Yoons and baboons
In my own political writings I avoid using the term ‘Yoon’, the diminutive of unionist. I disliked it the minute it appeared.
In past studies of the tragic, illegal Vietnam war waged by the US on a purely agrarian society, Americans took to calling Vietnamese Gooks, a derogatory term for people of East and Southeast Asian descent. The gooks they referred to were farmers, shop keepers and academics. The derogatory term dehumanised them, reduced them to an abstraction making it easier to kill them, men, women and children.
Calling people who hold a genuine belief in the rightness of the union Yoons, living in the Yoon sphere, makes life all the harder to win them over to a better democracy. (If I’ve used it once it was almost certainly quoting another writer.) I can just about understand the retort when exasperated by a persistent unionist who defies logic, common sense, and unassailable evidence, but I’d still prefer we avoid the term.
Accordingly, the same applies to extremists who insist on calling Scottish political activists nationalists, nats or Nazis.
As Irish have noted, ever alert to English arrogance, ready to zap it with a Joycean one-liner such as ‘you gobshite, Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom considers Nazi a mild term of abuse.
A ‘mild term of abuse’. This sad state of affairs – particularly for Jews – has come to pass because the “reductio ad Hitlerum” argument is common currency, certain to arrive at the end of some bigot’s piss-poor response. Argument failing them – for the simple reason they don’t employ reason – calling an opponent a Nazi is the Final Condemnation.
As an online discussion grows longer, more fractious and antagonistic, the probability of a comparison involving Nazism or Hitler is guaranteed. Those uttering the fateful words are probably the same who used to repeat the myth that avers Hitler was not all bad, he built great motorways. For the record, Hitler approved the speeding up of Germany’s first autobahns but they soon disintegrated from wear and tear, and have been renewed and improved a few times since.
On the stock exchange of insults, as measured by Ofcom, “Nazi” now trades alongside such moderate disparagements as Jock, a person of Scottish heritage, and Hun, either an Asiatic nomad who ravaged Europe in 4th century or if living in Scotland, a Glasgow Rangers fan. I’ve not attended football much since watching a friendly in Los Angeles mainly because of crowd control and sectarian bigotry, but I know there are Ranger’s fans who consider Hun an insult.
From Jock to Da’ling
Jock is still controversial. It retains overtones of Jock the lowly gardener, or Jock the kilt wearing soldier in the trench fighting an Englishman’s war.
A few Scots adopt Jock as their first name; in that instance it has to be acceptable. I can’t recall the last time an Englishman called me Jock. I’m too tall, broad shouldered and grizzled to receive that epithet. And I don’t look Scottish. I can respond with a “Fuck off, you patronising bastard”, followed by a quick artificial smile if they didn’t realise the significance of what they had said.
I used to give a wry smile when I heard Richard Attenborough call everybody, actors and crew, ‘Darling’. He excused it by saying he could never remember a person’s name. In reality, he couldn’t be bothered memorising names. He was the director. They only needed to know who he was.
Nigger holds enough emotional power to offend like a slap in the face despite B-movie addict Quentin Tarantino’s best efforts to rehabilitate it. He’s been slated for it a few times by fellow director Spike Lee. Lee thinks Tarantino is ‘infatuated’ with the word. “American slavery was not a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. It was a Holocaust.”
Tarantino’s gives favourite actor Samuel L. Jackson the n-word to utter a lot, eleven times in Django, thirteen in Pulp Fiction. Jackson is unrepentant. “If you’re going to deal with the language of the time, you deal with the language of the time. That was the language of the time. I grew up in the South. I heard ‘nigger’ all my life. I’m not disturbed by it.”
Here I find myself in two minds, just as I do seeing actors smoking on screen. If the word or the habit is in period, then it has to be justified. Morally, perhaps the writer should put a limit on its use. Then again, profanity is spoken everywhere every day. Utter a cuss word enough times, any cuss word, and it loses its power to shock. In which case, if you want a word to shock, limit its use.
