Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Sectarian Jokers

The Belfast Telegraph reports on a picture of a five-year-old girl posted on social media. The girl in question had the letters "KAT" ("Kill All Taigs") written in red, white and blue on her forehead.

So far, so depressing, but what really struck the Blether Region was the headline, "Young girl (5) has sectarian slogan painted on face: Police investigating image showing child with anti-Catholic slur". Quite apart from the fact that readers should be able to make up their own minds about whether a five-year-old girl is "young" (one suspects that they would agree), "Kill All Taigs" is not a "slur". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a "slur" is 'a deliberate slight; an expression or suggestion of disparagement or reproof'.

When the Blether Region was a hauflin, the word "slur" referred very specifically to the nudge-nudge, wink-wink variety of defamation. In recent years, however, it has come to be associated with racist language, probably for phonaesthetic reasons — "racial slur" — regardless of its subtlety and regardless of whether there is any defamation involved. "Taig" has a quite clear etymology, being a respelt version of "Teague", which itself derives from the Irish forename "Tadhg"; in Scotland, a shortened form of its English equivalent, Timothy, is used in the same sectarian way.

While offensive and, one would hope, attracting the full force of the law, using the word "taig" is clearly not a slur in the dictionary sense, being neither subtle nor defamatory. In particular, "Kill All Taigs" is, to call a spade a spade, an exhortation to genocide — to call it a "slur" is to diminish greatly the degree of criminality involved.

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