I c*nt stop saying twat. July 9, 2008 12:33 PM   Subscribe

UK vs. US or shock value vs. prudishness? Swearing in the drum circle thread.

This is me trying to open a discussion on offensiveness. I'm not looking to sanction or shame (well maybe shame a little) anyone, but I personally like to know when the words I'm using are more or less offensive than I actually intend.

I can't speak for other Americans, but culturally I find the word cunt to be about on par in offensiveness with words like kike or nigger, and phrases like "I'd like to break her jaw and hump her." More to the point, I've only heard the term used in my life by people who are going on a drunken hatefilled spitting rant, or as a prelude to a phrase like "I hope she gets raped".

I understand that in the UK and perhaps in other areas of the US, the use of the word cunt is much more common, and is used in less of a hateful misogynistic way and more as a general swear word with I'd guess slightly more emphatic meaning than wanker.

However, I strongly suspect that a lot of Americans are going to assume those using the term are misogynist assholes. Similarly but less so for the term twat. I have nothing against offensiveness generally, but I hope that people are fully aware of the cross cultural implications of what they are saying before they say it.
posted by BrotherCaine to Etiquette/Policy at 12:33 PM (541 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

While I think it may be completely impossible for people to be "fully aware of the cross cultural implications of what they are saying before they say it" I would like to see "cunt" buried beneath 30 feet of concrete at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


Toughen up, buttercup. Make your assumptions, have your cultural awareness, and be content with that. Don't expect sterling behavior from every warm body with access to a keyboard. Which isn't an apology for misogynist assholes (by the way, where I'm from that term is usually used in reference to minivans—not the drivers, just the vehicles—and/or partially clawed de-clawed cats), of course.
posted by carsonb at 12:39 PM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


For the record, this basically started when someone made a twat/cunt joke after an offhand comment in a thread about something else. People started responding in-thread in an OMG fashion and flagging like crazy. I suggested the discussion take place here because while I think it's a worthwhile discussion, it was going to destroy the thread it was in originally. I don't think anyone is particularly pissed off about it, but this comes up from time to time and might be worth getting hashed out.

My feeling as a general observer is that we're not generally okay with casual racism-as-irony-about-racism and the same with other forms of bigotry; I am aware that in the UK words like cunt and twat are more commonplace. So if a comment gets flagged and deleted calling someone a cunt (as we would do if someone called someone a kike) there's a predictable backlash from UK folks thinking we're being excessively nannying with not particularly offensive language.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2008


My vote: err on the side of the most charitable interpretation. If the use of a word with multiple valid meanings offends you, you're doing it wrong.
posted by Skorgu at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think it's important for everyone to help make MetaFilter a (virtual) place of tolerance and respect. But couldn't you just flag and move on?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2008


I think that new people who come here and think that they can just tell us to stop telling people to not say "cunt" need to realize that we were here first.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:43 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


I'm with you on both the word cunt and the word twat. I appreciated TPS discouraging the ongoing "twat"-fest in the comments, but that didn't seem to stop anything. I almost brought this here as well, but was too chicken shit to start anything up.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:45 PM on July 9, 2008


It would be nice if people realised that the recent rise in popularity of that word in the UK was the same as the disintegration of the pointless taboo around fuck. It isn't Ken Tynan and the Sex Pistols sticking it to establishment prudes, it's a word with a lot of hate in it. However, stemming that particular tide is a Cnut-like endeavour.
posted by WPW at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2008


I try not to call people cunts unless I am in an Irvine Welsh novel, in which event, yeah.
posted by everichon at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


My vote: err on the side of the most charitable interpretation.

