Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Can you still embarrass the K.O.T.?

Yesterday I watched Shaun Attwood giving a talk to a sixth form in south-west London. He's written Hard Time: A Brit in America's Toughest Jail about his experiences of incarceration in the Arizona prison system and so his story majored on buggery with broom handles, white supremacist gangs, the challenges of defecating in front of witnesses and casual brutality of every sort.

If anyone had been allowed to give this kind of talk in the schools of my day they would have been met with blushes, sniggers and probably interjections of the "sir, that man just said 'foreskin' variety." I can remember spending a lot of my teenage years nervously patrolling the frontier between the formal language of the adult world and the Rabelaisian badinage of the sixth form common room, worried that I might unknowingly give myself away.

It's not like that today. These 16 and 17 year-olds sat there and lapped it all up with barely a blush. This chimes with my experience of the Kids Of Today. They're a lot more difficult to embarrass than my generation were. Or maybe they're just embarrassed by different things.


  1. It is merely the taboos that have changed - bet they are embarrassed by casual racism these days.

  2. My wife works in a college and her students (16-18) are every ethnicity you can imagine and spend a lot of their lessons hurling racist comments at each other.

    Stuff that caught my ear recently was describing a Nokia phone as a "refugee phone" and "your dad send those spam emails from Nigeria."

    I enjoy these daily updates on the language of the youth. Another one I like is calling where you live your "ends" as it's where you end up when you get the bus home.

  3. My two (10 and 13) have a similar take on uncomfortable (for me anyway) moments of viewing or listening. Times where my dad would have tutted, I would have blushed and mum would have left the room to make some tea, they will happily highlight, underline and bold any contributions I may have missed 'Can you hear what they're singing to the referee?' 'Did you hear what he just said ?'

  4. I can remember not knowing what a '69' was (someone at school had mentioned it) and asking my mum!

  5. @londonlee - likewise, my brother and I used to listen secretly to Radio Luxembourg after lights out. Unlike that nice Mr Blackburn on Radio 1, there were adverts for all kinds of mystifying and fascinating items. Inevitably my questions about tampons and durex cast a cloud over sunday dinner, and found my brother subject to a "what have you been saying to him" inquisition.

    My earliest recollection of being embarrased at something on tv was a "love scene" with Sarah Miles(?) in, I think, Ryan's Daughter. I was old enough to know that "rude things" were happening and, correctly, read my parents intense stillness as mortification.