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It All Depends on the Tone You Use


May 19, 2018

Today we followed a ‘Yard Sale’ sign to a front garden filled with old tat. The owner, a man in his seventies, lifted the lid of a battered old brown suitcase. ‘Vintage,’ he said.

Everything on display was dog-eared and miserable. The tidiest thing was a garden gnome with a purple-brown face. ‘I painted it myself,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘It’s got a touch of the tar brush.’

I told him that it was not an expression he should use.

He shook his head. Nah, he assured me, you can call them ‘black fellas’ if you say it the right way. ‘I knew a black fella once,’ he said. ‘I used to call him a black bastard.’ The man didn’t mind, he said. ‘It all depends on the tone you use.’

Is that so, I said. ‘What if someone called you an old white arsehole?’

The man blinked. He looked at me and saw a mild-looking white woman. She was boiling hot on the inside but perfectly calm on the outside. It took him a moment to reply.

‘It would all depend on the tone you used.’

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