Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Come outside and say that

It’s half past three on a Saturday night Sunday morning in modern Britain. A lot of luridly-coloured drink has been taken. The night has been a good-humoured one, but suddenly, on the way home, an invisible line is crossed. A drunken, throwaway comment gets taken the wrong way.

First there’s a retort, then a response, then a counter-retort. A small argument develops. It escalates into a row. Next stop, a full-scale slanging match and the airing of long-standing grievances. Then a push, a shove, a poorly-thrown punch. Now there’s a scuffle, part-wrestle, part-fistfight. Soundtracked by their fellow revellers’ calls of “Leave it”, “He ain’t worth it” and “Do him”, it inevitably peters out without a clear-cut winner - one dishevelled protagonist sports a bloody nose, the other a split lip. Both face long walks home, punctuated by occasional noisy vomiting.

Tomorrow’s hangovers will pass, of course, but the bad feeling will linger on. It won’t go away, and now there’s a feud. This leads to a schism. Friendships are broken, people take sides, loyalties are divided. Next thing you know, you’re drunk again, and now you’re chalking up lies and obscenities about the object of your hatred on a wall. Well, we’ve all been there haven’t we?

Petty personal insults writ large for all to see. Ain’t they lovely? Take today’s example, spotted in late October 2006 towards the bottom of Waverley Steps, on the wall of the old Scotsman building, close to the Market Street entrance of Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.

It’s the little touches that make all the difference. They can elevate a piece of crude graffiti and transform it into a quality insult. With this one it’s the use of the general collective COCK in preference to the plural and slightly more personal COCKS that really makes it count. It suggests that Arjun, whoever he might be, is of particularly loose moral stature. It infers that he'll suck any old non-specific cock, and that makes the insult all the more cutting.

It’s a low blow. It’s below the belt. That’s got to make your eyes water.

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