‘Auntie’: The Times (London newspaper) – the BBC

Usually with capital initial, Auntie, also Aunty, is familiarly used to denote a publication or institution which is considered to be conservative or staid in style or outlook, or, alternatively, which is viewed with affection. Auntie, also Aunty, often occurs as a title preceding the name of the publication or institution.

An early use occurs in the following from The Daily Progress (Pomona, California, USA) of Monday 1st April 1901:


It is always bad to try to bolster up a bad cause by lying, and foolish to do so in the face of official records to the contrary. The person that will resort to such tactics is usually ashamed of his effort and so conceals his identity.—Pomona Times.
This about “Felix Grundy’s” communication to the Progress.
Which side was “Felix Grundy” trying to “bolster up?” The Times does not say, but argues that his so-called “lying” was in the interest of the Citizens’ Reform party.
“Felix Grundy” has never voted the Citizens’ Reform party ticket and has not intimated that he intends to do so this year.
“Felix Grundy” has voted the Anti-Saloon ticket ever since that party was started in Pomona.
“Felix Grundy’s” reputation for veracity and honor is not surpassed by that of any man in Pomona, not excepting the proprietors of Auntie Times.

—Cf. also ‘Aunt’ | ‘Granny’: The Sydney Morning Herald.




The noun Auntie, also Aunty, has been used of The Times (London, England), a newspaper founded on 1st January 1785 as The Daily Universal Register.

The earliest occurrences of this use that I have found are From Standing By…: A Weekly Commentary on One Thing and Another. By “The Bystanders”, published in The Bystander (London, England):

1-: Of Tuesday 18th December 1934:

We thought for a moment of applying for the job of dramatic critic on Trade and Engineering, described as “the new monthly review for the Business Man,” the first number of which came out the other day under the ægis of old Auntie Times.

2-: Of Tuesday 8th January 1935:

Holiday Task
A man we met this week is still furious over the general knowledge paper set by Auntie Times to her little readers, with awful playfulness, on Christmas Eve—fifty-five questions in all, duly answered by Auntie herself on the Thursday following. Specimen questions:
Give speaker and context in each of the following cases—(a) If I had Christian’s nerve I would give all I have in the world; (b) You don’t know what the Derby is; (c) Whatever are ye at? (d) Jem could never have won if he ’d had four eyes; (e) Another time don’t bet your money against such men as we are; (f) This is the grave-digger.
To whom, where, and by whom was a letter sent through the post addressed to “The Misser of Short Putts”?
Our friend’s objection to this is moral, on the ground of Auntie’s deliberately encouraging priggery and spiritual pride in her smug-faced followers. He says people who can answer questions like these are a menace to decent human society; pedants, pedagogues, bores, murderers of mirth, enemies of wine and song. He says Auntie ought to be dealt with for fostering the breed of self-satisfied amateur dons, crammed with useless information and ripe for doom. He says it is difficult enough to get intelligent dinner-table conversation anywhere nowadays, except in Paris, and that Auntie is just trying to kill one of the chief pleasures of civilised man.
We promised him to hit anybody we found mixed up in Auntie’s ghastly frolic and exploiting the same, to the detriment of society, but a legal authority tells us that to hit a Times reader is equivalent, under English law, to taking Punch lightly, and we have no wish to incur the severe penalties laid down for these crimes in 66 Vic. Cap. 17(b) ii-xv.

3-: Of Tuesday 22nd January 1935:

A propos our recent light reference, more in bung-ho than anger, to the pretty bleak General Knowledge paper Auntie Times set her readers for fun on Christmas Eve, one of them (and a don, at that) informs us, giggling like a little crazy thing, that Auntie herself made an odious bloomer in the answers, printed on December 27th. She ascribed the authorship of Fabiola to Newman, whereas it ’s by Wiseman.
So, hey de diddle, hey de dee, can’t see you, can’t see me, hey, ho, bibbity bo, and up a gum-tree for Auntie.




In British English, Auntie, also Aunty, is used in particular of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a public corporation for radio and television broadcasting in Britain, established in 1927 by royal charter.

The earliest occurrences of this use that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From The Manchester Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Wednesday 21st January 1948:

By our Radio Critic

The first selection of listeners’ letters in the new Third Programme broadcast “Second Opinion” was, not unexpectedly, a mixture of good, bad, and indifferent, so the B.B.C. had clearly made a representative choice. […] One’s final impression of “Second Opinion” is that it is opening out into more than a mere recording of criticism: the general atmosphere in the first broadcast was receptive and even breezy, and at the end we were invited to send in “shots” at the twelve greatest English poems and seven greatest poets. It is fun to see Auntie B.B.C taking off her bonnet and crying “Human though highbrow.”

2-: From The film-TV war is on, by Paul Holt, published in the Daily Herald (London, England) of Tuesday 18th November 1952:

After five years and more of sulking and looking the other way the film people have at last decided to do something about TV. Something progressive.
[…] Today the big film companies have signed a pact among themselves, agreeing that all will concentrate during 1953 on doing things TV can’t do—big spectacles, open-air adventure stories.
Drawing room stories, bedroom stories—and bedtime stories—are out. TV can have them. The film men have decided to bank all on the calculation that dear old Aunty BBC will continue to offer viewers those neat, nice little family dramas while they go out after bigger stuff.
But good and vigorous as this policy is, anybody knows it is not enough. TV is snug. TV is all your own, with nobody to interfere with your pleasure. There is no queuing to TV, no chatty neighbour, canoodling couple, bawling brat. And TV is summat for nowt.
The big thing everybody waits for, both here and in America, is permission for private circuits to route TV to the cinemas—big fights, big ceremonies. The film men can afford to pay for it. Aunty BBC, with her alarming overheads and her prim turn of mind, cannot and will not.

3-: From the column As I Please!, by Jack Cade, published in the Daily Herald (London, England) of Monday 29th March 1954:

Oh dear me, what a flutter Auntie BBC was in on Saturday!
Roman Catholic Bishop of Leeds actually said, in a broadcast, my dear, that there was religious intolerance in Spain and Northern Ireland.
Well, I mean, there are limits. He’ll claim that it rains in Manchester next.
The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland sent a telegram about what he called the “unjustified attack” and called on Auntie to “repudiate” it, thus proving the Bishop’s point, and advertising it to the world.
You couldn’t have the Director of the Spoken Word come on the air and say the Bishop was a liar.
Something had to done about the roarings from Belfast. So Auntie produced one of the most peculiar apologies she’s made up to date. She regretted broadcasting what the Bishop said about Northern Ireland “in a programme of encouragement and worship.”
What he said about Spain was apparently just right for that sort of programme.
I can’t see what was the matter with any of it. What’s so terrible about having a few facts in a “programme of encouragement and worship”?
Perhaps we’d better leave the answer to the Controller of the Unspoken Thought.

4-: From Now two more take that BBC vow…, by Ramsden Greig, published in the Evening Standard (London, England) of Thursday 23rd December 1954:

Dave King, I can report, has this week signed a two-year BBC TV contract. It guarantees him at least 12 appearances each year. His first job as a contracted performer will be to take over the Benny Hill chore of compère to Showcase.
The new series begins on January 24.
What has happened to the lure of those big-money commercial TV contracts? It diminishes.
King tells me: “I have been offered good money by the BBC. Their fees are increasing. I still won’t be getting as much as I might expect from a commercial group.
“But I am a young comedian starting in a precarious profession. I welcome the security the BBC offers.”
Dear old Auntie BBC.

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