It’s the fear of right wing Daily Mail readers everywhere: The colourful immigrants that dot our towns are not painting them red, or enriching them with their cultures, but quietly muttering insults upon its locals. Have you ever sat on a train, overheard foreign language speakers and thought, for a minute, that the joke they’re sharing with their friends is on you?

Surely not, I thought. But today, I found myself – and not for the first time – sharing the fears of a Daily Mail reader. (The first time I was genuinely worried about the Y2K Bug.)

The Town Frier in Shrewsbury is a brilliantly named chip shop in the centre of town, and run by a family of Indian immigrants, one of whom I’ve taken a particularly shine too. (Chip shop workers too, I find, are particularly shiny people.) He’s made a sincere effort to sound English and, since knowing him, I’ve noticed an improvement from the Carry On language of yesteryear, to the sort of Gallagher brother English he employs today, going as far as referring to his younger brother as “our kid.”

He does usually converse with his family in Punjabi, and fair enough. Today however the conversation took a turn for the worse and, upon handing the customer ahead of me his order, he muttered a word that, translated into English, is generally considered the language’s lowest point. To his credit, however, it was at least in keeping with his adopted Gallagher tone.

And if you haven’t already guessed it, a Google search, at least with the Safe Filter on, returns a dissertation on the word’s cultural history.

****: A Cultural History