Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Fishy Business: Comment

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Fishy Business: Comment

Article excerpt

I am not very good with the sight of blood. And so conducting an interview while the interviewee's ear is bleeding profusely isn't ideal.

"So," I say to bleeding Year 8 pupil. "Why did the other boy bite you?"

He shrugs. "I called him a fish."

In terms of playground insults, it seems that "fish" is one of the worst - worse than all the f-words and c-words and n-words put together. From what I can gather, "fish", in this context, implies that you are smelly and poor, and has possible racist overtones (although none of the children can explain these overtones - they just are).

"Do you regret calling him a fish?"

"Not really," says the boy, dripping on to the table. "If you call him a son of a whore, a motherfucker or a nigger, he doesn't get upset. Because he isn't any of those things. So what's the point? But he is smelly and poor, so I called him a fish, and he got upset and bit me."

Both the boys got a three-day suspension. An hour after they returned, they were hanging out again, trading insults, basically back to normal.

Welcome to school, where the trading of insults is so frequent that if you want to be offended by that story, you probably shouldn't read on. Or go anywhere near a school.

Let's get this straight. I don't like insults. I don't like it when children trade them and I don't like it when adults trade them. In an ideal world, we would all say nice things to each other, all the time. But we don't live in an ideal world.

So, let's reduce the logic of the fish/biting scenario. Kid A attempts to goad Kid B with some insults that are way off the mark. …

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