The controversy over what Marco Materrazi said to Zidane to cause him to go ballistic is just one step over tabloid-level debate. But that doesn’t mean I’m not obsessed by it. Some people seem convinced that the subject was racial: he either called him an “Algerian terrorist” or used the phrase for a traitor in the Algerian civil war. Others seem convinced that he impugned Zidane’s mother. Materrazi admits to have insulted Zidane and pulled his shirt, but denies that he went down either the racist or anti-mother tracks. His defense against the latter is especially telling, and completely, stereotypically, Italian: “For me the mother is sacred, you know that.” The Guardian has a great piece today unpacking what different cultures consider insulting. The general point seems to be that in Catholic countries mother-insults are much more serious than in Protestant or post-Christian nations (like Britain). That may be true, but it doesn’t explain the intensity of mother-insults in African-American culture. It may be the idolatry of the mother in A-A culture comes from the prevalence of father-abandonment. Do our readers have any general theory explaining variations in what cultures consider insulting?
Oh, and one particular insult from the article jumped out at me. Apparently in Finland it is considered a serious insult to say, “Your mother copulates with reindeer.”