That's only half of the equation. For true interoperability you must be careful with what you send and generous with what you receive.
posted by tkolar at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


Try "Call U Next Tuesday" with an impish look on your face. Sure, it doesn't translate well in writing but it feels good.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2008


If flagging is for pulling comments, I'm not sure I want comments pulled for using that term unless it is clearly directed at a female in a misogynist or hateful fashion. Generally I read the word with the most charitable interpretation as Skorgu says, and no one comment with cunt or twat in it is going to bug me, but when it becomes a general theme in a thread I'm not thrilled by it. More because of the intellectual laziness that such dismissiveness seems to engender, but also because I have trouble assessing the level of vitriol of the poster without a knowledge of their background.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:50 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My objection in the drum circle thread was not that people were using offensive words. I have no problems with offensive words on the whole. I just think they should be used prudently. In a thread discussing contentious issues, going back and forth on who is more of a "twat" is ridiculous. It is, as BrotherCaine just said, intellectually lazy.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:53 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll use any and all of these words in Scrabble. Anything to win.
posted by not_on_display at 12:53 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


It's self-evident that there will always be words some people use, that others don't like. Trying to impose your standards of linquistic tolerance on others just so you don't have to be aware of those words seems pointless. Just deal with the fact that there are people who interpret things differently than you. It's only language. Saying "rape" or "cunt" is not the same as performing the actions you might happen to associate them those words.
posted by BorgLove at 12:54 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I called someone a cunt on MetaFilter once, and the (fairly mild) reaction persuaded me to never do so again. I've probably deleted hundreds of cunts since, though, since it's hard to remember how extreme a term it is in the US compared to the UK (especially Scotland - I have to de-cunt my vocabulary when I'm down South). As for 'twat', I really like the way (some?) Americans pronounce it 'twot'.

So if a comment gets flagged and deleted calling someone a cunt (as we would do if someone called someone a kike) there's a predictable backlash from UK folks thinking we're being excessively nannying with not particularly offensive language.

Oh no, are we going to have a thousand comment thread about whether terms like 'cunt' and 'twat' are intrinsically misogynist and/or equivalent to racist hate speech now?

it's a word with a lot of hate in it

Depending on where you are and who you're saying it to and how you're saying it.
posted by jack_mo at 12:54 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


"YOU'RE a twat!"

"No, YOU'RE a twat!"

"Mom!!!!"
posted by Evangeline at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Associate *with*. Jesus! Oops... sorry.
posted by BorgLove at 12:55 PM on July 9, 2008


Twat makes me giggle.
posted by Mister_A at 12:56 PM on July 9, 2008


MetaFilter: I've probably deleted hundreds of cunts.
posted by Mister_A at 12:58 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


"there's a predictable backlash from UK folks thinking we're being excessively nannying with not particularly offensive language"

This is a culture clash more than anything, which is why I didn't cite comments by individual members.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:59 PM on July 9, 2008


I don't understand why this is an issue. "Dick" and "Asshole" are acceptable on TV now. Since "Twat" refers to female anatomy it is somehow automatically offensive? It's just a word. Am I allowed to use the phrase "a bucket of vaginas" just like people use "bucket of cocks"? Where is the locus of the offense? If 'cunt' is applied to a group of people or to a man, is it still offensive? Or is it only offensive when applied to a woman? It all seems ridiculous prudishness to me in this instance. No one individual was called a 'twat'. Why is the word itself offensive?
posted by spicynuts at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


If it's not offensive, why bother to use it over and over and over again? Should we take up a collection and send you a thesaurus?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


I don't understand why this is an issue. "Dick" and "Asshole" are acceptable on TV now. Since "Twat" refers to female anatomy it is somehow automatically offensive?

