When an English court found that a Kiwi living in Macclesfield, England, had been abused by her neighbour as a "stupid, fat Australian b...." it should perhaps have been reported, more appropriately, as a "stupid fat A....alian bitch".
It was the reference to nationality that was deemed to be particularly offensive, and not because it was the wrong country.
It smacks a little of the semi-famous exchange from the second Star Wars movie.
Princess Leia: "Why, you stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder."
Han Solo: "Who's scruffy-looking?"
Oh, how people can take offence at the minor components of a barrage.
In this case the charge was of racially-aggravated public disorder and the court noted that the word "Australian" had been used with hostility.
It's not hard to see how tossing nationality into a string of abuse can become an act of plainly racist intent. But if we conclude that abuse plus country's name equals racism, then we should expect to see the police wading into crowds at trans-Tasman sporting encounters with notebooks out, demanding "Where did you say that lying, cheating, half-witted dumb-ass came from?"
Come to that, we might also have to silence most of the high-reproach debates within the United Nations chamber.
The Macclesfield dispute appears to have been another case to highlight the problem Rowan Atkinson raised a while back: The too-easily-misused law under which Brits can be prosecuted for using insulting language. Which, plainly, this was.
It is hard to escape the notion that in this case the legislation was useful to penalise someone for generally objectionable behaviour, but should laws have secondary uses?
Anyway, if we're on the lookout for the word "Australian" being used in a horrific, racist context, then we need go no further than the behaviour of a busload of Melbourne dullards, posted on YouTube, assailing a young French woman who, among others, had been singing in French after a Remembrance Day barbecue.
What followed was beyond bullying. It was vile. And in the midst of the threats, the abuse, the intimidatory violence, these puff-chested, ignorant, sourly racist oafs were chanting "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!"
Which might tempt us to call them puff-chested, ignorant, sourly racist Aussie oafs. But then, that kind of talk might get us in trouble in Macclesfield.
- The Marlborough Express