This was a column I wrote in September … thought I might as well publish it myself: Trolls, ‘artful dodgers’ and the dying art of the not-so-veiled insult
I’ll be the first to admit that I quite enjoy a good bit of gossip – and have chuckled the loudest behind my iPhone screen at some of the insults flung across social networking platforms. Tempted as I have been to retweet, I’ve resisted. In fact, while I’m owning up, I might as well confess I’ve unleashed a few insults of my own. Nothing devastating, mind you. Still, an insult is an insult is an insult. But there’s a certain skill to a really well delivered insult. PCness aside – this particular art is facing erosion. Along with the English language.
The inclusion of the word ‘amazeballs’ into the Collins dictionary, I fear is a reminder that our dearly respected English dictionary under threat of erosion. The Weakest Link host Anne Robinson used to be the queen of the perfectly executed insult. ‘Who has a brain only a mother would love?’ and ‘dear of dear, I don’t think there’s a collective name for a bunch of thickies’ have been some of my favourite lines… and more recently I laughed out loud at an episode of Dineo’s Diary when Dineo during a tirade at her boyfriend’s inefficient publicist she spat, ‘the only good thing about you is the quality of your weave.’ Those good oneliners are like hen’s teeth.
The art of the veiled insult, the classic putdown and the ultimate backhanded compliment is slowly being chipped away by online trolls. It’s an uneven playing field where cowards lurk behind unidentifiable pseudonyms and hurl typographical abuse at mostly unsuspecting victims. Insults come in the form of ‘sit down’ or with a hashtag #justsaying #itsjusttwitter #hides and more at the end of it.
These days we take to the urban dictionary for definitions. And so in this spirit … take #justsaying for instance, which is defined as: ‘a phrase used to indicate that we refuse to defend a claim we’ve made — in other words, that we refuse to offer reasons that what we’ve said is true.’
Not only are we too lazy to come up with clever quips, we take more time dishing them out (in 140 characters or less) and then use those nifty hashtags to distance ourselves or not take responsibility for a mild affront? We rest easy in the safety of the LOL and the smiley or winking face just to make doubly sure there’s no real harm meant. The saying: ‘Many a truth in jest’ has never been more relevant.
Goodbye to clever repartee, and hello to inappropriate reactions to the misfortune of others. Take the case of the 21-year-old private who collapsed and died during training in Lim Chu Kang in April this year. The retort of a callous Singaporean girl Zheng Huiting, sparked a massive outcry when she quipped: ‘Singaporeans to weak? LOL’
I mean really, is that all you’ve got Zheng? #justsaying