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

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found  

When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools

Chris Blackhurst
 

August catch-up: second languages, the secret of love and is it all right to call someone stupid?

John Rentoul
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?