Now I have seen these repeated 4 times in the last week, would you believe, so it’s time to sit this damned excuse down.
The word “fag” is, in most contexts, a grossly homophobic slur that should never ever pass your lips. It is offensive, demeaning, insulting and generally so vile that it makes me enrage just having to type it in this post. (Putting aside issues of reclaiming for a moment – though I do not approve of reclaiming this word – because this is aimed at straight people and you don’t get to reclaim anti-gay hate words – they’re already yours)
But, yes, it is also a slang term for a cigarette in the UK. Just as faggot is also a type of meat ball.
Do you know how often this little gem is relevant? Almost NEVER. Because we have this magical thing called CONTEXT. I know this may be a new concept, however I think it is necessary that it’s mastered since it is a basic foundation for communication that most 10 year olds have grasped.
So if someone says “I’m just going to have a quick fag,” they PROBABLY are referring to the cigarette (or a brief and insulting sexual encounter. But I doubt it).
And if someone says “You’re such a fag” the chances of them referring to smoking are pretty much nil.
I don’t think anyone on this entire island has ever ever EVER referred to another human being as a “fag” and meant cigarette. Because, while I admit we are a very eccentric people with many quaint idiosyncrasies, we’re simply not in the habit of using tobacco products as an insult. No, really. No-one will ever call you a “dirty cigar.” No-one will ever curse “you pipe you!” we do not commonly use Marlboroughs as an epithet and “Benson & Hedges” is not yet a snappy come back in any argument. Not even the most passionate anti-smoking activist has resorted to using ciggies as a slur.
So if you see someone ever referring to a person as a “fag” then they’re being a homophobic arsehole.
I don’t care if they never miss a ‘u’ in colour. I don’t care if they wear sandals and woolly socks while on holiday. I don’t care if they can talk about the weather for 3 hours solid. I don’t care they’re so British they piss earl grey and shit crumpets. If they’re calling a person a “fag” they’re a homophobe. Being British is not an excuse.