by NEIL FLETT – NICKNAMES have a special place in Australian humour, usually (not always) rhyming and usually (not always) funny – but always carrying a barbed truth.
If you have a nickname, it often means you’re a mate, perhaps an accepted part of an inner circle of friends.
But while some nicknames generate a quick giggle, others remind us – and in particular voters – of major character flaws, personal failings and weaknesses.
Politically, the most appropriate moniker can be weaponised to great effect, such as when Malcolm Turnbull was described by Peta Credlin as “Mr Harbourside Mansion”.
For all the right reasons, politicians have always been deserving targets: Ask the “Mad Monk” or “Little Johnny”, “KRudd”, “The Lizard of Oz” or “Scotty from Marketing”.
Our current Prime Minister has a wardrobe full of nicknames. He must live with “Tennis Albo”, “Easy-Peasey Albanese”, “Each-Way Albo”, “Airbus Albo”, “Airmiles Albo” and “Overseasy Albanese”.
But one nickname in particular is set to cause endless pain, because it was not created by an Opposition war room or by Joe Public. It did not evolve over a few beers in a country pub. Nor did it come from a stand-up comic in an RSL.
What makes “Handsome Boy” stand out is that it was first mentioned by a senior China official during a media event which was a part of a State visit, billed as being of major importance.
None of Albo’s nicknames are very helpful, but to be called “Handsome Boy” by the Chinese in a televised event during a critical visit, was surely about as derogatory as could be.
Let me say again – delivered by a senior official of the Chinese host nation, describing a visiting prime minister during a State visit.
And worse, “Handsome Boy” speaks to one of the prime minister’s most publicised criticisms, that of superficiality, intellectual laziness, and the unsupported optimism usually associated with youth.
The term “boy” has always been an insult in the United States, used by whites to describe black men.
It is rightly seen as patronising, demeaning and offensive.
So many will also see as demeaning that a senior Chinese official announced that an Australian prime minister was being described within China as a “Handsome Boy”.
Taken one way it is a cute friendly descriptor, but taken another way, it is someone who is lightweight, naïve, a boy in a man’s shoes, someone to be patronised, laughed off.
Can you imagine the uproar if a senior Australian official had said publicly that Xi Jinping was a “Handsome Boy”. What a loss of face!
Stick and stones may not break the Prime Minister’s bones, but when the elections come around, and if the term gains momentum in the public, you can expect “Handsome Boy” to be feeling some real hurt.PC