We all know that Ricky Gervais is a comic who likes to push boundaries and insult. But this week after a long hiatus on twitter his notable use of the word ‘mong’ has come under fire.
The word ‘mong’ is slang. It comes from the medical term ‘mongoloid’ which is used to describe people with downs syndrome. Now I have to admit that before today I was not aware of the meaning of ‘mong’. I considered it to be no less a derogatory term but more a derivative of ‘mongrel’.
However not knowing the definition highlights a very different issue. The use of such terminology without the insight of meaning suggests a certain ignorance. Now Gervais is often praised as a cleverly funny and insightful comic; in this sense it seems peculiar he would use such a term, particularly when he has tweeted such phrases as ‘two mongs do not make a right’ and ‘good monging’. Neither insightful nor clever.
Gervais has hit back at the criticism going his way, arguing that political correctness has gone too far. He further claims that the meaning of the word has changed. In his eyes ‘mong’ doesn’t mean downs syndrome while gay doesn’t mean happy, he even goes so far as to claim that ‘mong’ doesn’t really mean anything at all. While there may be some merit in this argument. I personally agree with radio DJ Lauren Laverne ‘if it really means nothing why bother?’
Admittedly, Gervais is famed for being outrageous and pushing boundaries. But if Gervais genuinely believes the word means nothing at all, the question I’d like to raise is, what boundary is he pushing against?
In this particular case he has failed to be clever and funny, which implies his use of the word has little point other to shock and provoke.
I cannot help but think his campaign against the constraints of political correctness is little more than a publicity stunt. After all Gervais’ new comedy ‘Life’s too short’ was only announced by the BBC on the 25thOctober. An interesting link or pure coincidence? I’ll let you decide.