Gammon (insult)

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Gammon is a pejorative popularised in British political culture since around 2012. The term refers in particular to the colour of a white person's flushed face when expressing their strong opinions, as compared to the type of pork of the same name.[1][2] It is defined in this context by the Oxford English Dictionary as "various parasynthetic adjectives referring to particularly reddish or florid complexions".[3]

In 2018, it became particularly known as a term to describe either those on the political right or those who supported Brexit.[1][4] There is considerable debate over whether, due to its origins as a reference to skin color, the term is racist.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

Recent history[edit]

In 2004, in a section termed "The Ten: Lamest Sporting Excuses" in The Observer, the following appeared:[13]

7 RUPERT LOWE The gammon-cheeked Southampton chairman blamed the sacking of Paul Sturrock on a 'constant stream of negative and unfair media coverage. Those people responsible for perpetrating this unsatisfactory situation, often in return for financial reward, should take a long hard look at themselves.' We presume Lowe possesses a mirror. Only a couple of weeks earlier he had stated: 'Paul has to deliver results, that is what he is paid for. The honeymoon period is over.' Best of British, Sir Clive.

In 2012, Caitlin Moran wrote that British Prime Minister David Cameron resembled "a slightly camp gammon robot" and "a C3PO made of ham" in her 2012 book Moranthology.[14]

In 2015, Ruby Tandoh called Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood a "walking gammon joint".[15]

In 2017, children's author Ben Davis tweeted a picture of nine members of a BBC Question Time audience and referred to them as "the Great Wall of Gammon",[16] leading to the term becoming popularised, particularly on social media.[17][18][15][19][20]

Earlier historical uses[edit]

In 1604, John Marston wrote "Your devilship’s ring has no virtue, the buff-captain, the sallow-westphalian gammon-faced zaza cries" in The Malcontent.[21]

In 1622, John Taylor wrote "Where many a warlike Horse & many a Nagge mires:Thou kildst the gammon visag'd poore Westphalians" in The great O Toole.[22]

In 1838, Charles Dickens used the word in his 1838 novel, Nicholas Nickleby:[23]

The time had been, when this burst of enthusiasm would have been cheered to the very echo; but now, the deputation received it with chilling coldness. The general impression seemed to be, that as an explanation of Mr. Gregsbury’s political conduct, it did not enter quite enough into detail; and one gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud, that, for his purpose, it savoured rather too much of a 'gammon' tendency.

The meaning of that term—gammon,' said Mr. Gregsbury, 'is unknown to me. If it means that I grow a little too fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I am proud of this free and happy country. My form dilates, my eye glistens, my breast heaves, my heart swells, my bosom burns, when I call to mind her greatness and her glory.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Want to succeed as a middle-aged modern man? Google Kendrick Lamar". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 12 May 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  2. ^ "Oliver Twist/Chapter 31". Charles Dickens. 1867. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  3. ^ "gammon". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  4. ^ "Is the EU really plotting to switch Britain to 'Berlin Time'?". Metro. 5 February 2018. Archived from the original on 12 May 2018. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  5. ^ Serhan, Yasmeen. "Pork Legs Are Shaking Up British Politics". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 17 May 2018. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Is it offensive to call ruddy-faced middle-aged Tories 'gammons'?". the Guardian. 14 May 2018. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Is the new left-wing insult "gammon" racist towards white men?". Archived from the original on 20 February 2020. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  8. ^ "'Gammon' is a white, middle-aged Brexit supporter, according to the Collins Dictionary". SBS. SBS. 12 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Gammon racism row: why people are arguing about gammon". The Scotsman. The Scotsman. 15 May 2018.
  10. ^ "This is why the word 'gammon' is cooking up trouble in the UK". The Journal. The Journal. 15 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Gammon race row: why British Twitter is boiling over about a meaty slur". The Conversation. The Conversation. 15 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Should gammon slur be banned on Twitter?". BBC. BBC. 25 September 2018.
  13. ^ "Observer Sport Monthly: THE TEN: LAMEST SPORTING EXCUSES". Observer Sports Magazine. The Observer. 3 October 2004. p. 6.
  14. ^ Moran, Caitlin. 2012. Moranthology p.27
  15. ^ a b "Are You A Gammon? Decoding The Political Insult Of The Moment". Esquire. 14 May 2018. Archived from the original on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Ben Davis on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  17. ^ Sommerlad, Joe (15 May 2018). "Gammon: Why is the term being used to insult Brexiteers and where does Charles Dickens come into it?". The Independent. Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  18. ^ "I'm the one who coined the term gammon – and now I deeply regret it". The Independent. The Independent. 15 May 2018.
  19. ^ "Why your social media is covered in gammon". BBC. BBC. 14 May 2018.
  20. ^ "This Is Why Everyone Is Losing Their Sh*t About 'Gammon' On The Internet". HuffPo. HuffPo.
  21. ^ Marston, John (1604). The Malcontent.
  22. ^ Taylor, John (1622). The great O Toole.
  23. ^ Elledge, Jonn. "Turns out, Charles Dickens invented the concept of "gammon" in 1838". The New Statesmen. Archived from the original on 14 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  24. ^ Dickens, Charles (1995). The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Wordsworth. p. 184. ISBN 9781554433629.