Saturday, 17 September 2016

Offensive to the Nth Degree

A local `Real Housewife’ is being severely slated for using an intolerable word to another housewife in a Tuesday evening TV programme, a word so objectionable that none of us can bring ourselves to even whisper it. Frankly it hurts even to utter the first offensive letter – N. There, I’ve said it and I feel quite shaky (though just a little bit courageous at the same time). But I mustn’t castigate myself too much because to be totally honest I have only caught up with just how depraved that word is comparatively recently. It doesn’t seem so long ago that neighbours called their Black Labrador crosses N..ger and there was certainly an animal of that name in the 1950s film `The Dambusters’. I’m sure I’m not imagining that. And it wasn’t only dogs because I have personally come across at least two cats that would more likely be called Othello these days. I was fifteen years old when my mother made herself a n..ger brown skirt to wear on occasions when black wasn’t entirely compulsory and she certainly knitted me a n..ger brown cardigan around the same time. The dawn of n..ger becoming a much, much worse word than fuck was sudden. Its unacceptability swooped upon us when most of us were not paying too much attention and it had aggressively pushed its way up the obscenity ladder before common sense could intervene. Personally I put the whole n..ger saga in the same category as not wearing fur and not allowing your child to own a Golliwog (oops….should that be G….wog?). It’s all very well to maintain that you will go on wearing that little Coney jacket no matter what others think of you – but somehow you don’t do you? After all none of us actually want to be spat upon on the bus. And as for playing with G….wogs well my child WAS allowed to do so as long as she played quietly, inside her room and never, ever spoke to others about it. No matter how mindless and absurd we personally find sudden social prohibitions, few of us are willing to openly flaunt the conventions once they are firmly established. We much prefer to simply loiter on the edge of rebellion, muttering a bit and waiting patiently for the day when Othello can once again be called N..ger!

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