Hugh Grant, British actor called the U.K. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, an ‘over-promoted rubber bath toy’ in his tweet on August 29, which reads:

“You will not fuck with my children’s future. You will not destroy the freedom my grandfather fought two world wars to defend. Fuck off you over-promoted rubber bath toy. Britain is revolted by you and you little gang of masturbatory prefects.”

I first thought the phrase, ‘over-promoted rubber bath toy’ meant immediate Brexit with no conditions attached. But the next day’s ‘insider.com’ annotated the twitter as:

The actor called the PM an over-promoted rubber bath toy and his cabinet a little gang of masturbatory prefects.

What does ‘over-promoted rubber bath toy’ exactly mean in Hugh Grant’s context? What does “rubber bath toy” have to do with the new British Prime Minister?

Does ‘over-promoted’ mean “overly advertised / publicized,” or does it mean his “premature ascending" to high position as Prime Minister of a great country?

  • 3
    Overpromoted means “overhyped beyond his intrinsic value”: your first guess. Bath toy could either mean an “cartoonish child’s toy of no value except for pretending” (like a rubber duck), an oblique and very British reference to a dildo (not really a “bath toy”, but often employed in a bath), which argument is at least weakly bolstered by the “mastrubatory prefects” quip, or a simile between Johnson’s physical looks and a bath toy of some kind. He doesn’t look like any bath toy I know, but maybe they have different bath toys in the UK.
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 3, 2019 at 10:45
  • 5
    Oh, it’s the rubber duck thing. There was apparently a notable event when his opponents protested outside his headquarters with a bunch of rubber ducks. Because he was “ducking” the some issue. Plus rubber duckies are brightly colored, false, and cartoonish?
    – Dan Bron
    Sep 3, 2019 at 10:49
  • Or possibly BoJo reminds of a rubber bath duck!! static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2019/06/…
    – user 66974
    Sep 3, 2019 at 12:11
  • 2
    I didn't read this as being related to dildos. However, activists have used rubber ducks to make critical statements about Boris Johnson, e.g. Boris Johnson has been accused of “ducking” questions about his personal life, so activists decided to flood the street of his campaign HQ with rubber ducks, Since his leadership launch, Boris Johnson has [been] ducking the British people, etc. Also, I recently heard the BBC's "World At One" do a retrospective character overview of Johnson, which featured his mishap falling into a river (when mayor of London) in which, if I remember right, ... Sep 3, 2019 at 14:10
  • 2
    ... he was described as bobbing in the water like a rubber bath toy. The point they were trying to make, I thought, was that where some might have found the experience humiliating, he didn't mind playing the buffoon. Also I think he's seen as someone who keeps bobbing back up to the surface like a rubber duck. Sep 3, 2019 at 14:22

3 Answers 3


I think you need to allow for the possibility that "over-promoted" and "rubber bath toy" are not necessarily conjoined.

It seems to me that Grant's use of "over-promoted" is a commentary on the job Johnson now holds—he's in over his head as PM, has been advanced beyond his depth. The "rubber bath toy" is just a simple insult mocking Johnson's puffy appearance and wacko hair.

This makes more sense than trying to apply "over-promoted" to the toy.


I don't think that in this case over-promoted is used in the metaphorical sense of being hyped too far. I think it means, simply, elevated in rank above the individual's capabilities. History books seem to be littered with soldiers over-promoted to general rank.

For a rubber bath-toy to be elevated to Prime Minister of a great country would prima facie be a case of over-promotion.


When I read that (forgetting the rubber duck incident), this image came to mind:

enter image description here

Which is, of course, a copy of sorts of this image:

enter image description here

  • Doesn't answer the question in the slightest. None of those baby (blimp) balloons are rubber bath toys that children with at bath time.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 3, 2019 at 21:45
  • @Mari-LouA - But they seem like "over-promoted rubber bath toys". Over-inflated, at least.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 3, 2019 at 21:58
  • They seem exactly like helium-filled balloons, and if you don't explain who the two balloons represent, then why bother posting on an English language site? The Trump one is recognizable but the Boris Johnson ballon looks nothing like him, only the £350 sticker on the red double decker gives it away.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 3, 2019 at 22:05

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