i Editor's Letter: Jokes against our neighbour


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The Independent Online


Dan Rainey from Hull, a regular correspondent, contributes to the debate on those towns subject to snobbery and abuse from the rest of the nation.

“I am used to accusations of social and technological backwardness with implications of intellectual pygmyism,” writes Dan, before signing off: “Now if I knew what that meant, I’d probably be offended.” Which place isn’t mocked by somewhere else, most frequently its neighbours? It’s always been the way of the world.

Surrounded by Geordies at i, there are some choice words expressed in jest about Sunderland’s “Mackems”in the office. At least, I think they are in jest. Our resident Scousers, Welsh and Scots get (and give) it too. There’s even the odd Swindon v Reading joke if you stay late enough. Which we do. On a national level, which country isn’t subject to, if not hatred, then at least mockery? I used to say Brazil. How can you hate Brazil? It’s a fabulously diverse, beautiful country full of gorgeous, warm, funny and charming people whose music, football and food and drink culture bring nothing but pleasure to the rest of us. But a long time ago an exgirlfriend from Rio told me some of the jokes Argentinians make about Brazilians (and vice-versa).

They made our (now mostly forbidden) jokes about the Irish seem tame. The shared joke against our neighbour surely arises out of a need to bind communities together, particularly if there is a threat, or history, of conflict. These jokes are funny when – like Dan – you tell them against yourself, or if the joker comes from the weaker position; even if there is parity of status between the joker and subject. When they are told by the powerful at the expense of the weak, they tend to lose their humour and become bullying. Do you agree?