‘Mr. Plod’: meaning and origin

The colloquial British-English name Mr. Plod, also P.C. Plod, Plod, is a humorous or mildly derogatory appellation for a policeman or for the police.

This name alludes to Mr. Plod, the policeman in stories by the English author of children’s fiction Enid Blyton (1897-1968).

Mr. Plod appears, for example, in the cartoon strip Mandy, Mops & Cubby, by Enid Blyton, published in the Burton Observer and Chronicle (Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England) of Thursday 7th January 1960:

534.—And now it [= the stream] has caught up Mr. Plod the policeman, and he is most alarmed. Good gracious! Now he’ll get his feet wet and catch a cold. A-tish-ooooooo!

Mr. Plod also appears in Enid Blyton’s Noddy series. For example, the title of one of those books is Mr. Plod and Little Noddy (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., Ltd. and The Richards Press, Ltd., 1961).

Enid Blyton probably chose the name Plod in reference to the plodding of a policeman pounding the beat. (Interestingly, in quotations 15 & 16 below, the name Plod is explicitly associated with policemen on the beat.)

The earliest occurrences that I have found of Mr. Plod, P.C. Plod and Plod used to designate a policeman or the police are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From The Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Friday 7th June 1963:

A case for Mr Plod?

Blackpool police sent a patrol-car, a scooter, four detectives and five constables when Paul Winter made a 999 call and said: “My car has been stolen. Send policemen.”
When the detectives went into the house in St Heliers Road they found that Paul was only 7 and the “thief” was only 6. The car was a toy one.

2-: From the account of a court case, published in the Evening Post and News (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England) of Wednesday 7th August 1963:

Capon in the witness box denied that he was drunk. He said that as the constables passed he stood outside a public house with his friends and said: “Here’s Mr Plod.” The constables heard him and came back. He alleged that the constables abused and attacked him.

3-: From the Thanet Times and East Kent Pictorial (Margate, Kent, England) of Tuesday 9th June 1964:

CALL IN MR. PLOD . . .

An electric viewing machine which shows pictures of “The Adventures of Noddy” was stolen from an amusement arcade in Harbour Street, Broadstairs, on Sunday.
Attached to the machine is a coin box, which the owner, Mr. Frederick Vass, believes contained about £15 in sixpences.
Broadstairs police are investigating.

4-: From the following letter to the Editor, published in The Birmingham Post & Birmingham Gazette (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Thursday 20th August 1964:

Bouquet for the police from Beatlemaniacs

Sir,—May we through your newspaper say thank you to the men of Birmingham’s police force who were on duty at the Odeon cinema during last Saturday night.
We, who were queueing for tickets to see the Beatles in October, are grateful for their kindness, good humour and forbearance during those long, and often very wet, hours.
I saw an inspector supplying some girls with a mattress to sit on and two constables bringing plastic covers for others who were getting very wet.
During those hours they responded with a laugh to the call of “Officer Dibble” or “Mr. Plod,” moved on any drunken men who tried to pester us, and swapped plans for summer holidays.
Perhaps there are bad relations between the police and some section of the public, but those sections do not include the Beatlemaniacs of Birmingham.
D. Barnes,
V. E. Hindle,
P. J. Hodgetts,
B. James.
Shirley,
Solihull.

5-: From the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Tuesday 9th March 1965—Caddington is a village and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England:

RED-HANDED CAPTURE BY ‘PC PLOD’

In red paint on the notice board in front of the village policeman’s home were the words: “PC Plod lives here.”
The words caught the eye of Police Constable George Patterson as he was cycling past on patrol. They were of particular interest to him, since he is the village constable.
And PC Patterson caught red-handed three youths who had just finished painting the slogan, a court heard yesterday.
He first made them clean the red paint off his notice board—at Caddington, near Luton, Beds.

6-: From Curves are made for hugging, by John Crosby, published in The Observer (London, England) of Sunday 30th April 1967:

‘CAN YOU afford NOT to own a Jaguar?’ it says.
That advertisement pretty well typifies the British attitude towards motoring, which remains consistently romantic. Every man in his own Jaguar. The Briton still views himself in his motor-car as a knight in shining armour. The roads are the playing fields of Eton, the jousting ground, a place to test his mettle—and mine while he’s at it. The Briton’s superb courtesy—‘After you, Sir.’ ‘No, do let me,’ and all that sort of thing—vanishes on the roads. There are Britons who will proudly boast that no one has ever passed them on the roads. Or their survivors will. ‘I’ll see you dead first, Sir’—and he may, at that.
‘We must learn to get that tiger out of our tank and put in Mr Plod,’ wrote some motoring correspondent or other, whose name I disremember, in an effort to get everybody slowed down.

7-: From the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Thursday 1st February 1968:

BIG Pc—A LITTLE BIKE

Police constable Wilfred Cox has to use a moped to cover his beat of thirteen villages around Newark, Notts.
But Pc Cox weighs 18 stone and is 6ft. 4½in. tall . . . and the moped is a tiny 50 c.c. model.
Which is silly, claims rural councillor John Pykett. “It looks like a case of Mr. Plod the Policeman using Noddy’s bike,” he said.
The matter will be referred to the county council.

8-: From Police cadet Chris shrinks himself out of the job, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Tuesday 4th March 1969:

Eighteen-year-old Christopher joined the force two years ago when he was 5ft. 7in.
He topped the list in promise and enthusiasm.
All he had to do was reach the minimum height standard of 5ft. 8in. by the time he was nineteen.
[…]
Then came the medical . . . and the sad shock. In two years he had lost an inch—and put on a stone and a half.
“Most unusual,” said the doctor, checking his measurement.
The police were perplexed. But rules are rules.
Yesterday Christopher handed back his uniform to the Thames Valley Police Division at Reading, Berks.
“It’s a big disappointment,” he said. “I had set my heart on being a policeman.
“I know I’m a big eater, but I just can’t understand how I could shrink.”
Christopher’s mother, Mrs. Marjory Bumpass, said: “It is a great shame. He would have made a wonderful Mr. Plod.”

