Face Attacks, offence and plastic Brits: intentional British media impoliteness (Gerrard Mugford)
Face Attacks, offence and plastic Brits: intentional British media impoliteness
The widespread use of the term ‘plastic Brit’ in the United Kingdom press before, during and after the 2012 Olympic Games reflected media controversy over the alleged lack of Britishness of those athletes who were born outside of Britain. Depending on the newspaper, the athletes were accused of/exonerated from ‘glory hunting’ and ‘flying under the flag of convenience’. The athletes’ allegiance to Great Britain was debated amid charges of being ‘parachuted in’ and being dubbed as ‘overseas imports’.
Classic approaches to impoliteness would examine the controversy in terms of in a post-hoc analysis of face threatening acts (Brown and Levinson 1987) and breaking Lakoff’s politeness rules: Don’t Impose; Give Options; and Make A Feel Good – Be Friendly (1973:298). However, the impoliteness demonstrates underlying intentional interpersonal behaviour (Culpeper 2008) aimed at undermining the athletes’ face in order to reinforce closeness and solidarity between newspapers and their readers at the expense of the foreign-born athletes. Following Spencer-Oatey’s (2005, 2008) rapport management model and Culpeper’s (1996) positive impoliteness framework, I examine 40 newspaper and journal articles and argue that the epithet reflects a carefully crafted and constructed nationalistic argument where racial prejudice was not the objective of the attackers (Davies 2011).
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