Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Words

James May, I notice, describes Top Gear as 'a pikey car show with three daft blokes on it'. 'Pikey' is a term for gypsy or, more properly, traveller. Another motor man, Martin Brundle, also used it. Pikey is, says the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 'highly derogatory'. Meanwhile, the Fabians - amazing they still exist isn't it? - want 'chav' banned as it betrays a 'deep and revealing level of class hatred'. No it doesn't. You see, dear, antique Fabians, every group in society is identified by one or more such words. I am a hack, a yid (half), a bourgeois and probably many other things. Now, if everybody has such a tag, presumably the ancient Fabians, if they are to be consistent, should be demanding a mass suppression of hundreds of words in common use. Ah, they might say, but there is a difference between, say, 'nigger' and 'hack'. Some would disagree. I seem to remember Trevor Nunn saying the word 'luvvie' meaning actor was as offensive as 'yid' meaning Jew. Nunn is right in one sense - there is an equality between 'luvvie' and 'yid' - but he is wrong to get upset about it because nobody should get upset about any of these things. Those obsessed with supposedly offensive words deepen the divides they aspire to bridge. They do so by picking one offensive word rather than another and thus creating a conflict where none previously existed. But, if everybody has such a label, surely the grown-up thing to do is shrug and move on. I'm a yid, you're a nigger, he's a chav. So in the real world, what? It is the decision to take offense that creates the offense. I don't take offense and I hope I'm at one with all thinking pikeys and chavs... if there are any. Oh, lighten up, it was a joke.

18 comments:

  1. Ironic DaughterJuly 15, 2008 7:23 am

    That's it - I'm confiscating "The Wire" dvds!

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  2. Can you be half a yid? Out of curiosity - I honestly don't know - I thought the thing was determed by the maternal line in your family.

    I find the implication in your last sentence truly offensive.

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  3. Put the 'edgehog on Bryan.

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  4. I recall seeing Darcus Howe on TV at a soccer match remonstrating with fans who called an opposing player a black cunt. Quite cheerfully they pointed out they'd say scouse cunt if he was from Liverpool or French cunt if he was of a Gallic persuasion. They seemed genuine and their explanation, in my experience, was plausible. I've never understood why black people regularly call each other Nigga, but if Ron Atkinson or a big brother contestant says it they're damned. Uber-liberals will blame my insensitity or lack of education for saying this.

    Feminazis enjoy being offended by words like 'Love' or 'Dear'. Some people revel in victimhood and taking offence when there is no malicious intent. We end up like Salem with it's witch trials.

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  5. Pikey could be used in the way you mention, but there is a bit more of a slice to it. Much in the same way as NO DOGS, NO BLACKS, NO IRISH was used.
    A pikey was the fellow that built the 'pike. The bad name came from an army of workers descending on an area, in a later era the mantra became 'over payed over sexed and over here'.

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  6. Chavs aren't necessarily poor, indeed most of them probably have more money than i do. It's a lifestyle thing. i worked at a credit reference place with one woman, very well-presented, pretty, dressed elegantly. i saw her in town one Saturday and almost didn't recognise her - she was with her husband and they were both dressed like chavs.

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  7. I expect 'edgehog refers to that gypsy delicacy baked in mud, 'edge'og on croot.

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  8. Following on from happiness-inducing music, I segue into the bad words with the memory of buying The Record Guide in 1955, discovering under the entry for Dvorak's sublime Opus 96 F major string quartet, the appended nickname 'Nigger', and the shock it gave me at school in genteel Leamington Spa.
    It was another 20 years before the change to 'American' arrived, and stuck
    Mahlerman

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  9. That's a pretty unfair description of Top Gear. It's three blokes and the Stig. Since he can't talk, the Stig can't have been able to negotiate the lavish remuneration, pay rises, etc. of the other three. Perhaps he doesn't get paid at all and has to survive on scraps from a BBC mobile catering unit.

    People rather enjoy taking offense, I suspect. There have been wars over football results. Pick a word - pick any word! There'll always be someone who thinks it's a bad word.

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  10. Alright, I can't take it. I have to say something. I don't use such terms as nigger, yid or any other tag that categorises people according to their race or ethnic group. And they are not terms I would encourage my young children to use either. Call me a stick in the mud, but morally (and I just can't help it), I find their usage repugnant. They are derogatory and condemnatory by definition, judging individuals, as they do, according to certain traits associated with the group to which they belong. And so they are meaningless in that respect, for they say almost nothing about the individual, and very little about the group he or she belongs. And let's face it, they do perpetuate negative racial stereotypes. Historically that has not been a smart thing to do.

    And just to say, there is a world of difference between hack and nigger. Come on, Bryan, you know there is.

    I expect flak. I'm used to it.

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  11. i don't think all such words are equally bad/good/whatever. i've always winced a bit when people call me a 'paki' as something in the sound of the word strikes me as offensive. i've never heard anyone use it in an amiable way, anyway.

    On the other hand being called a 'curry-eater' or a 'Gupta' just makes me laugh, i mean i find it genuinely amusing. Perhaps it's that's 'Paki' can be spat out, wheras 'Gupta' can't, or not easily. i do think the sound of words is important, some carry hatred more easily than others. i do wonder if there'd be less anti-semitism if the Jews had been called Wood Elves instead.

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  12. When my kids were in elementary school they had a program: For every "put-down" a kid said to another kid (chav or yid would fall into those categories), they had to give two "put-ups." So, you are not a hack or a yid, Bryan, you are a chin-dimpled handsome intellectual.

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  13. Some terms applied to ethnic and social groups carry no derogatory intent, and merely identify that social or ethnic group, whilst other terms both identify the group, and communicate a derogatory meaning.

    If a social or ethnic group begin to take offence to the use of a particular term, then even if, in so doing, they demonstrate an over-sensitivity, once it is known that such a term causes offence, to use that term is to knowingly cause offence.

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  14. I must agree with Gordon. Although I do think some people are too sensitive. Being called "love," or "hon," by a waitress is not cause for offense, in my opinion. However, being called a "broad" is. But feminism contains multitudes of women. Ethnic groups are a different thing. Call me a white bitch all you want and it can't hurt me 'cause I'm on top. But if I call you by the 'n' word, I am adding insult to injury. You're down and I'm kicking you, reminding you of a term linked to slave origins.

    This is why dumb blonde jokes are the only politically acceptable ones in America right now. Well, and Chuck Norris jokes, which young'uns like my son like to tell. They've replaced "your mama is so fat..." jokes.

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  15. There is a world of difference between words like 'nigger' and 'kike' and words like 'chav' and you all know it.

    When you use the word 'nigger' offensively you are invoking hundreds of years of terrible violence and oppression. When you use the word 'chav' you're invoking what? Five years of brutal oppression by the ruling bourgeoisie of this country? Hardly.

    Like it or not words carry a reasonable amount of power; some more than others. Maybe one day 'chav' will have a historical precedent which gives it real venom. But today it is a limp fad word that the media seems to have latched hold of.

    Saying 'they're just words' is the equivalent of claiming the nazi salute is 'just raising your hand'; something only usually genuinely attempted by white nationalists trying to dodge hate crime convictions.

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  16. I think Bryan starts from the correct premise ("It is the decision to take offense that creates the offense") but draws a dubious conclusion ("surely the grown-up thing to do is shrug and move on").

    The offendee gets to decide what offends him, not the offender. Therefore it is incumbent on the offender, upon finding that he has offended, to desist from offending. That's just good manners.

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  17. Bryan

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, you preening limey!

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