I think it's a mistake to try and look at the chargedness of these words in terms of strict logic.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:01 PM on July 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


it's a word with a lot of hate in it

Why? Because you are offended by it? I can be a thousand times more hateful with basic words than with that single one.
posted by spicynuts at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


It is a colossally offensive word, no matter which side of the pond you're on. I'd think twice before using the word in any but the closest company and i'm generally considered to be a foul mouthed bastard. Even when I do, I generally only self-apply, know what i mean? I can't think offhand of an occassion that i'd bust it out on th'internets - particularly here, and i think maybe some of us Brits need to chill the fuck out with it.
posted by Jofus at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2008


More because of the intellectual laziness that such dismissiveness seems to engender

Are we going to remove statements that have no controversial words in them that are intellectually lazy? Because there is plenty of intellectual laziness on here, swear words or no. The site is basically lousy with it.
posted by spicynuts at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


When I moved from the UK to the US, it took me around a year to work out that 'cunt' was a word that caused real offence, not just an amusingly-strong swear word. Five years later, I'm still not really sure what 'cunt' means to Americans, or exactly how it causes that offence. I think that, in a transient community such as Metafilter, it is too much to expect that everyone will pick up these subtleties before spewing forth.

And so I think the only solution is for everyone, to the extent that they can, to avoid giving offence *and also* avoid taking offence. If you know that no offence was intended, there's no point in flagging, or in opening Metatalk threads, because you're getting upset about something that never really happened.
posted by beniamino at 1:04 PM on July 9, 2008


Actually, thinking on, I think my opinion can be summed up thusly: you can use the word cunt wherever and whenever you want, but on the whole its classier not to.
posted by Jofus at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure I want comments pulled for using that term unless it is clearly directed at a female in a misogynist or hateful fashion.

And this is where the problem comes in. There are certain racial epithets that you sort of can't repurpose to be anything but shock words to the majority of people who will read them, for whatever reason. Then we have words like "queer" or "bitch" where, depending no how you use them, you can be intending them to be hurtful or just being descriptive. Or people try to be edgy and use them so that you can't really tell what's intended. We have enough people on MeFi who use have used "cunt" in the clearly hurtful fashion -- often talking about Ann Coulter or women they really despise -- that it's tough to separate it to be used in the more casual (I'm presuming) UK fashion when you're just referring to some gender-nonspecific person you dislike.

I personally don't care as much what the words do or do not mean, except insofar as people's feelings about what they mean create a reaction here at MeFi that has to be managed. If someone flags a comment where someone uses the word "fuck" we ignore it generally because we're okay with general swearing. If they use any of the more colorful racial/homophobic slurs, in most cases we'll remove the comment because that's sort of how we've decided to handle it. Whether you meant "kike" in a bad way or not is sort of immaterial, or needs to be discussed in MetaTalk.

The same isn't true for cunt/twat/whatever, or we haven't really talked about it much here. I'd be okay letting people sort of self-correct in threads -- like we do with minor name calling -- but that doesn't seem to be what happens in these cases. People try to correct, other people claim they're being oversensitive, the thread derails.

More to the point, I guess my statement would be "If you knew that many Americans (and perhaps others) thought that the word cunt was on par with the terms kike/nigger/faggot in terms of being offensive, would you still be casually using it on MetaFilter?"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


If it's not offensive, why bother to use it over and over and over again? Should we take up a collection and send you a thesaurus?

Paging George Carlin and Richard Pryor.
posted by spicynuts at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2008


The "C' word is considered to be offensive in the UK and isn't generally bandied about in every day language. That said, I personally don't feel offended by its (rare) use on Metafilter - although when applied to women I'd probably have issues.
posted by panboi at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2008


WPW: it's a word with a lot of hate in it

jack_mo: Depending on where you are and who you're saying it to and how you're saying it.

The same is true for nigger, and faggot, and a few more. The question isn't "Well, if it's said by someone in the UK, that's alright then" - or at least, I don't think that's the question. I think the question is, what's okay here in MetaFilter? A comment calling residents of Harlem "niggers" would be flagged to hell and back, deleted, drawn and quartered, etc., even though many of those residents may call themselves that, or even if the commenter calls him/herself that.

I hate the word cunt, at least when it's used as an insult or way to denigrate someone. Hate it a lot.
posted by rtha at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


"As for 'twat', I really like the way (some?) Americans pronounce it 'twot'."

