Get the France out of Here!
Haigh, Tim, The Independent (London, England)
Jonathan Green is not afraid of getting his hands dirty. Or his mouth. As our leading lexicographer of slang, he has developed a robust command of obscenity which never becomes gratuitous. With Words Apart, he confronts the myriad terms of racist and national abuse without turning a hair, or becoming sullied by them.
Lenny Bruce observed that if you repeat the word nigger often enough it becomes meaningless and loses its power. Well, that hasn't happened yet, but it is true enough that, like slang, terms of abuse move in and out of fashion. Along with what Green calls "the core vocabulary of abuse" - wog, mick, kaffir and so on - he has unearthed a dizzying treasure of derogatory words and phrases which duly reveal an unattractive characteristic of the human race, its intolerance of and hatred for anybody who is, seems to be or can be characterised as "other". One is struck by the lengths people will go to be offensive: did the phrase frijole-guzzler ever trip off the tongue?
Jonathon Green has worried that his study might become a useful handbook for racists of limited invention to develop their vocabulary. But apart from the language of colour prejudice and familiar obnoxious terms, the larger part of this book considers the application of national types. It is the spirit in which these things are said which gives them their power, as in an Irish Banjo (a shovel) or a Chinese fire-drill (pandemonium). You could easily end up with the impression that any national designation is derogatory, except when used strictly according to its dictionary definition. Eurosceptics might like to adopt the euphemistic curse "Get the France out of here! …