‘M*A*S*H’ Star Loretta Swit Hated Her Character’s Nickname

M*A*S*H Loretta Swit, 1972-83
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

Loretta Swit looks back fondly on her time starring in M*A*S*H but she still has issues with one thing about the show. Her character, Major Margaret Houlihan, was given the nickname “Hot Lips.” The nickname stuck despite Swit trying to get the show to drop it because she felt it was an insult to her character, one of the only powerful female role models on the series.

She explained, “I understand nicknames come with great love and admiration for a character. But it was an insult as far as I was concerned. She wasn’t just a piece of anatomy. She was a major in the United States Army, and she should not be disrespected. This was a woman who had rank, who worked hard and wanted to be good at her job. She was an inspiration. I was proud of her. I was proud to represent all the servicewomen out there. I wanted to make a change.”

MASH, Loretta Swit, 1972-83

20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

Swit said that she tried to get the writers to phase out the use of the nickname with no luck. She added, “I think my perseverance probably became very annoying. But I felt it was important for the women out there who were supporting our country. I kept telling the writers, ‘She’s so much more than this.’”

MASH, (aka M*A*S*H*), Gary Burghoff, Loretta Swit, McLean Stevenson, Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Larry Linville, TV GUIDE cover, February 24 March 2, 1973

Sherman Weisburd/TV Guide/Everett Collection

Even though the show ended in 1983, Swit still dedicates her life to helping veterans and said she still receives letters from them. She hopes to make changes to help the people who make sacrifices for our country. She shared, “I often quote this wonderful thing that I read. It’s a statement: ‘What is a veteran? A veteran is someone who at one time in their lives wrote out a blank check made out to the United States of America, giving them the sum of up to and including their life.’ That says it all to me what exactly our servicemen and women do. How could such a statement not make you emotional? It’s a lasting feeling. It’s a feeling that will always stay with me.”


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In addition to helping veterans, Swit uses her celebrity name to help those who cannot speak for themselves: our animal friends. Her organization SwitHeart Animal Alliance helps bring home military dogs or match dogs with a veteran who needs a companion.

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