Question: What’s the difference between Serbian, Croatian, Serbo-Croat and Bosnian?
Answer: None. Linguistically, it’s about the same as the difference between Dublin English and Cork English, except there’s no Yugoslav equivalent for the Dort, they have no rain debates and nobody is called Breffni or Sorcha.
Yet the Irish Times last week published a list of all the languages spoken in Ireland, and it included Serbian, Croatian, Serbo-Croat and Bosnian. Why? No reason at all, that’s why. They just didn’t want to offend anyone, and so they listed four separate languages instead of one. Now, I wasn’t familiar with the names of all the other languages on the list, but if the Times can expand this particular language into four, I’m sure there’s a good chance they did it with a few of the others on the list as well. They counted 100 languages spoken today in Ireland. Let’s see. Dividing by four gives us twenty-five. So which is it? Twenty-five or 100?
And while I’m asking questions, WHAT is it?
What the fuck is this fear of offending somebody? Tony Blair tried to pass a law last month making it a crime to offend anybody on religious grounds. Offend, now, you understand. Offend. Not oppress. A lunatic’s charter, leaving it open to every madman and nutcase on the planet to claim they’ve been offended by something they saw or heard.
“Hello there. Warner Brothers?? Yeah, this is Eric Poontang, Supreme Langer of the First Church of Bugs Bunny, and I object to your depictions of our saviour. I’m offended and you must die.”
It’s gone nuts. You can’t say anything any more. I recently conducted a completely unscientific survey of my friend, in which I went on complaining about the Pavees. You know what I was told? I was told, You can’t call them that! Now, this is very revealing, when you consider that the word Pavee is what Travellers prefer to be called. But no. If I go around talking about Pavees, people think I’m being offensive, and I think I know why. It’s because, subconsciously, all these right-thinking, right-on cool people are quietly inserting the prefix “fuckin” in front of the word Pavee. I say “Pavees”, but they hear “Fuckin Pavees”, because that’s what they really want to say themselves. It shows up the complete pointlessness of euphemism.
When I was a kid, the government launched a nationwide advertising campaign to make us all stop using the word “tinker”, and start saying “itinerant” instead. It wasn’t that “tinker” was inherently evil in some sort of ju-ju sense, like a magic word. No. The problem was the intent behind it. The word tinker was always accompanied by the subliminal prefix “fuckin”. So we all started saying itinerant instead, which was fine for a while, until kids started calling each other fuckin itinerants. And then we all had to stop saying “itinerant” because it’s a term of abuse. Is it? How? Being a direct lift from Latin, it simply means “traveller”, isn’t that right? Doesn’t matter! Now we can’t say it because it’s a term of abuse, and that’s an end of it. So we came to Traveller, which means exactly the same thing as Itinerant, but for now seems to be permitted.
As a Limerick man, I’m a bit disappointed at the loss of the word “knacker”. Around these parts, it never meant “traveller”. It was a very useful word to describe a person of low or uncouth manners and demeanour, and would not describe the many travellers I knew as a child who were people with courtesy and respect. How things have changed.
Some people have no problem giving offence, though. I don’t know who the fuckers are that take over whole roads like they did here last year, leaving mountains of shit behind them, but I think they’re members of the travelling community, and they don’t give a fuck who they offend. I don’t know who the fuckers are that took over that English village (Cottenham, I think) and cut down the poor woman’s orchard, but people say they’re wealthy travellers from Rathkeale. They, likewise, couldn’t give a rat’s arse who they offend. Now, in today’s Ireland, if you say these things, you’re accused of promoting hatred. Why? Is offence a one-way street? Are some groups immune to criticism and, if so, on what basis?
I don’t really give a shit what community you come from. I’ll take you at face value. I don’t care if you’re black, or gay, or Catholic, or a traveller. I believe this is the truest form of tolerance: I don’t care. I don’t care what you are. I only care what you do. I don’t give a shit if you fuck badgers, as long as you don’t fuck my badger without asking me first. But fair is fair. If you’re a prick you’re a prick, whatever community you come from.
Furthermore, it is right to say that we shouldn’t single people out for belonging to a particular group. I agree. That’s right. We shouldn’t. But how are we to deal with people who categorise themselves? What if someone claims to be a member of a minority and, based on that fact alone, even if that person is a millionaire, becomes entitled to money or housing, regardless of their means, regardless of their income, regardless of their tax status?
You think this is fantasy? It is not. It is reality and it offends me.