The British pronunciation (with a nod to regional variations, of course) of 'twăt' has always amused me because of its similarity to 'splat'. Sort of onomatopoeic.

The fact that I am easily amused is, I suspect, apparent.
posted by elfgirl at 1:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


BorgLove, I've said things in my life that are so offensive that my mother would throw up if she heard them, my standards of linguistic tolerance are pretty high. But I'm sensitive to the context of when I'm saying something offensive. Pedophile and rape jokes around friends, clean language in front of my parents, and a mix online. Reread my post, I'm not looking to santion anyone, cheesy as it may be, this is an educational effort.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:07 PM on July 9, 2008


This isn't exclusively a culture clash between UK and US english speakers and uses of "cunt" which basically map to "punk" and "bitch".

There are those of us who want our nice "pussy" substitute back. *shudders* Ugh, I hate "pussy." It lightly cheeses my toast that even when referring, in the Old English tradition to a cunt - this one - right here - the one I was born with - that some users of the site get upset by the use of the word. Whaddya gonna do? I'm a post Reclaiming Cunt'er.

Give language whatever power you like, but it means "vagina," and it should be allowed as analogous to "vagina" without invoking some ongoing battle over the misogyny of Transantlantic epithets. Leave literal cunt alone!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2008 [10 favorites]


I find the word cunt to be about on par in offensiveness with words like kike or nigger, and phrases like "I'd like to break her jaw and hump her."

People are soooo racist against vaginas.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2008


There are two kinds of cunts in the world:

1. the kind that uses the word cunt

2. the kind that is offended by the word cunt
posted by Sys Rq at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


*sanction* rather.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2008


Here's the thing. I speak two different languages. In one, the word cunt is highly taboo. That's American English. In the other, Castillan Spanish, the equivalent word, coño, is used so casually as to not even register on anyone's swear-word-o-meter.

I see both sides--I'm imagining the UK use of cunt is much like the Spanish use. If I were from the UK, it probably wouldn't bother me at all to hear cunt every other word. But in the US, in my speech, cunt is super-loaded with hate. BrotherCaine is not exaggerating for effect when he says he's only heard the word cunt used in extremely misogynist contexts in the US.

So yeah, both cunt and twat* come across to me as hostile. Which sucks.

*to a much lesser degree, but probably only because you just never hear it at all here.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:12 PM on July 9, 2008


Sys Rq, you're acting a fool if you want to pretend there isn't some truth to your first remark.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:13 PM on July 9, 2008


This is why I prefer to use the term "9 volt battery."
posted by bondcliff at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


HI I'M ON METAFILTER AND I COULD OVERTHINK A PLATE OF FEMALE GENTIALIA
posted by dersins at 1:15 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are those of us who want our nice "pussy" substitute back.

That makes sense to me. Context is everything here.

It lightly cheeses my toast


On the other hand, I've never heard it called that before.
posted by panboi at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2008


Why? Because you are offended by it?

To be frank, I'm not particularly offended by it, and have used it, but strive not to. I've discussed its level of offense several times when it has come up in the text of magazines I have worked for, and the my female friends and colleagues have said with near unamity that they consider it pretty hateful. So now I do my best to avoid it because I see it as being strongly offensive to many people whom I care about it. As I said, it would be nice if it disappeared, but we live in the world and in the UK at least that battle is lost. I'm not on a crusade to stamp it out. I don't think less of people for using it, unless they're comedians throwing it about in a desperate attempt to be edgy. I'm thinking of Jimmy Carr in particular there. What a twat. Twat, I and the colleagues I've discussed this with feel, does appear far weaker. And yes, that's a completely inconsistent position.

Seeing the c-word on Metafilter doesn't upset me. This is the internet, after all, and it is worth reserving the upset for the really important debates about Ralph Wiggum's use of imagery.
posted by WPW at 1:16 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the US, both cunt and twat are used as extremely negative words for women, and as even more negative words for men. Words having to do with male genitalia have, traditionally in American English, not carried the same negative weight as words for female genitalia. There is the added effect that in our culture suggesting a male is in some way feminine is insulting as well. In other words, it's much worse for a guy to be a "pussy" than to be a "dick" and any 13 year old American boy could tell you why.

