We all like a bit of banter. There's nothing like the gentle ribbing of a friend or work colleague that brings a smile to everyone's faces and helps the day pass on a happy note. Banter is one of the ingredients for life and the backbone to many laughs. We all like a bit of banter.
The problem with banter is that it is being hijacked by bullies and Anti-Bullying Week seems to be a great time to wrestle it back from mean spirited individuals.
Granted there is usually a butt of the joke that we are all laughing at and not with but there is a growing minority that are using this as the perfect excuse to cover a multitude of snide remarks.
That's fine though as it's just banter is the excuse and it becomes Carte Blanche to dress up any views or comments as a joke. It falls in to the same category as starting a sentence, 'no offence, but ...' because the words that follow may seem to be of a constructive nature but are a little close to a nerve to be comfortable.
Of course, banter cannot be in any way bullying as that is a nasty, small minded and ignorant way to treat people and we wouldn't dream of doing that.
The thing is though, banter has been making significant gains in to the territory that's marked out as bullying and over the past week this has started to be highlighted at a national level. An English teacher in Norfolk, Mike Stuchberry, has gone as far as banning the word 'banter' from his classroom.
This doesn't mean that he is some sort of killjoy that wants to stamp down on the sometimes boisterous behaviour of his pupils or even stop joyful interaction between the teenagers, what he is banning is the use of the word banter to cover a multitude of sins.
He justified this by saying, "through repetition and magic of social media, banter has become an acceptable, friendlier sounding term for bullying ... It's just banter makes it seem if the problem rests with the person who has suffered the insult."
This is not just restricted to school premises, or even a development of a younger generation taking it too far. At the weekend there were allegations that a contestant on the X Factor, thirty year old Jay James, was actually bullying some of the shows younger and less confident singers.
Of course everyone can have their opinion and in the view of Jay James, he was just trying to help but the X Factor source said that he was quite hurtful with his words. The part that is just as upsetting is James' response to the allegations, "It's just a bit of friendly banter and friendly direction, that's it really", but the thing is, that isn't just it really.
Here is someone who is trying to belittle another but draping it in the cloak of 'banter' to justify his words and it is instances like this that it has spilled over in to being bullying which seems to be acceptable as long as there is a shrug of a shoulder and a smile.
There is obviously a place for banter and there are professions that thrive on it and we all like to poke a bit of fun out our friends and family.
We just need to be careful that we don't lose banter to the hands of bullies as it has become far too easy to cover up their spiteful words and only by making stands like Mike Stuchberry in schools can we be happy that banter will be preserved for another generation and not leave those being bullied to suffer alone as they feel like they're spoiling the fun by taking it personally.
Stand up to bullies and let's keep banter as an ingredient in life where everyone is in on the joke.Suggest a correction