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6 September 2017

No, Stormzy didn’t call Theresa May a pig while bigging up Jeremy Corbyn

"Paigon" is a "friend that lies, betrays and isn't true to u".

By Sanjana Varghese

The men’s magazine GQ hosted their 20th annual GQ Men of the Year awards yesterday at the Tate Modern in London. Every year, hordes of sharply dressed celebrities (of all genders) descend on the awards, which range from the Legend prize, usually given to footballers, to Woman of the Year, usually given to supermodels.

Grime star and outspoken rapper Stormzy took home the Copper Dog Whisky Solo Artist of the Year, presented to him by none other than the perpetual man of the moment Jeremy Corbyn, who Stormzy, along with a host of other grime artists, openly expressed his support for during the general election. Stormzy won the award both for his his critically acclaimed Gang Signs and Prayers, which became the first the first grime album to ever reach Number 1 of the UK Albums Chart, and because of his advocacy for conversations around mental health, racism and politics. 

In that vein, Stormzy’s acceptance speech was almost precisely what could be expected. He thanked his mum and God, and expressed his disbelief that someone who’s from South London could go on to make it so bad. All might have passed without much remark if it hadn’t been for the beginning of his speech, when he called Theresa May out, referring to her as a “paigon”. 

Some commentators – such as former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and Sun political correspondent Harry Cole heard something different, and tweeted that he had rather more rudely called Theresa May a pig. But as the video below shows, he says “It’s incredible to be here for everyone, big up Jeremy Corbyn. I do want to use this to say that Theresa May is a paigon and you know what we’re doing right now.”

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For those who are unfamiliar with the origin of the term “paigon” (including probably most of the audience at the awards), it is a riff on the word, pagan. Commonly used in Jamaican and West Indian communities with exactly its original meaning someone who could broadly be referred to as an ‘unbeliever’.

The word has taken on a broader meaning for communities stemming from those roots. Though not always entirely reliable, the Urban Dictionary’s definition seems roughly in line with its likely usage in modern Britain: a friend who isn’t true to you, someone who lies and betrays the people they trust.

If you wish to make it a part of your vocabulary, here’s an example sentence: “Theresa May is a paigon because she said seven times that she wouldn’t call an early election, then called an early election.”

In videos of the speech, Corbyn can be seen chuckling behind Stormzy as he makes his statement, before Stormzy then goes on to say, “Yeah, it’s awkward when I say that, isn’t it?”

That might be how some red faced Twitter users felt when they deleted their tweets today.The rest of us could follow the example set by Campbell, who admitted his mistake in a tweet the following morning before concluding: “Good to learn new words.”