As others have said, because of the history of both of the words under discussion both in our society and in my own life, I am annoyed by reading them and think badly of the person using them--I tend to think they are either misogynist or uncreative, or both.

If I were to use a word that carried similar weight to someone I was trying to have a conversation with, I would want to know so I could stop. For instance, using "lame" as derogatory really bothers a disabled friend. He told me this. Now I know, so I try not to say that anymore, not just around him, but around everybody because I don't want to accidentally hurt anybody. But I recognize not everybody feels that way about policing their own language.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


The "can I say dick then? Huh? How about cock? What? What? Huh? What?" people are the Internet equivalent of "I'm not touching you I'm not touching you oh my hands are real close but I'm not touching you so you can't do anything because I'm not touching you WAAAAHH HE HIT ME MOOOOMMM!!!!"
posted by Shepherd at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


Unamity=unanimity.
posted by WPW at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2008


I understand if people don't want to get into it here, but can someone link me to the previous discussion of why saying "cunt" is like saying "nigger" so that I can follow along? I grew up in a culture that was very cunt-positive, if ya know what I mean. If you don't, I mean, it was used a lot but it was used more like "shit" than like "kike."
posted by prefpara at 1:19 PM on July 9, 2008


More to the point, I guess my statement would be "If you knew that many Americans (and perhaps others) thought that the word cunt was on par with the terms kike/nigger/faggot in terms of being offensive, would you still be casually using it on MetaFilter?"

I do get the point here, but...from the cunt-using point of view, it's massively offensive that a word meaning 'vagina' is the most taboo thing one could say, or the most-hated word. It's hard not to hear a surge of deep-seated, societal misogyny when someone gets offended by it but not by calling someone a dick.

On preview, kind of retreading some of Ambrosia Voyeur's steps there.
posted by carbide at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Five years later, I'm still not really sure what 'cunt' means to Americans, or exactly how it causes that offence.

"Cunt" is gender specific word here. I don't think I've ever heard of an American calling a group of people or a man a "cunt." It's directed at women only and it's "bitch" times a thousand. That's my take on it anyway.

"Twat," however, is just a funny sounding and funny looking word to me. It's never had a gender specific meaning for me. I had been using it for years then someone pointed out it's real meaning to me. I was slightly embarassed for a while, but it's still just a funny souding word to me. Maybe I should blame Carlin for that.
posted by NoMich at 1:20 PM on July 9, 2008


I think "bucket of cunts" would be more appropos than "bucket of vaginas." It just rolls off the tongue so much more smoothly.

Me? I just always read it - no lie - with a British or Scottish accent. I've read more than my fair share of Irvine Welsh, and maybe somewhere I've just become inured to it (not to mention my line of work tends to be populated with people who can put stevedores to shame as far as swearing is concerned....). I got a chuckle out of the "twot vs twat-like-splat" comment earlier, because I - a lifelong NYer - read it as "twat-like-splat."

As far as cunt being as offensive as "nigger/kike/faggot"....really? Cmon, really? Get over it. It's a word, and not one that any history I'm aware of invests it with the same power as "nigger." One recalls hundreds of years of inhuman treatment, and the other is a somewhat nasty sounding epithet. I don't find it at all appealing to call even someone as borderline human and fascistic as Ann Coulter a cunt, but I don't mind a group of rich white assholes invading a traditionally middle to lower class area and who are attempting to fundamentally change long-lived customs being called cunts or twats. On the contrary, I think it quite fitting.
posted by nevercalm at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I call it cunt. I’ve reclaimed it, “cunt.” I really like it. “Cunt.” Listen to it. “Cunt.” C C. Ca Ca. Cavern, cackle, clit, cute, come-closed c-closed inside, inside ca-then u-then cu-then curvy, inviting sharkskin u-uniform, under, up, urge, ugh, ugh, u — then n then cun — snug letters fitting perfectly together — n — nest, now, nexus, nice, nice, always depth, always round in upper case, cun, cun-n a jagged wicked electrical pulse-n (high pitched noise) then soft n-warm n — cun, cun, then t — then sharp certain tangy t — texture, take, tent, tight, tantalizing, tensing, taste, tendrils, time, tactile, tell me, tell me “Cunt cunt,” say it, tell me “Cunt.” “Cunt.”

