Kenny Kunene, an ex-convict whose idea of a good time is to drape sushi over the bodies of naked women, called Julius Malema a “cockroach” and a “little frog”. That was a few months ago. Malema, whose best friend is a cigarette smuggler, was deeply offended and laid charges. Claimed it was hate speech. Kunene, whose best friend is an ex-bank robber who single-handedly betrayed and then broke the Joburg city council, was recently ordered by the high court to apologise to Malema and pay his lawyers’ costs.
Weirdly, Malema only objected to the cockroach part. I think being called a frog is way worse. Hutu history aside, roaches are tough, determined little fuckers. Especially the ones from Durban. “Do your worst,” they growl as you stumble into the kitchen late at night. They stand their ground, taunting you with their demonic feelers. Switch off light, back away slowly, lock bedroom door, block gap with towel. They win. Every time.
Now a frog, on the other hand, will pretend to be your friend right up until you try to pick him up. Then he’ll use his powerful legs to jump into your face. Maybe even into your mouth. You can die like that. Choked on a frog, it will say on your death certificate. The indignity of it all.
I’m not sure why it is that some people take massive exception to being called certain animals but not others. For instance, calling a black man a baboon is a guaranteed career-killer. You’ll be regretting that one for a very long time. But call him a wombat and the odds are he’ll be okay with it. Baboons are arguably way more intelligent than wombats. With minimal training, you can have a baboon eating with a knife and fork at your dinner table by supper time. Try that with a wombat.
What could you call a white man that might generate similar levels of outrage? A rhino? Honey badger? Buffalo? All three are, like white men, ill-tempered, humourless brutes quick to aggression for no good reason. Fact is, you can call a white man any animal you please without fear of him reaching for his 9mm or his phone to call his lawyer.
I suppose if you called a very fat white person a hippo, they might take exception. But you wouldn’t find yourself hauled before the Human Rights Commission pleading for your life not to be destroyed.
Nobody of any colour likes to be called a snake because they are untrustworthy dirtbags who will sink their fangs into your leg or spit poison in your eye as soon as look at you. Not all snakes, mind you. To land the insult properly, you’d have to specify what kind of snake you’re talking about. It’s pointless if your opponent imagines he’s being compared to a brown house snake. Or worse, a slug-eater. If someone says, “You’re a real snake in the grass”, your only response is, “Cool. So, not a boomslang, then?”
Some men might call a woman a cow. I am not among them. Not because I think it’s offensive. I actually think it’s quite complimentary. Cows are lovely. They look at you with big eyes – I don’t mean those big terrified eyes they get when they’re about to be slaughtered – and they’re very placid creatures. It would make more sense to compare a faulty woman to the mentally unstable wildebeest or the irascible camel.
Calling a woman a dog implies she’s lacking in the facial department, which you’ll know makes no sense if you’ve ever looked deeply into the electric blue eyes of a Siberian Husky and fallen slightly in love.
Some women have a habit of calling men pigs. I know I’ve been called one. Obviously in jest. Affectionately, like. But there are other men who aren’t me who really do deserve to be called pigs. The predilection for snuffling and rutting and messily devouring whatever you put in front of them. It’s too appalling. But even so, I have yet to meet a man who sued for defamation after being called a pig. The label is accepted with a shrug and we move on.
The anti-vaxxers call normal people “sheep” for following the “science”. I’ve had my shots but probably won’t bother with a second booster. Not because I’ve done my own research, but because it’s too much hassle. I don’t care if you call me a sheep. Next to sloths, they’re probably the least offensive of all in the animal kingdom. Tasty, too. Especially the babies.
Chickens are also used as an epithet. I have been called chicken for backing out of one or other life-threatening activity, whether it be leaping off ledges or consuming drugs that have only ever been tested on horses. I don’t mind. Call me chicken. I’m not in a wheelchair and my brain still functions. Mostly.