'Specky four-eyes' is not just banter

13th April 2001 at 01:00
Playground name-calling - which has become more sexually-explicit - can scar for life, reports Amanda Kelly

TAUNTS about classmates' height, weight or the size of their "hooter" have always been a feature of school life, but researchers have found the effects of being insulted can last a lifetime.

Dr Ray Crozier, of Cardiff University, questioned 220 adults, aged between 18 and 70, who were called names at school, and asked them what kind of insult had been hurled their way and how they viewed the experience now.

The most common form of abuse, affecting 46 per cent of those quizzed, related to their appearance, and included such names as "fatty", "freckle-face", "drain pipe" and "squirt". More than 35 per cent remembered fellow pupils adopting a play on their actual name, similar to those applied to footballers such as "Gazza", "Becks" or "Gigsy".

References to psychological attributes accounted for 14 per cent of responses and included jibes like "swot", "thicko", "snob" and "Scrooge".

And, although most conceded that assiging nicknames could reflect humour, play and affection, 64 per cent remembered the experience as a negative one, while a quarter said the memory still upset them.

The research also revealed that the nature of the taunts adopted by schoolchildren has changed little from generation to generation, with redheads still being called "carrot top". The main difference is the more widespread use of sexual references.

Homophobic jibes such as "queer", "poofta", "lesbo" and "gay" are more common. So are the more general terms "bimbo", "tart" and "slag".

Dr Crozier said: "Name-calling is the most prevalent form of bullying and yet it is often driven underground or regarded as harmless banter.

"But a person's appearance or personality is such an important part of their identity that when it is mocked it can be extremely hurtful.

"All schools are now required to implement anti-bullying procedures and I think name-calling should be included under this umbrella because it can have such a serious long-term effect."

Leader, 16


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