-from The Vagina Monologues
It's not my favorite term of endearment, but I don't consider it an offensive word unless there's genuine malicious intent behind it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I once visited a friend in college and stayed in her dorm room. As she, her roommates and I were all sitting on the floor chatting, one particularly hideous girl asked us all a question. Something about this girl horrified me. Maybe it was the inexplicable sweat. Maybe it was that she couldn't speak without shoving food in her crumb-bedecked maw or that her snacks always shared oral real estate with a stale lump of chewing gum. Possibly it was the intermittent picking of fungus-ridden toenails... I don't know. She was gross to the point of distraction.

"Hey! HEY! I gotta ask you guys something!" she blurted with the hoarse voice of someone who was probably the first to barf at every kegger. "Do you guys ever stick your fingers in your tw*t and smell 'em?"

So, every time someone says the t-word, I think of her. Culture be damned. I just want the nightmares to end.
posted by katillathehun at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


Context is everything. If my mind's ear hears a comment in a gorblimey sort of accent, "cunt" sounds tame and colorful. If I hear it in an edgy feminist way it sounds slightly forced but fine. If I hear it in a dumb guy voice, "cunt" sounds particularly nasty.

So I don't know. Somebody write a greasemonkey script that will attach a floating picture of a Union Jack or a white hat or a copy of the Vagina Monologues next to any occurance of the word cunt, so we are all sure we get the proper sense intended.
posted by dirtdirt at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


Argh, [swearword]. First paragraph quoted, in italics, other two by a moron who can't close tags.
posted by carbide at 1:22 PM on July 9, 2008


"As for 'twat', I really like the way (some?) Americans pronounce it 'twot'."

The British pronunciation (with a nod to regional variations, of course) of 'twăt' has always amused me


Me too, although it took me a while to realize that they (you) actually do pronounce it like that. And of course they (you) feel the same about us Yanks and our weird pronunciation. Language is fun. (Robert Browning, by the way, famously used the word thinking it meant an article of nun's clothing; see here.)
posted by languagehat at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Language would be worthless if there weren't extreme expletives. If you de-value one word, another will appear in its stead. In general, using swear words carelessly is simply boorish.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2008


I think possibly the English use of the C-word has been a little overstated - it's not like you'd go to tea with the Queen and say "Pass me the marmalade , you old cunt". Also, for whatever reason, twat is generally considered an order of magnitude less offensive.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Let me come at this from a different angle. I just found out that saying "untouchable" has become the equivalent to the n* word (no I'm not talking about Narnia) in India. I had a friend tell me that, and I didn't immediately assume he was jumping all over my shit, or even that he was particularly offended. I thanked him profusely, because I don't want to get my ass kicked someday by a bunch of Indian guys who think I'm disrespecting them. Friends tell each other when words they use are offensive. I'd like this thread to be in metafilter's community consciousness. It is not an appeal to authority or a petition drive or letter writing campaign. I'm not ever going to bring it up again, and had I found a previous thread on the subject in my search of meta I would not have brought it up in the first place. But I do want people to realize the terms are loaded.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


rtha writes 'The same is true for nigger, and faggot, and a few more.'

Absolutely - that's what I meant, that it's possible to use an offensive word in a non-offensive way, and it's wrong to say that a word is intrinsically 'full of hate'. (As an aside, I'm having trouble thinking of an example of 'faggot' being used in a neutral or positive way, unlike 'queer' or 'gay' - perhaps another transatlantic difference?)

