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The art of insult

Masada: how much must those Romans have missed their families?

Masada: how much must those Romans have missed their families?

"Hello, torturer of Jesus," I say to my very close Jewish friend when he answers the phone.

"Oh, and didn't he sob like a little baby girl up on that cross, eh?" he'll respond.

It doesn't matter that both statements are historically inaccurate, it's the insult that counts because we're mates and that's what (my) mates do.

"Ah, my sweaty, little ham-breathed friend," he'll continue, "how is your accursed Gentile life going?"

That might prompt a riff from me about how selfish the Jews are because of all the swords they've blunted throughout history, while their vertebrae were being severed during pogroms.

"Do you people not see how unfair it is to make honest soldiers toil over whetstones to hone their damaged weapons?"

He'll counter with a speech about my general uncleanliness, how my loathsome tribe might aspire to the purity of the Chosen but writhe instead in our Goyim world of filth and stench.

And so it goes, neither of us the slightest bit offended, increasingly amused the more outrageously disrespectful we can be.

Then again, we are very close. He'd probably be the best person to do the eulogy at my funeral if I died tomorrow - that is, if he could drag his black Jewish soul into the true house of God without being smited by Christ.

One of the great quirks of friendship is you know you're on solid ground with someone when you can finally start hanging crap on them.

It may be I have unusually abusive friendships but, over the years I've noticed it with enough strangers and their buddies - that the wryly delivered insult is more often than not a marker of endearment rather than contempt.

There's certainly an art to it.

For example, my above-mentioned friend also has hundreds of tiny, oily, dark hairs sprouting from the blackheads in his nose, but I'd never mention them because I know he's sensitive about it.

His bizarre sex life, ballooning weight and limited vocabulary are all fair game, however.

Likewise, he won't tease me about the fact I have the supraorbital ridge of a Neolithic cave dweller because he knows I'm touchy about my protruding, chimp-forehead.

So, while it might sound like we're both insensitive dickheads, we're actually playing a subtle game of "I love you" because we trust each other not to go there.

I know when I reach this stage of familiarity with new friends - when I can tell them they look like a wet goat from behind as they lurch out of the surf in their Speedos - it's as if I can finally take a full breath; the stone of propriety has been lifted from my chest.

This is also, strangely, the time many men feel comfortable making homosexual jibes about their friends, the unspoken sentiment being "Hey, we like each other ... but not that much, er ... right?"

When I was 18, I lived with my older brother and his mate, and it's fair to say for the first few months I was treated as a nuisance.

After a break-up with my first serious girlfriend, I was particularly moody and got a phone call one morning at our gorgeously putrid flat. On the other end was a guy blubbering and sobbing.

"Who is this?" I demanded.

The voice, which I now recognised as one of my brother's friends, screamed: "IT'S YOOOOU."

Thus was the sound of acceptance.

How do you and your friends show affection for each other? (And let's keep the comments publishable)

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

37 comments

  • Hey Sam, it is definitely a bloke thing. Occasionally though, the line can get crossed. I can't remember specifics, but I can remember the room turning to ice in no time flat when one of the boys 'crossed the line'.
    You clearly have a good relationship with your mate, but there are some idiots out there that cannot for the life of them be amusing without being cruel. There is an art in this.
    What I'd like to know is what your respective partners feel about it.
    As for the time in your youth when your mates let you see what a morose pain you had become, I hope that you are still friends (and on speaking terms with your brother still).

    Commenter
    Just a girl
    Date and time
    March 26, 2013, 12:19AM
    • Ah, Australia. Where the level of social maturity is stuck in primary school. I miss it sometimes, when I'm drunk.

      Commenter
      JEQP
      Date and time
      March 26, 2013, 1:31AM
      • Mate, with four initials you're obviously a pompous git, probably a pommy too, and not smart enough to live in God's own country.

        Commenter
        CMEC
        Date and time
        March 26, 2013, 5:10PM
      • Let me guess: You had to look up how to spell "pompous"? And "git"? I suppose it is God's own country - at least, people spend all their time praying they won't get bitten by something venomous.

        Commenter
        JEQP
        Date and time
        March 26, 2013, 6:37PM
      • JEQP take solace in the fact that you have beaten CMEC in moniker Scrabble.

        Commenter
        Wysiwyg Sydney
        Date and time
        March 26, 2013, 7:41PM
    • One of my closest friends calls me and sings "Groove is in the Heart" every time he hears it playing somewhere. No hello, no goodbye - just off key high notes and general screeching. Doesn't matter if it's 2am in a nightclub or 10am driving a car and listening to the radio. I get it as a 3 minute voicemail and other times I have had to sit there in the office awkwardly trying not to notice the bemused looks as others overhear the loud and awful singing. It's been going on for 20 years, all because I once said I thought it was an awesome song.

      I also have really close ribbing with my brothers, although that has curtailed with one since his fiance (wife as of this weekend) disapproved as she interpreted it as "being negative". I guess it could seem that way to an outsider, but it has changed things a little.....for now.

      Commenter
      SmartMonkey
      Date and time
      March 26, 2013, 6:14AM
      • One of my favourite stories along this line is Bill Murray calling his friend Mitch Glazer (married to actress Kelly Lynch) every time the movie Roadhouse is on with the line "Hi, Kelly is having sex with Patrick Swayze right now". It's the long running gags that get more precious with time.

        Commenter
        SmartMonkey
        Date and time
        March 26, 2013, 6:17AM
        • I don't have the relationship with my friends that involves slurs. I do have a relationship with my friends that involves many an inappropriate conversation topic that often starts in the gutter and can only go further into the mire of inappropriateness, revolting descriptions or other such places.
          It is lovely that men can have friendships where running jokes can continue for decades and never get tired because it is a show of affection. I guess that is similar to nicknames that men give their nearest & dearest friends.
          Good for you.

          Commenter
          M
          Date and time
          March 26, 2013, 9:03AM
          • I guess it's best if I put it like this: if I call a mate and enthusiastically say "Hi man, how are you? It's so good to hear you!" I get asked whether I've suffered a concussion or some other brain injury.

            I'm generally charming like that.

            If you can't insult your friends, why are they your friends?

            Commenter
            hired goon
            Date and time
            March 26, 2013, 10:23AM
            • "IT'S YOOOOU."

              That is Gold.

              Commenter
              Mr Brownstone
              Location
              Paradise City
              Date and time
              March 26, 2013, 10:26AM

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