Saturday, 3 May 2014

Cheerful, cheery, merry, jolly, light-hearted, mirthful, jovial, glad,happy, bright, in good spirits, in high spirits, joyful, elated,exuberant, animated, lively, sprightly, vivacious, buoyant, bouncy,bubbly, perky, effervescent, playful and frolicsome.

I'm feeling really rather light hearted and care free today. It's a pleasant state to be in, all smiley, laid back and devil may care. It gives you a bit of a swagger, and a happy face is a far more attractive visage than any other. Yes, young ladies, even more attractive than a duck pout.

Light hearted and care free, how lovely. If only there was a shorter word for it so I didn't have to keep typing "light hearted and care free".

But hang on, there is. It's good to be light hearted and care free. It's good to be gay. I'm gay, as gay as a gay thing and then some. I'm not always gay, sometimes I'm a right miserable bastard, but today, sun in the sky and snoozy dogs at my feet, I'm maxing out the gaydar.

As mature as most of my peers are, I am very aware that if I walked into the pub declaring "I'm feeling really rather gay today" at least one person would mime lifting a purse to their chest and make a "woooooooo" sound. And I'd probably laugh. I like a good pun. I'd probably blow them a kiss and, at that point, as liberal and inoffensive as I generally am in real life, I would be transformed, in the eye's of some, from gay to homophobe in the blink of one of those aforementioned eyes.

Gay doesn't generally mean light hearted or care free anymore. As with many other words in the English language it has evolved. At some point in the mid twentieth century "gay" became an insult, a derogatory term for a homosexual. Then it evolved further. The homosexuals "reclaimed" it. I'm not sure "reclaimed" fits, since it didn't describe homosexuality in the first place, but that's the standard word used to describe the phenomenon and so that's the one I'll stick with.

So gay lost it's potency. Suddenly (over a period of many years) the statement "you're gay" came to be met with "yes, I am", so some other perfectly innocent words, which I'll not list, were hijacked by the small minded and hurled with venom instead. Languages, along with attitudes, are evolving in a similar way all the time. Now, if you're homosexual, you don't need describe yourself as such. Homosexual is a very clinical phrase, cumbersome on the tongue. Gay is so much nicer.

Nope, this isn't a rant about gay rights.

This is appreciation for the skillful and highly successful way in which the homosexual community won a, admittedly small, battle. Maybe not even a battle, just a skirmish. But it was won, and with panache. At the risk of pandering to stereotypes, panache, flair and probably a good deal of jazz hands to finish.

A successful campaign, and one that is being mirrored with other stolen words used by those that hate. However, I would argue, not with anything like the same level of success.

As many of you are aware there has been a right brouhaha in the media this week regarding a popular BBC television presenter and journalist, Jeremy Clarkson. Mr. Clarkson is no stranger to le grande faux pas. A northerner made good in the land of the privileged, that being "that London", he has accumulated great wealth and popularity (some may say notoriety) by portraying himself as, or by actually being, a no nonsense, down to earth, common sense kind of chap. He is now a parody of himself, and very good at it he is too.

Footage was acquired by the Daily Mirror newspaper of a piece to camera JC did two years ago in which he recited a nursery rhyme, "Eenie Meenie Minie Mo" (If I've spelled that wrong, please forgive me, I've never written it down before) when having to decide which was the better of two cars featured on his show. If you're my age, or even a little younger, you will be aware that in the 1970's playground's of Britain children would use this rhyme to decide on teams for lunchtime football, which sweet they were going to eat next or whether they were playing soldiers or cowboys and Indians. You will be further aware that, at that time, a particularly offensive word to describe a black person was included. The infamous "N" word.

The "dropped bollock" and the apology.

I've actually struggled to decide whether it would be acceptable for me to include the word itself or refer to it as the "N" word. I'm blogging about a real life situation to which this word is central, so it should be okay, but I'm also a bit of a shitbag. "N" word it is then.