9-: From Everyone knows the village bobby, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Tuesday 17th February 1970:

Bill Hopkin was born in a police station. Today, forty-three years later, he still lives in a police station.
He is the village bobby at Ticehurst (population 2,600) in rural Sussex, and his take-home pay is £69 a month.
Hopkin’s father was a police constable for thirty years. Hopkin has been a police constable for twenty-two years. He has not sought promotion and is happy with his lot.
But he’s not a Police-Constable Plod perambulating his paunch along the village high street. He’s 6ft. 1½in., 13st. 12lb., was part of a championship tug-of-war team, and hasn’t an ounce of surplus weight on him. He is also a crack pistol marksman and has shot at Bisley.

10-: From Play the Happy Families Game, an advertisement for the classifieds, published in the Barrow Observer (London, England) of Tuesday 3rd March 1970—alongside Mr. Tappit the Motor Trader, Mr. Bungalow the Estate Agent, Mr. Bones the Butcher, Mrs. Do-Good the Vicar’s Wife, Mr. Sack the Personnel Manager and Miss Getwell the Doctor’s Daughter, P.C. Plod occurs as a generic name for a policeman:

P.C. PLOD the Policeman

bought a second-hand motor scooter for his son through the Scooters for Sale column

11-: From Rush hour in the High-street, by David Tattersall, published in the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Tuesday 2nd June 1970:

Sark is the tiny feudal paradise in the Channel Islands where the traffic problem consists of 418 bicycles, 46 tractors, five electric invalid carriages, and 30 horse-drawn vehicles. There are no cars.
There wasn’t a proper policeman either until PC Birch stepped ashore yesterday.
He’s on two weeks’ detachment from neighbouring Guernsey to help to stamp out Sark’s crime wave.
At least it seems like a crime wave to the peaceful people of Sark.
To the outside world the list of law-breaking reads like a page from the note-book of Mr. Plod the Toytown policeman.

12-: From Anthony Sampson’s election notebook, published in The Observer (London, England) of Sunday 14th June 1970—the Labour politician James Callaghan (1912-2005) was then Home Secretary:

Big Jim has the manner—the policeman’s manner of ‘What’s going on ’ere?’—which exactly suits hysterical outbursts; or else he has the reassuring quality of a publican—a kind of publican that looks rather reactionary—who unexpectedly comes out with some sound liberal principles.
[…] It is a stroke of luck for the Labour Party that they should happen to have Mr Plod, the cosy policeman of Toyland, sitting right there at the Home Office.

13-: From the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Wednesday 17th June 1970:

Beat-pounding is a cakewalk for Bill

PC Bill Sutherland is no Mr. Plod. For Bill pounding the beat for six miles a day is a cakewalk.
Once he is off-duty, he gets down to the real stuff—and that can be anything up to eighty miles a week.
Bill, a champion long-distance walker from Scone, Perthshire, does it for the love of it.
Yesterday he was rewarded with a place in the Scottish Commonwealth Games team.

14-: From A policeman’s duty, published in the Sunday Mirror (London, England) of Sunday 22nd November 1970:

Every policeman in Britain has an extra burden to bear today.
The Leeds court case has done the force more harm than all the sniping, all the demonstrators’ taunts and all the old jokes about Mr. Plod.
Two policemen, Inspector Geoffrey Ellerker and Sergeant Brian Nicholson, have been jailed for nine months.

15-: From The West Briton and Royal Cornwall Gazette (Truro, Cornwall, England) of Thursday 25th March 1971:

Town wants return of P-c Plod

The policeman pounding his beat was more of a deterrent than one in a Panda car, it was declared at Perranzabuloe annual parish meeting on Monday, when it was agreed to tell Devon and Cornwall Police Authority that people felt Perranporth was not adequately policed.

16-: From the Daily Mirror (London, England) of Monday 24th May 1971:

PCs go back on the beat

A police chief is putting his bobbies back on their feet.
He believes that fast cars and high-frequency radio can’t completely replace the old-time village bobby on the beat.
So from next week Mr. George Terry, Lincolnshire’s chief constable—who pounded a beat in Birmingham as a young constable—is reintroducing the “Police-Constable Plods.”
Mr. Terry, chief of a 1,600-man force, said that sometimes police in vans were turning up for trouble that would not have begun had a man on the beat been around.

17-: From the Kensington Post (London, England) of Friday 10th September 1971:

POLICE STAY MUM AS SHOW TAKES MICKEY
The Pc said ‘Oink’

“’Ello, ’ello, ’ello” said the friendly-seeming policeman (predictably) as he apprehended the little man in the black mask and hooped pullover. “What’s going on here?”
But the scene that followed was by no means in keeping with the jovial image of the British bobby through the years. It borrowed nothing from the characterisation of the police associated with P.c. Plod or Dixon of Dock Green. “Oink, oink, oink!” snorted the Notting Hill version in a perfect parody of a pig.
P.c. 49 positively bellowed his “pigginess” in a revue presented by a street theatre group as part of the Notting Hill People’s Carnival.

18-: From Crack-down on the high speed crooks, by Owen Summers, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Friday 8th October 1971:

Placid Mr. Plod the Policeman, whom the foreigners think so wonderful—has to-day become part of a sophisticated crime fighting force, and much credit for the change must go to the regional crime squads.

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