Newsweek discusses C*nt and its effects

This is something for Tau Henare and Matthew Hooton to get their teeth into. A Newsweek article about the merits of the word cunt. Yes truly Newsweek discusses the C-Bomb.

But is the C word losing its bite? It seems that way to me. A few weeks ago, it appeared for the first time on the front page of The Guardian, the 188-year-old British daily. The paper was reporting on the latest misdeed of Jeremy Clarkson, host of the BBC show Top Gear, who called Prime Minister Gordon Brown one, although the comment wasn’t broadcast. The Guardian deemed the story newsworthy because of Clarkson’s popularity, and because he’d earlier gotten into trouble for calling Brown “a one-eyed Scottish idiot.” (Hard to say which charge is worse, though the one-eyed bit did make me laugh.) Guardian readers, it seems, are hard to shock. The paper got only around 17 complaints from readers, and its readers’ editor, Siobhain Butterworth, noted in a column that most quibbled with the fact that the paper spelled out the word in full, rather than using the hangman’s game most publications (including NEWSWEEK) play when running naughty words.

Heh and the Guardian has used the c-word 61 times this year already. Should politicians use it? Well better they use cunt than nigger apparently.

But even on this side of the pond, the C word doesn’t pack the same punch it used to. If a politician uttered a racial epithet, rather than an offensive synonym for vagina, it would be an instant career-ender.

But what are we all getting upset about anyway?

I have to admit, I use the C word on occasion, as do the sassiest of my female friends. Part of the appeal is its ability to shock, of course, in a way that few words still do. As with all curse words, however, frequency makes the heart grow harder. If you hear it enough, you get used it. That’s certainly been the fate of the formerly shocking F word. I remember vividly as a child the first time I heard my father say it (I was blasting Alvin and the Chipmunks at 5:30 a.m., so no apology necessary), but I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard it, because it has become such a familiar part of the ambient hum all around us.

Yet as the proud owner of the anatomical bit derided by the word in question, I have begun to wonder why we ever got so worked up about it in the first place. Why has it retained the power to outrage when other coarse language has found its way onto the playground? The C word has been in use since at least 1230, according to the Oxford English Dictionary online, when it referred to a street name, Gropecuntelane (bet I can guess what went on there). It has gradually been finding its way into mainstream American culture since the 1970s. Think of Travis Bickle’s rant in Taxi Driver, Hannibal Lector’s delightful salutation to Agent Starling, or the last words Adriana heard before being shot to death on The Sopranos. And don’t forget Citizens United Not Timid, best known by its acronym, a Hillary-bashing group that got media attention during the last campaign.

Yes, I am a big fan of the “more you use a word the less effect it has”? theory. That lobby group has appeal too….worthy of the name of a political party here in New Zealand….or a lobby group which could award Good C.U.N.T awards.

“The mistake feminists make, when they object to the C word is to think that it will slip discreetly out of the language.”

It won’t, of course. And even though I question our squeamishness about the C word, I don’t believe we’ll be using it willy-nilly, at least not anytime soon. Despite my secret affection for the term and the women who say it, I just can’t bring myself to type it out here?and not just because NEWSWEEK, a family brand, helps pay for my daughter’s expensive private school. It’s still just too powerful, too offensive to too many. And besides, my mom might read this.

Yes well, that’s true and my Mum reads this blog too.

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