This footage was never included in the show for which it was recorded, that being the BBC's incredibly popular "Top Gear", which JC presents. In the footage that has now come to light JC is heard reciting the rhyme almost in it's entirety, however when he reached the "N" word he mumbles almost incoherently. Unfortunately for Mr Clarkson, since syllables of the original word had to be emphasised so as to keep time with the rest of the rhyme and since the sound he makes to begin it is either an "N" sound or an "M" sound, it still appeared he said it. Sort of. A little bit. He didn't say it, but, as he mentions in his apology, it sounds like he might have. And what are words if not just sounds anyway? Yep, JC dropped a big bollock.

The footage was then edited, ultimately pointlessly since it was never aired anyway, to say "teacher" instead. This word chosen rather than the word "tinker", a word which itself is racist, (Goodness we were awful children) and which replaced the "N" word in some schoolyard versions.

I'm now wishing I'd been braver and used the actual word instead of the shitbag version for which I opted, using the shift key for the capital "N" and the speech marks is spoiling my typing rhythm. Goodness me, one day I'll get through one of these entries without digressing. Anyway...

Now I don't want to get bogged down in the whole debate about whether or not Mr Clarkson is an idiot, a racist, completely innocent or has been fitted up by Piers Morgan, disgraced one time editor of the Daily Mirror, after a series of petty spats in which JC has come off better. For what it's worth, I think he's been a bit of a dick, he's apologised and, in an ideal world, no one would give a toss about it all anyway. We have servicemen killing and dying abroad, we have no money, our NHS is being destroyed and the council only collect our bins once a fortnight, we have far bigger issues we should be addressing.

Debate, or what passes for debate in this age of social media, on these shenanigans is rife. Everyone has an opinion. The problem with opinions, like farts and children, is that everyone loves their own and hates everyone else's.

One debate that I've seen a lot of, but that I haven't become embroiled in, is that of whether or not the "N" word is ever acceptable, whoever says it. This is why I mention the transformation of  "gay" from common usage to homophobic slur and then to perfectly acceptable descriptive term.

With the gay example, everyone can use it to describe a homosexual. Gay, straight or with a little bit of curvature it doesn't matter. Gay means gay and nothing more. Brilliant.

Now, the "N" word. Some folk lean toward the word being totally unacceptable, whatever the circumstances and whatever the colour of the speaker, whereas (from my limited experience) a good majority of folk think it's ok, so long as the speaker is black. A few think it's ok whoever says it.

For the record, I think it's totally unacceptable, in any situation and by anyone, with the possible exception of drama and comedy. Proper comedy though, not Jim Davidson.

You see, this battle/skirmish began in similar fashion to that of the "G" word, but the tactics changed at some point, meaning the battle rages on. The "N" word was reclaimed (again, the word reclaimed doesn't fit, but it's the word we all use) but was then locked away and not everyone is allowed the key to the cabinet in which it's stored.

But if it's to lose it's potency everyone should be. We should either all be able to use it, or none should be able. Rap music and culture is littered with the word, but it hasn't become a description in the way gay did. It's sound and the formation of the lips around it lend themselves to anger and abuse. It's hard to say "gay" and sound aggressive, but the "N" word can be spat out of a face contorted with anger all too easily.

Maybe reclaiming that word was a poor idea, but reclaimed it was. In my social circles I never hear the word and I don't use it, but I hear it constantly on the television and radio. Whilst this is still the case the word will never die. Children, along with you and I, are hearing the "N" word constantly and by the time they're old enough to realise they're only hearing it from black mouths it's too late, they know what it means but they don't know the history of it, the offense it causes or that, if they're white, they must never use it. To a child, wouldn't that seem unfair? Like they were being discriminated against? A word only their black friends can use? Surely that's racist.

The word needs forgetting. The occasional slip by an aging buffoon, born and raised in a more racist period of our racist country's racist history, should raise an eyebrow, maybe summon a tut and a shake of the head, but surely nothing more than that. After all, they'll all be dead one day so we'll be free of the word forever. Thrusting the debate into the media, especially in the age of Twitter and Facebook, only leads to animosity and gives the true racists their moment in the sun. A word can't fade from use if we're constantly bombarded with it.

And to think, all this palaver could've been averted if he'd just tossed a coin. Strange behaviour indeed, but then...

...there's nowt so queer as folk.


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