Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 12:38 UK

Is it a slur to call someone a Jock?

The Broonites by Henry Davis
Scotland has a double-edged relationship with stereotypes of the national psyche

By Doug Kennedy
BBC Scotland news website

Can calling someone a Jock be considered a serious slur? Scotland thrives on stereotypes and sometimes makes very good use of them, but is it time to drop the J-word?

The question of how much offence to take to the word is a difficult one.

Jock is widely used as a nickname for John, and represents an everyman - literally a John or Jane Doe, a John Q Citizen, a Scot, plain and simple, as well as a Scottish squaddie.

Clearly it doesn't rank alongside a whole range of more serious racial slurs, but as with all language it can also carry real venom depending on how it's used.

I don't think Jock, or Taff or Brummie or Scouser are pejorative terms, it's like when you call people 'guys'
Nigel Buckland

A British Airlines pilot has taken the airline to a tribunal, saying he was victimised and called a "Jock". BA has said any reports of racist behaviour are taken extremely seriously and investigated as a matter of priority.

Nigel Buckland, a Welsh comedian who lives in Glasgow, believes concerns over the word Jock reflect regionalism, rather than racism.

He said: "That goes on everywhere, I don't think Jock, or Taff or Brummie or Scouser are pejorative terms, it's like when you call people 'guys' - it's a collective term and it just breaks things down.

"Although you will find people that will use those terms to score points, sometimes by mentioning where you're from.

"Gay culture reclaimed queer as a word and that was a good thing to take the word back from being kind of a hatespeak."

Black Watch
The Black Watch are proud to be known as the Jocks

The origins of Jock go back hundreds of years, with some of the first recorded references coming in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as slang for a Scottish or northern English sailor or soldier, as well as for any Scotsman.

The OED also notes its first appearance as a "jeering appellation" for a north-country seaman, but it was the 20th Century and World War I which cemented it into the British psyche, along with Tommy and Taff.

The army connections are strong and indeed the Black Watch are proud to call themselves The Jocks.

Andrew Pierce, the assistant editor of the Daily Telegraph, said: "Jock is just a term of affection in the same way Paddy is a term of affection for the Irish.

I thought the Scots were made of tougher stuff
Andrew Pierce
Daily Telegraph assistant editor

"I think if people are so worried now it shows that this onward, relentless march of the politically correct brigade has gone too far.

"People have been making jokes about the Jocks for as long as I've been on this planet and I thought the Scots were made of tougher stuff than that."

There is something of the humorous and friendly about Jock and indeed in the early 1900s Harry Lauder had a music hall smash with his slightly saucy Stop Your Tickling Jock.

Scots also like to think that we are all "Jock Tamson's bairns", implying that we're all "God's children", although the identity of the original Jock Tamson is up for debate.

Private Eye's Broonites strip has 'Pa' Gordon Broon squirming over headlines in the Jockshire Post, so the stereotype of the Jocks - and indeed the Scots - persist.

The use of Jock can easily be affectionate and, when it comes down to it, the ability to laugh at yourself is healthy - but in the hands of others banter can easily turn nasty.

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