Get in context
A lot depends on the context the word is spoken.
If the speaker was, say, Nicola Sturgeon, or if readers prefer a less partisan example, Professor Noam Chomsky, speaking with respect of Scotland’s wish to build a real democracy, a ‘land fit for all Jocks’, that would be praise indeed.
On the other hand, if among a cabal of the DUP’s Orangery one was to overhear them plotting to screw independence as a method of debagging those ‘bastard Jocks’, that has to be considered a damn insult.
Say ‘cheese’, Cleese
Ruminating on this subject brings to mind a comedian I once admired, John Cleese, admired that is, until he dumped his then wife and co-writer of Fawlty Towers, Connie Booth. Even today she barely gets the credit she deserves. Anyhow, he was reported as saying, “Why do we let half-educated tenement Scots run our English press?”
Ouch! There’s an arrogant English colonial, without a doubt. But is there doubt? Could Cleese be that crass? Who was he referring to? It was none other than arch unionist Fraser Nelson, he of the contorted vowels, editor of the right-wing rag Spectator. I realise Nelson has all the charisma of a head of lettuce, and the intellect of a pigeon. To the mind of a fervent Scottish nationalist any criticism of Nelson is welcome. But I know Nelson never lived in a tenement, and he attended a fee paying school, all the right credentials for Tory acceptance. Cleese’s sources are unreliable.
Cleese has to be careful. His racial stereotyping is all over Fawlty Towers: goose stepping Nazi soldiers, a slow-witted Spanish waiter who doesn’t understand plain English, an Irish joiner who gives him crap work before an English joiner enters to fix things. But though the redoubtable independinista Edi Reader took Cleese head on, how would we react if called a ‘tenement Scot’? (I’m one.) Are all tenement Scots ‘half-educated’?
The majority of city dwellings are Victorian tenements. Where else do you file Scots driven off their land? Do all tenement Scots end up editing British newspapers and periodicals? Those who achieve success in adulthood tend to see that description as a badge of honour – think failed Labour politician Jim Murphy and his humble origins sleeping in the drawer of a chest of drawers.
What’s in a nickname?
Giving people racial nicknames, even in an unguarded moment of affection, is a bit of a minefield Mick, Paddy, Taffy Spic, Chinky, Yank, Onion Johnny, Kraut, Tim or Taig, the corrupted Tadgh, used as shorthand for Catholic Irish in Belfast, they’re all insults.
In a long document commissioned by the mealy-mouthed Ofcom entitled “Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation“, their definition of Chink is “a term of racial offence/abuse.” After campaigns by the Scottish Parliament – bless it – Scots and aware that name is racist. Going for a Chinky, a carry-out Chinese meal, is a no-no, a right royal racial slur.
Taking a knife to a gun party
Still on racial slurs I wondered how Ofcom manages when cinema films full of racial insults are transmitted on the telly. How many racially unacceptable words get deleted to conform to Ofcom’s regulations?
In The Godfather, there’s a seminal scene of a bloody horse head in a bed. It got there by dint of the bed owner, a foul-mouthed Hollywood director, insulting a Mafia lawyer.
Director: (Angry) Listen up! I don’t care how many dago Guinea wop greaseball goombahs come out of the woodwork.
Mafia Lawyer: I’m German-Irish.
Director: Well, let me tell you something, my kraut-mick friend…
I’m not racist – my best friend is a…
I think I’ll stick to baiting Yoons – oops, sorry. That just slipped out – unionists who begin defence of their racial insults by pleading they are related to a Scot, by their great-great-great grandfather, twice removed. But not in the Highland Clearances, you understand. That was done to Jocks by Jocks in Jockdom.
Claiming some of your best friends are Scots is as insulting as saying ‘Jocks hate vegetables’. That reminds me; the next moronic comedian making that remark deserves a stick of celery rammed up his English arse. I hope I make myself clear.