Banter, in all its horror

I have a natural aversion to certain words. In fact I have referenced his in a previous blog post. The word ‘synergy’, for example, epitomises everything fake and unreasonable about the corporate world; and its demand that you sacrifice your metaphorical left kidney in the pursuit of profit.

However this corporate speak is not used in everyday life, except perhaps by people who do not speak English as their first language and who therefore think that expressions like ‘blue sky thinking’ are in common parlance among the people. Alternatively people who buy into a corporate ideology may use these terms in their daily language.
This corporate terminology raises my hackles slightly but my reaction to it fades into insignificance when compared to my reaction to a certain other word, not beloved or used by global multinationals.

The word I am referring to is the word ‘banter’. Has there ever been a word that is meant to have a positive connotation, but instead has unquestionably negative attributes associated with it?

Banter by its simplest most innocent definition is, I suppose, meant to refer to a playful back and forth conversation between friends – a good old slagging among people who know, like and respect each other. But have you noticed that the most common sentence in which this horrific word is used seems to be ‘It was only a bit of banter’ ie someone has been angered, pissed off or hurt by what the banterific person said. I’ll give you an example.

There exists a certain type of gentleman. Let’s say that he is middle aged, and does not have the figure he once had (although his belly may be larger than it ever was previously). He is perhaps trapped in a miserable marriage, thinks nothing of talking loudly and monopolising conversations about subject that he is interested in – usually football, or how many pints he drank last weekend, or how attractive he is to the opposite sex (despite the glaring evidence to the contrary). His big alcoholic nose betrays his love of the pint.

Now said gentleman thinks it is vastly amusing while braying at his fellow man over breakfast at work to refer to the film ‘Brokeback Mountain’. His colleague may have been to see a ballet with his girlfriend the previous week. But Rednose thinks it vastly amusing to say ‘Hey, that’s a bit Brokeback Mountain’ of you. He is too cunning to come out and say ‘Ballet, you big faggot’ as he knows that is not allowed any more. But alluding to faggotry is merely ‘banter’.

And the ballet goer doesn’t quite know how to vocalise his discomfort with the reference. Because it is subtly demeaning. The example I am referring to above happened in Amsterdam some years ago – I was not the target of the banter, merely the observer.

Whenever I hear the word banter it is always in this context. It rarely seems to be used in a positive, affirming sense. It’s the go to word that bullies turn to, to justify their behaviour and to complain about how somebody else lacks a sense of humour. Whenever I hear the word, I wait for the sting – as usually someone is at the receiving end of ‘banter’.

I don’t engage in banter with my friends. Oh I can be horrifically rude to them, but if I am going to say ‘You are a sad, old, pathetic, friendless loser’ to someone I’ll make damned sure that they know me well enough to either insult me right back or to burst out laughing.

Down with banter.

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