Gammon (insult)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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 characterised in this context by the Oxford English Dictionary as occurring "in 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]

Recent history[edit]

In 2004, in a section termed "The Ten: Lamest Sporting Excuses" in The Observer, the following appeared:[5]

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 2010, Caitlin Moran wrote that British Prime Minister David Cameron resembled "a slightly camp gammon robot" and "a C3PO made of ham" in her 13 March column in The Times,[6] later collected in her 2012 anthology Moranthology.[7]

In 2015, Ruby Tandoh called Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood a "walking gammon joint".[8]

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",[9] leading to the term becoming popularised, particularly on social media.[8][10][11][12][13]

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.[14]

In 1622, John Taylor wrote "Where many a warlike Horse & many a Nagge mires:Thou kildst the gammon visag'd poore Westphalians" in his verse poem The Great O Toole.[15]

By the beginning of the 19th century, the word (sometimes extended to the phrase "gammon and spinach") had come to mean "humbug, a ridiculous story, deceitful talk".[16] Writers of the era who used the word or phrase include Charlotte Brontë,[17] Charles Dickens (in a number of works, including Nicholas Nickleby,[18] Bleak House,[19] The Pickwick Papers,[20] and Oliver Twist[21]), and Anthony Trollope.[22] It has been suggested there is an association between Dickens' usage of the word in Nicholas Nickleby and the modern British usage.[23] The word in its 19th Century usage remains current in Australian Aboriginal English (without reference to race or skin colour, meaning 'lying' or 'inauthentic').[24][25]

The archetype of a red-faced, angry, pompous, jingoistic, and stereotypically British right-wing male has been in popular culture since the mid-20th century, with the character Colonel Blimp first appearing in 1934, in newspaper cartoons and in the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp in 1948.[citation needed]

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. ^ "Observer Sport Monthly: THE TEN: LAMEST SPORTING EXCUSES". Vol. Observer Sports Magazine. The Observer. 3 October 2004. p. 6.
  6. ^ Brandreth, Gyles. 2013. Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations p.258
  7. ^ Moran, Caitlin. 2012. Moranthology p.27
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Ben Davis on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "I'm the one who coined the term gammon – and now I deeply regret it". The Independent. The Independent. 15 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Why your social media is covered in gammon". BBC. BBC. 14 May 2018.
  13. ^ "This Is Why Everyone Is Losing Their Sh*t About 'Gammon' On The Internet". HuffPo. HuffPo.
  14. ^ Marston, John (1604). The Malcontent.
  15. ^ Taylor, John (1622). The great O Toole.
  16. ^ Partridge, Eric, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2006), p.444 [1]
  17. ^ In the 1834 poem, "Gods of the Old Mythology": "And as for thee, thou scoundrel, thou brimstone sulphurous Mammon/Let's have no more of thee nor of thy villainous gammon." [2]
  18. ^ "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."[3]
  19. ^ "'What, you're looking at my lodger's birds, Mr. Jarndyce?'... The old man, looking up at the cages after another look at us, went through the list. 'Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want, Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags, Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach. That's the whole collection,' said the old man, 'all cooped up together, by my noble and learned brother.'" [4]
  20. ^ " 'It cert'nly seems a queer start to send out pocket-'ankerchers to people as don't know the use on 'em,' observed Sam. 'They're alvays a-doin' some gammon of that sort, Sammy,' replied his father." [5]
  21. ^ "'It's all passed safe through the melting-pot,' replied Fagin, 'and this is your share. It's rather more than it ought to be, my dear; but as I know you'll do me a good turn another time, and--' 'Stow that gammon,' interposed the robber, impatiently. 'Where is it? Hand over!'" [6]
  22. ^ In Orley Farm: "'Sir,' said [Mr. Dockwrath], turning to Mr. Moulder, '...In this enterprising country all men are more or less commercial.' 'Hear! hear!' said Mr. Kantwise. 'That's gammon,' said Mr. Moulder. 'Gammon it may be,' said Mr. Dockwrath, 'but nevertheless it's right in law.'" [7]
  23. ^ "Correspondents tell me that the word “gammon” was actually a Victorian slang term, which translates, roughly, as “bull****”. Interpreting it in this as a man pushing a certain type of jingoism is Gregsbury’s alone. So, there you go."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. ^ "Words you thought were Indigenous that actually aren't"[8]
  25. ^ "On gammon, global noise and indigenous heterogeneity: Words as things in Aboriginal public culture"[9]