I think the question is, what's okay here in MetaFilter?

Again, absolutely. As I said above, I don't direct the word 'cunt' at other users here, after doing so once to a male user and I don't think it's okay to do so, since the word is used in a different way and has a different meaning in the US, and it's a safe bet that the vast majority of people reading and making comments here are from the US. Using the word without addressing it at other users/folk under discussion seems relatively okay to me, though - correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by jack_mo at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2008


I do get the point here, but...from the cunt-using point of view, it's massively offensive that a word meaning 'vagina' is the most taboo thing one could say, or the most-hated word. It's hard not to hear a surge of deep-seated, societal misogyny when someone gets offended by it but not by calling someone a dick.

Again, there's a risk here of trying to apply logic or some simplified sort of semantics to something as complicated as taboo.

The word 'nigger' is right up there as—outside of specific cultural contexts—just about one of the most taboo things you can say in the US as well, but it's not because the word means "black person", any more than 'cunt' bothers people because it mean "vagina". And, in fact, if 'cunt' in the US had no connotation other than an anatomical "female genitalia", it wouldn't be taboo, just as 'black' isn't at this point, in general usage, anywhere comparable to 'nigger'.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's a word, and not one that any history I'm aware of invests it with the same power as "nigger."

Really? You don't know that there's a history of vaginas being associated with oppression, violence and slavery? There is. A long one.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2008 [23 favorites]


I find the word cunt to be about on par in offensiveness with words like kike or nigger, and phrases like "I'd like to break her jaw and hump her."

I'd just like to point out that your life is wrong. Try and rewind a li'l bit and try again. But thanks for taking part so far as we always will value your contributions & input.

But generally, I'll use the c-word enough when it's appropriate in conversation with friends but I'm not sure it's worth using too much round here. 'Merkins get antsy when it's not 'merkin-related.

(I recall a thread about GWB using the word 'Pakis' for people from Pakistan which is a highly offensive racial slur in the UK but various Bostonites thought he was talking about picking up some booze from a liquor store. Go figure, as you say...)
posted by i_cola at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, FWIW, I’ll saw twat whenever I feel like it. Apologies to the feint hearted, but I’m sure it can be no more hostile and irritating than I find posts of the “OMG minor grammar error on the site with no editing!” kind.
posted by Artw at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Obligatory reference to Joan Larkin's "Vagina Sonnet.")
posted by languagehat at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2008


Metatalk: I'd just like to point out that your life is wrong.

Jeez, that's a really bastardly thing to say to someone, i_cola.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:32 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


As an aside, I'm having trouble thinking of an example of 'faggot' being used in a neutral or positive way, unlike 'queer' or 'gay' - perhaps another transatlantic difference?

For a long time, Dan Savage's letters opened with the salutation, "Hey faggot".
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uh, AV... A cunt is a small, usually hidden part of a person. N-----s and k---s are entire persons. There is a difference.

Anyone responding to a sighting of the word with the notion that it's only ever used with vitriol, and/or exclusively against women ought to take their blinders off, turn their brain on, and realize that the instance they're currently seeing might not be vitriolic and might not be directed at a female.

Finally, the feminine naughty bits have many nicknames, some of which are often used as insults, mostly against men. Implicit misogyny? Perhaps. Explicit misandry? Totally. Then consider that the male genitalia have many more nicknames, nearly all of which can be used as insults, again, against men. Misogyny? Oh hell no.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess my POV boils down to this: stop implicitly slagging vaginas by comparing rotten shitfolk to them. Which, you know, I've said before.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


i_cola, pudd'n, you ain't makin' no sense.
posted by katillathehun at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2008


So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?
posted by xod at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uh, AV... A cunt is a small, usually hidden part of a person. N-----s and k---s are entire persons. There is a difference.

