Never mind the sack. Roy Hodgson, according to the groundswell of opinion, deserves to be drawn and quartered.
He may feel proud of himself for coaching England into the World Cup. But if he thinks that’s any excuse for offending the delicate sensibilities of modern footballers, he’d better think again.
You may suggest that said footballers don’t always present a picture of refinement to the outside world. Most of them can’t string two words together without inserting an obscenity in between. And numerous videos of swinish behaviour, fisticuffs, orgies and drunken all-nighters do suggest that not all of their behavioural patterns have come from Debrett’s Etiquette for Girls.
But make no mistake about it: underneath the rough exterior lurk delicate, sensitive and easily woundable souls. Even though these metaphysical entities may not have been informed by any traditional civilisation, they take their cue unerringly from our infinitely more progressive time.
They hear the call of Zeitgeist in every tonal detail, if only as an inner voice. And it communicates in no uncertain terms the first commandment of modernity: thou shalt take offence. What thou taketh offence at is immaterial.
If any perfectly normal word can also have a pejorative meaning, then it’s offensive even if used in its usual sense. You may not actually feel offended, but that doesn’t matter. You must feign offence to strike a blow for Zeitgeist, to show you too can get in touch with your feminine side.
During his halftime talk at the England-Poland match, Hodgson tried to communicate to one footballer that he should pass to another more often. To illustrate the point, he told a feeble joke involving an astronaut and a monkey launched into space together. The monkey is told to perform all the in-flight procedures, and when the astronaut wonders what on earth he’s supposed to do, he’s told, “Feed the monkey.”
Now no one will ever confuse Roy Hodgson with a stand-up comedian but, as far as illustrations go, this unfunny joke works, while its offensive potential isn’t immediately discernible. At least that’s what you’d think.
Well, you have another think coming. You see, the footballer who was supposed to be fed passes more often is part black, and the word ‘monkey’ can be used as a racial slur. Granted, it can also be used in a stylistically neutral fashion, to denote a small simian, which is how Hodgson clearly used it.
But that doesn’t matter. Our courts have ruled that a racial offence is anything the chap on the receiving end regards as such, and never mind linguistic casuistry. And what’s good for our judges is certainly good for footballers or anyone else.
The only way to avoid having to issue a humiliating public apology, which is what Hodgson had to do, is to ban the use of potentially offensive words, whatever the context. Never mind the denotation, feel the connotation.
The trouble is that there are so many such connotational epithets that it’s no easy task to expurgate them all from every dictionary. But that’s fine for our cause is just. We have time. Whatever it takes.
‘Monkey’ must be the first to go, followed by ‘banana’, which is henceforth to be described as a ‘curved yellow fruit’.
‘Hook’, the boxing term, is no good because Jews are often called ‘hook-nosed’. Let’s call it a ‘sideways blow’ instead.
‘Bean’, used in some quarters to insult Mexicans, must be called ‘pulse’, as in ‘green pulse’, ‘kidney pulse’, ‘haricot pulse’ and so forth.
‘Niggardly’ is out (in fact a New York official once had to apologise for using the word in a speech), as is ‘reneging’. Even ‘Niagara Falls’ is suspect for sharing too many letters with you know what.
‘Towel’, combined with ‘head’, may be used to insult Muslims. It should therefore be renamed ‘large drying cloth’.
‘Frog’ must become ‘jumping amphibian’, while ‘sauerkraut’ will be replaced with ‘pickled cabbage’ to avoid any offensive confusion with Frau Merkel in a bad mood.
The film ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ must change its title to ‘Curve It Like Beckhalalbeef’ or else ‘Spin It Like Beckosherchicken’.
The term ‘Monkey Trials’ doesn’t belong in history books. I’d suggest ‘Trials to uphold the God-given right to teach that there is no God.’
It’s not my intention to come anywhere near to compiling a comprehensive list. This will be the job for our government’s next Royal Charter, which they must draw up while they are at it. My task is more modest: to outline the direction we should all follow to avoid the kind of trouble Roy has found himself in.
And you don’t know the half of it: I for one was deeply offended to hear Roy Hodgson lead his team in a pre-match rendition of God Save the Queen. Surely it ought to be Allah Save the Female Constitutional Monarch?