Britain’s agonising over Brexit has spawned a lot of new vocabulary. One of the most evocative of these words is gammon, used to describe “white men of a certain age who become pink in the face when working themselves into a rage about the European Union” according to the English paper The Telegraph (7.11.2018). The colour refers to the cut of meat – a type of cured pork, similar to bacon. This application of the term to nationalistic fervour is not entirely new. Charles Dickens has an MP in Nicholas Nickleby say: “The meaning of that term – gammon … is unknown to me. If it means that I grow a little too fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I am proud of this free and happy country.” In fact, the character has mistaken the meaning. He is actually being accused of talking gammon – in other words, bullshitting. We don’t know exactly how this sense arose, but it – rather than the meat one – is still around in Australia, particularly in Aboriginal English, according to the Australian National Dictionary. Regardless of its origins, perhaps there’s a correlation between the amount of gammoning you do and how gammon-like your visage becomes.
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