Word-Of-Mouth. They even create a tune that accompanies this eerie character called Pinky Pinky.

Not once is the real danger mentioned. Girls like me hear this scary story and never enter the girls’ toilets alone. And just as we are about to kill this myth, they partner up with a newspaper we all know the market would see and have a blurry picture.

20 years later and the story lives. Maybe believing in Pinky Pinky saved our lives. Who knows!

These myths and legends are great examples of simple but effective communication.
This is how I've convinced myself that Pinky Pinky doesn't exist but a part of me is still hung up on the fear. Such is the result of a well told story!

Did you hear about Pinky Pinky growing up? Please share your story about her... 

23 comments:

  1. Oh I know Pinky Pinky alright. Having started boarding school at the age of 8, the name brings back some very sensitive memories.

    It was tricky enough going to the toilet alone during the day - a girl always had to make sure she had a 5c here or 50c there. Now can you imagine what happened to us in the night - we would rather mess our beds, than take on that Nasty creature PP. It was rough.

    Hell I took PP, way into my adult life. My biggest fear right now - 26 years old and all - is that PP will come out from inside the toilet and I wont have my purse on me....:-)

    Long Live Pinky Pinky,
    Village Girl from KZN

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  2. In the stories I was told, Pinky Pinky was male and you'd summon him by wearing pink panties, or saying his name out loud.

    He'd then ask you to marry him. If you said yes, he'd come back for you when you're "of age", if you said no, he'd take you with him into the toilet where you'd stay forever...tough decision either way, as if marriage isn't scary enough.

    Even today, 20 years later, I rarely go into an empty public toilet without thinking about Pinky Pinky.

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    1. Yoh rough. No winning situation with Pinky Pinky. I really would like to find the person that planted this myth and let it run for so long. I'm also really uncomfortable going into empty public toilets alone. We are a traumatised generation.

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    2. I want someone who has seen this Pinky Pinky. It scared the living daylights out of the 6yr old me hey

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    3. I cant sand knowing that in the bathroom, there is a monster!
      but... at my grandmas house, i saw something running down the passage and when i went to look, i saw a thing: half boy and half girl! I swear it was Pinky Pinky

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    4. I cant sand knowing that in the bathroom, there is a monster!
      but... at my grandmas house, i saw something running down the passage and when i went to look, i saw a thing: half boy and half girl! I swear it was Pinky Pinky

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  3. Here I am at work sitting with my colleague, I'm from Vaal and he's from Soshanguve..... and he knows the story too it seems that Pinky Pinky was at every toilet region back in the early 90s. From what I heard it was half woman-half man so it may target both gender. We used to run out from the toilet

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    1. hahahahahaha Pinky Pinky was national. A proper horror story. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. ahh Pinky Pinky ,I lived in Kimberley and Pinky Pinky was the biggest news ever when i was younger, if im not mistaken there was even a movie made about.

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    1. Holy wow! There's a movie? Cool! I wouldn't mind watching a cheesy movie!
      Right now I'm doing research about pinky pinky so I can write a story (I'm a wanna be author) so I I find that movie it would be great! (but I think I'm gonna go with a male pinky pinky so it scares people more)

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    2. yes! i saw that movie too! it scared me so much!

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    3. A movie yoh

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  5. I grow up in Soweto I was probably 8yrs and remember one news paper had PP face, the left side was like a cat looking like creature and the right side just a monster, man all children in my school stopped going to the toilet completely and u can imagine in the 90's there where TV drama's like Lesilo, so horror was on another level for us kids

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  6. Gee, even I know Pinky Pinky - IT haunted our school bathrooms too.

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    1. it haunts me boarding house! every night, at 12:00, i hear its bitter song, and all the other girls were scared too!

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    2. it haunts me boarding house! every night, at 12:00, i hear its bitter song, and all the other girls were scared too!

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  7. I don't believe this stuff for a minute, but I still get the chills thinking about it

    PS:don't mess with this spirit stuff

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  8. I've just been reading a book that mentions Pinky Pinky -- you can see my review of it here. Ghosts and culture | Notes from underground. I never heard of Pinky Pinky before reading the book, but it seems that it went viral in the 1990s, and I was at school long before then. But my kids were at school in the 1990s, so I must ask them if they heard of it.

    Goldstuck points out that there is quite a large overlap between ghost
    stories and urban legends, and describes one that went viral among
    South African school children about 20 years ago -- about pinky-pinky,
    a creature that was half male, half female, half animal, half human,
    (don't check the arithmetic) and had a predilection for girls who wore
    pink pants (BrE=knickers).

    It seems to me that there are several memes involved in the story -
    chimera, sexual predator, and several others.

    But it is strange how these stories spread, from school to school, town to town.

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  9. Yoh when I was in the first grade our school was huge n one of my friends told us about her..

    But her story was different. She said pinky was half boy n half girl, , dat she would come out of the toilets and kidnap us. Our school was really big and the halls were eerie so we ended up believing in her/him n today I'm going to grade 8 next year and I'm steal afraid of dis pinky pinky

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  10. How did the song go again, if there's anyone who still remembers?

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  11. I knew her brother Stinky Pinky. Guess what he was in to?

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    ReplyDelete