Ashes to Ashes: Bolly

I was looking at my site logs yesterday, and I noticed that a few people have recently come here via search engines, wanting to know why Gene Hunt calls Alex Drake “Balls” or “Bowls” in the show Ashes to Ashes.

Actually, it’s “Bols”, and it’s short for “Bollinger Knickers”.

When Alex first arrived in the 1981 universe, she repeatedly told her co-workers about her multiple college degrees and the time she spent training with the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. Remember that she’s a well-educated hostage negotiator and psychological profiler for the Metropolitan Police in her 2008 life. She also used a variety of now commonplace criminal profiling terms, none of which were known to the police in 1981.

This was all very high-brow stuff for her fellow blue collar officers in 1981, so Gene started calling her “Bollinger Knickers” (“Bollinger” is a brand of champagne and “knickers” are women’s underwear in British slang). So it’s a sarcastic way of calling her “fancy pants”.

Over time, Gene has shortened it to “Bolly” or just “Bols”.

6 Replies to “Ashes to Ashes: Bolly”

  1. Thank you so much for this answer. It’s been driving me nuts.

    Very excited for Series 3. Between Ashes to Ashes and Jonathan Creek both having new episodes this weekend, it’s almost enough to make one hop a plane to London and watch them there.

  2. Thank you! That made no sense, episode after episode. Especially because it mimicks her daughter’s name “Molly”, which Gene is at first not to know of and later doesn’t believe.

  3. Ah, thank you. I’ve just been re-watching Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and I’m about half waypoints through series 3 of the latter. It suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea why Gene calls her Bols and Bolly. I missed the earlier reference, but that explains it all

  4. Ah, thank you. I’ve just been re-watching Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and I’m about half way through series 3 of the latter. It suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea why Gene calls her Bols and Bolly. I missed the earlier reference, but that explains it all

  5. Actually, long before anyone knew Alex Drake’s background back in 1983, still only 16 minutes into episode one just after she’s carried into the police station by DCI Gene Hunt, who has just rescued her from being held hostage and then rescued her from nearly walking into traffic and who still thinks she’s a prostitute or ‘prozzie’, not a police officer or ‘copper’, Officer Shaz Granger comes into Hunt’s office and offers her, Drake, a Tab, an 80’s diet soft drink that is now known as Diet Coke. Hunt promptly shuts down Shaz’s hospitable proffer to Alex with the line:

    “Airs and graces, this one. Likes a drop of Bolly before she’ll get her knickers off. Back to your desk!”

    ‘Bolly’ is short for Bollinger, a kind of champagne. ‘Knickers’ are underpants. This quote from Hunt recalls a couple prior remarks by him essentially calling her an exceptionally high-class prostitute, one who apparently, on top of her normal fee, only drops her underpants after being plied with expensive champagne. This quote from Hunt is also the first time we see the terms ‘Bolly’ and ‘knickers’ together in reference to Drake and is clearly where the nickname ‘Bolly-knickers’ and ‘Bolly’ started and flows from.

    As it often goes with nicknames, what with how they tend to stick, from that point on, even after Hunt learns Drake’s police and not a prostitute, he nonetheless continues to call her ‘Bolly-knickers’ and various other forms of that, like ‘Bolly’ and ‘Bols’. It’s all part of his 70’s-80’s sexist charm, continuing to sexualize her as a prostitute long after he’s found out she isn’t one, almost like he thinks it’s a compliment– as if easily passing for a high-end prostitute is a good thing that any woman should hope for.

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