Don Your Way column: Why 'Burke by name, Burke by nature' insult just doesn't offend me

“Burke by name, Burke by nature.”

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 14:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 14:14 pm

If I had a quid every time I’ve had that insult thrown at me over the years, I genuinely would be a very rich man.

You see, it seems to be the standard response from my critics. And I’ve heard a lot of people use it to me over the decades.

Darren Burke - used to insults since the days of Berk in The Trap Door.

But it’s so unimaginative that whenever someone on Facebook or Twitter uses its in response to something I’ve penned that they are really not too keen on, it totally loses any impact.

Upset? Insulted? Not a bit of it. Although there may be some suggestions that because I’m writing a column about it, I must be miffed. But I’m really not.

I’ve been getting it since I was in the playground more than 40 years ago – and believe you me, back in the 80s, it ranked alongside prat and wally as a derogatory insult against the slightly dim far more than it does now.

Back in the era of deely boppers, leg warmers and Rubik’s cubes, calling someone a berk (rather than Burke, which is just an Irish surname) was de rigeur, up there with Duran Duran, Knight Rider and Sodastreams.

What many people using the term probably didn’t realise, is that it supposedly comes from the rhyming slang of Berkshire Hunt.

So when you’re calling someone a berk, you’re actually calling them a….well, you get the idea.

Back then, there was also a kids’ TV series, narrated by Willie Rushton called The Trap Door, who’s main character was called Berk and who’s sole role appeared to be feeding his master.

“BERK – FEED ME!” was a regular cry aimed in my direction in the playground. It actually felt quite cool that my name had made it to national TV, albeit in the shape of an animated blue plasticine blob with googly eyes.

As the 90s and early 2000s rolled on, using berk or its variants seemed to fall out of favour, a bit like Ice Magic, Breville toasted sandwich makers and countries threatening each other with nuclear weapons over a soundtrack of Wham! and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

But in these days of internet trolling and social media, it seems to have gained a new lease of life as a handy insult to chuck my way.

I’m used to the stick. Believe you me, over the last few years, I’ve developed the thickest skin in Doncaster (and before you start with the fat jibes, I’ve had those too).

Hurling insults and abuse about online is just one of those things that we’ve all seemingly had to adapt to.

But it’s all pretty much water off a duck’s back these days and the ‘Burke by name, Burke by nature line’ is so hackneyed and tired that it’s not even got whiskers – in the words of John Cleese, it is an ex-insult, it has ceased to be. Dead.

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