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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Read Next
It is often not perceived to be very 'feminine' to study maths, physics and engineering  

The deafening silence on the Government's industrial strategy is ominous

Chuka Umunna and Vince Cable
George Osborne walks down the stairs from a submarine during a visit to the Royal Navy's submarine base at Faslane on August 31, 2015 in Faslane Scotland  

Sorry George Osborne, but it's Trident that makes us less safe, not Jeremy Corbyn

Kate Hudson
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent