It’s the sort of thing you’re more likely to find at a country pub than at the center of a political debate. But in the U.K., the meat product known as gammon has recently become shorthand for a certain type of middle-aged white man. He’s a Conservative voter, he likely supports Brexit, and his habitual rantings about immigration and the scourge of political correctness have caused him to turn so red as to resemble a pan-fried slab of ham. Hence, a gammon.
It’s not exactly the most intuitive of insults. After all, gammon is an old-fashioned English dish made from a hind leg of pork, sometimes topped with caramelized pineapple. Yet it has become the British left’s insult of choice, one that is kicking up an impassioned debate about racism—against certain white men.
The use of gammon as a political slight dates as far back as 2010, when the Times of London columnist Caitlin Moran dubbed former Prime Minister David Cameron “a C-3PO made of ham” whose “resemblance to a slightly camp gammon robot is extraordinary.”
The insult took on more widespread use during the U.K.’s general election last year, when one Twitter commentator made a collage of BBC Question Time audience members—all of whom were middle-aged white men with similarly flushed faces—that he called the “Great Wall of gammon.” Now, the term is most often used by the British political left, specifically younger supporters of the U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
America, meet Britain’s controversial Gammon meme — Twitter Left answer to “snowflake.”— Ben Judah (@b_judah) May 14, 2018
Mature and reactionary white males, are being referred to as Gammon — in reference to a beloved British pork product.
Large sections of the population and an MP have been “triggered.” pic.twitter.com/lO0TAo9mPH
Name-calling is nothing new in politics—if anything, it’s become the norm. Petty insults have been a fixture in British politics for years, with lawmakers calling each other everything from “dimwit” to “muttering idiot.” In the U.S., President Trump has employed a multitude of adjectives to mock his political opponents, foreign leaders, and the media (“crazy,” “crooked,” “lyin’,” and “failing,” to name a few).