The British have been called masters of the insult, thanks to their gifts of artful compound slang and ruthless metaphor. This is the culture that gave the world "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys" to mean the French, and "mangled apricot hellbeast" for Donald Trump — along with the dead simple but effective "twit" and "twat."
But a new entry to their lexicon has turned its creator into a Johnny No-Mates.
What is gammon?
According to the UK "Independent," gammon is a pork steak frequently served in British pubs, often accompanied by an over-easy egg and French fries. But after the 2017 UK elections, children's-book author Ben Davis used its connotation of pink, puffy mediocrity to evoke middle-aged white men. “Whatever happens,” he tweeted, “hopefully politicians will start listening to young ppl after this. This Great Wall of gammon has had its way long enough.”
The term has taken off, and social media is flush with "gammon," used to depict red-faced, ranty pro-Brexit conservatives. That has caused a bit of an uproar. Some say it's a racist insult because it pinpoints skin color; others contend that middle-aged white male Britons are hardly an oppressed class.
On May 12, a conservative member of Parliament tweeted, "I'm appalled by the term 'gammon' now frequently entering the lexicon of so many (mainly on the left) & seemingly be accepted. This is a term based on skin colour & age - stereotyping by colour or age is wrong no matter what race, age or community. It is just wrong."
I'm appalled by the term "gammon" now frequently entering the lexicon of so many (mainly on the left) & seemingly be accepted. This is a term based on skin colour & age - stereotyping by colour or age is wrong no matter what race, age or community. It is just wrong— E Little-Pengelly MP (@little_pengelly) May 13, 2018
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British comic David Schneider contends that derisive conservatives will dish it out but can't take it:
Alt right: “Snowflake! Cuck! Remoaner! Libtard! Beta! SJW! Triggered!”— David Schneider (@davidschneider) May 14, 2018
Alt right: “How dare you call people names!"
In a piece titled "Is 'Gammon' Racist, Or Just Stupid?," the "Guardian" pointed out that "pork-based insults have a long history" in Britain. "Gammon" has been used as an insult since at least 1604, and Dickens employed it in "Pickwick Papers" and "Nicholas Nickleby" to mean "nonsensical talk or ideas."
In other words, "gammon" is canon. "Two hundred years ago ... to say that something was 'gammon', or nonsense, was 'the language of vulgar ridicule'," the "Guardian" says. "Not much progress is to be expected, perhaps, in the evolution of political abuse."