Viv Groskop: At least make your 'mum' taunts funny

The teasing only works if it's not about something real or serious

Share

There is one way of getting a good laugh out of the John Terry racial abuse case. Please read the BBC online coverage. The poor BBC has little choice but to report – reluctantly – exactly what was said. Or what was misheard. Deep breath. "Heavens, we're going to have to use the C-word now... Here it comes..."

You can almost smell the horror in their summary. There's even a warning: "Repeated use of very strong language." Hugely enjoyable. Especially if you read it to yourself in a 1940s newsreader accent.

This is, however, the only fun aspect of an unpleasant case which makes no one look good. Boys will be boys. And even grown men can't really be expected to hold their emotions and language in check in the heat of the sporting moment. But setting aside the racial aspect (which is for the court to judge), what's just as disturbing is the list of insults deemed run-of-the-mill on the pitch, according to John Terry.

There are apparently some "no-go areas" for verbal abuse, and racist language is one of them. But sexist stuff – anything on wives, mothers or girlfriends – is fine. Or as the prosecutor Duncan Penny put to Terry in the witness box, "... 'I've shagged yours', that sort of thing?" Terry, in his response, suggested that this indeed would be fair game.

And to some extent, yes, this is fair game. Our cultural life would be greatly impoverished, for example, without random "your mum" insults. There is a whole tradition of "Yo mamma" jokes in the US. "Yo mamma so poor that when I ring the doorbell, she says 'Ding!'" "Yo mamma so old, she was a waitress at the Last Supper." "Yo mamma so fat that when she went to movies, she sat next to everyone". (I didn't say they were good jokes.) These jokes are definitely not confined to men. Tina Fey has the best one. She responded to an internet troll who accused her of being talentless and "not having a funny bone in her body" with the immortal line: "You know who does have a funny bone in her body? Your mom every night for a dollar."

But the big problem with footballers' taunts about mothers, women and children (I'm guessing that children are taboo, although who knows) is that this teasing only works if it's not about something serious or real. Tina Fey would not have made that joke if the internet troll's mother was indeed a dollar-a-time prostitute. I hope.

When John Terry is on the receiving end of abuse about alleged activities with a team-mate's girlfriend, it's not good-natured, imaginative teasing. It's based on the fact that colossal arrogance and casual misogyny have become key skill areas for some footballers. But no one's going to start a court case over that. Because as Terry puts it himself, all that stuff is "just handbags". Exactly as you'd expect a big girl's blouse to say.

twitter.com/@VivGroskop

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Passengers sit and enjoy a quiet train journey in a bygone age  

Why I'm shouting about the tragic demise of the quiet carriage

Simon Kelner
 

Why black cats make amazing pets, and take good selfies too

Felicity Morse
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star