Banter: to make fun of; to joke at; to impose upon, trick… humorous ridicule.
So reads a 1993 edition dictionary’s attempt at defining a very 2011 (albeit recycled) social phenomenon. You’ve got to hand it to them – nearly 20 years before the word ‘banter’ spilled onto Facebook walls and spewed out the mouths of The Youth of Today like a virus on steroids, Mr Chamber and co. were sharpening their quills and predicting that its definition would evolve swiftly: from making fun of, to joking at, to imposing things upon and tricking people, and finally, to ridicule.
Little did they know, however, that the not-so-razor-sharp tongues of teenage home county ‘jokers’ were taking banter to a whole new level. It had waited for years in the dusty wasteland between a banshee and a baptism, pain-stakingly waded its way through the hoards of slang, diving for the next slot on www.urbandictionary.com. And, finally, miraculously, it had arrived.
The social respect banter commands is more than ROFL or wubu2? could ever have dreamed of. The time your friends appreciatively nodded their heads and declared your comment ‘banter’ felt like winning an Oscar. You dream of the day your comeback combines speed, a sense of finality and banter in one fell swoop.
Despite spreading faster than Freshers’ Flu in the Copper Rooms, banter’s job here is not yet done. It may have wormed its way into general conversation, and transcended class, gender, and the north-south divide, but the work to come is some of its hardest yet. As Mr Chamber and his co. did for their decade, we must do for ours. We must ensure the next stage of banter’s evolution is effectively defined. And, above all, we must ensure that the people of Great Britain understand what is and isn’t banter.
**HOW TO BANTER**
1. Learn that it is spelt “bantER”, not ‘bantaaaa’. If you are proclaiming it ‘bantaaaa’, chances are the situation at hand is just not funny without the tagline.
2. Be wary of phrases such as ‘bantersaurus rex’ and anything about getting aboard the ‘banter bus’. At the time people will laugh, but they are simply pitying your inability to banter like a pro.
3. Embrace the flirting opportunities provided by banter. You should, however, be aware that, whilst banter helped you get some, it will not help you forget some, when it combines with The Night Before to provide most of The Morning After’s entertainment (possibly while you wait for your Chlamydia test results).
4. Remember, banter is educated wit. This means that the time you got expelled from school for setting fire to the loos does not qualify as banter, because you now lack the education needed to support your own insolence.
5. Appreciate the power of banter as a verbal shield. A humble suggestion that the comment may have been ‘banter?’ is often just the conversational lubrication you need to wriggle your way out of a black eye and/or jail.
6. Know that it is perfectly acceptable to unleash banter on someone as a comeback, or – preferably – substitute for violence. When they fail to see the funny side of your torrent of abuse, degrade them further by suggesting they simply cannot take the banter. (Disclaimer: the writer accepts no responsibility for any injuries sustained aboard the banter bus)
7. Recognise that banter is the middle class answer to Survival of the Fittest. By selecting your opponent, you are identifying them as your intellectual equal. Pride is invested in the ensuing banter. Winner shall gain what your mum would call ‘Street Cred’.
8. Less is always more. Look what happened to LOL.