The search for a proper police epithet rolls on. Nobody ever talks about the Fuzz anymore, or Johnny Law, or The Heat. The Officer is also bitterly disappointed that no one has ever referred to him as The Man, as in, "Cool it, it's The Man!" or "Why I'm always bein' hassled by The Man?", etc. I was hoping something tough might emerge, like the way they called the police "The Bronze" in Mad Max
. No such luck.
Cypress Hill notwithstanding, even "pigs" has lost much of its luster (though a google search of "pig department" turned up this
, which is kind of amusing). Of all the insults hurled at me on the street, I don't think I've heard that one. One guy may have oinked as I shooed him off a drug corner, but I can't be sure it wasn't just your garden-variety derisive snort. The only people who use "pigs" any more, I think, are aging boomer radicals and Idiot College Kids who desperately wish it were the '60s again. And even then, not so much; the last thing I was called by an Idiot College Kid was "terrorist" (evidently, asking him for some ID while he was riding his bicycle in dark clothing and a backpack through a crime-ridden neighborhood at four in the morning places me on the same moral plane as Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Mental note made.) Another example of a term you primarily hear on rap albums marketed to suburbanites is "Five-O". When we're rolling through a drug area, Concerned Members of the Community alert the local dealers to the imminent arrival of the Power of the State by yelling out "Five-O! One time!" but it doesn't see much use outside of that. I've had some former and future residents of the correctional system call me "rookie" which, even if accurate, is awfully presumptuous, and lacks a certain universality. "Po-po" is fairly common, but it seems to be more of a general slang term than an insult. On one call in the projects, a kid about four walked up and announced in a cheery voice, "Hey, Po-po! Y'want me to show you where they live at?" before leading me to my complainant's door.
The only thing that seems to be surprisingly popular is "redneck", which is kind of weird. I hear it a lot, and for a while I just assumed it was an ethnic ghettoism (Might it be a racist remark? Heaven forfend.) But the other night it was directed at me by a girlfriend-beating white boy in a quarter-million-dollar house in Southern City's answer to Long Island. So it seems to have some currency.
I confess I'm less insulted by "redneck" than just mystified. Redneck? Me? I have some southern ancestry, but I didn't grow up here. I've never owned a pickup truck, and have barely ever driven one. I don't chew tobacco, my feelings about the Confederacy waver between indifference and hostility, and I have greater tolerance for quinine than country music. The accent isn't there either; people in Southern City always tell me I talk funny. When people wonder where I'm from based on the way I talk, they generally guess New York or Philly. And anyway, "redneck" is not considered derisive by those it applies to - it's like yelling "Sons of Abraham" at people leaving a synagogue.
The only real insult about "redneck" is the lack of imagination. It's like we're not worth their time anymore. If the quality of the American criminal continues to slip, we'll be forced to outsource to India.