Defining a person in terms of your exploitation of that small part as, essentially, the whole of their net worth is one of the connotations of the charged use that people object to. Part of the difficulty with talking about 'cunt' is that it can't be treated, in a cross-cultural discussion, solely in terms of either the least offense or the most offensive meanings.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


Whinging Pom.
posted by languagehat at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2008


As someone constantly on the verge of a profanity-laced rant, I reserve the right to use the full armamentarium of obscene English to get my (poorly thought-out, well-nigh incomprehensible) point across. That said, there are words that I choose not to use because they make me personally uncomfortable. That others choose to do so is fine -- that's what free speech means. I expect to be offended or dismayed because I expect to offend or dismay someone else in turn.

What I have sensed, though, is that my reliance on profanity to get my point across marks me as precisely the kind of hayseed I've tried not to be. But that's my problem, not MetaFilter's.

The unfettered language I encounter here and the discussion about that language has been illuminating and has altered my casual speech patterns. I no longer toss around the words "fag" and "retard" as blithely as I once did. No, I don't expect a medal for that, and I'm sorry I used the words pejoratively in the first place, but hey, there it is. You make mistakes, you correct your mistakes, you learn to make bigger and better mistakes.

"Cunt" is an ugly word. It is a bludgeon. At least that's how it sounds to me. But I'm more interested in the discussion around the word than the word itself.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Er, that was in response to xod.
posted by languagehat at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2008


Uh, AV... A cunt is a small, usually hidden part of a person. N-----s and k---s are entire persons. There is a difference.

Are you serious? When the word cunt is used to slam a woman, not to refer to her genitals specifically, it's the ENTIRE woman who's being put in her place, by reducing her to nothing more than her dirty, taboo CUNT.

And also? When the words referring to womenly parts are used as an insult to men, why do you think they're insulting? Because they're calling men WOMEN!

Argh!
posted by Stewriffic at 1:41 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


There are those of us who want our nice "pussy" substitute back.

You can have it back when I'm done with it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:41 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Thanks, languagehat. Whinging Pom. I like it. What's a Pom?
posted by xod at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2008


I c*nt stop saying twat.

I really hate it when people put asterisks in words like the above. Just spell the damn word.

As for the cunt, twat issue, use it if you think you must. Just realize that you may be offending some people and thus discouraging them from listening to what you're saying. If you're ok with that, fine.

Also, telling that shouldn't be offended and you'll use whatever damn word you want makes you look like a prick.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2008


BTW, you knew this would be utterly counterproductive when you started, right?
posted by Artw at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2008


I recall a thread about GWB using the word 'Pakis' for people from Pakistan which is a highly offensive racial slur in the UK but various Bostonites thought he was talking about picking up some booze from a liquor store. Go figure, as you say...

Here you go
posted by smackfu at 1:43 PM on July 9, 2008


BTW, you knew this would be utterly counterproductive when you started, right?

Oh, it needn't be. I don't think it even has been, so far. It'll probably be pretty noisy, but a good hashing out of some of this stuff now and then seems like a healthy move.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2008


Nevercalm, except that nigger has been partially reclaimed into the black and pop culture vernacular. Which to my mind makes it a lot less loaded than it was in the 1970s. It's all context however. When I speak of offensiveness, I'm meaning gut reaction to the word before context comes into it. Words alone mean nothing, but the hateful intent with which they are used are what you remember when you hear them again, especially in the case of words that you never hear without hateful intent.

The last couple of times I heard racial epithets used with hateful intent were when a guy said he was going to get some gooks to butcher his deer for him, and another time when a guy in 7-11 called the Sikh behind the counter a sand nigger. Both times I kind of wanted to hit the guy, but the first time the guy had a gun on his hip, and the second time I was on camera (and the guy looked tougher than me). However, I've heard "nigger please" like a million times since without any kind of hate attached. Cunt in print or British indie film, not a big deal. But in an American accent? I've almost never heard it without some horrible hate filled context like the time my college roomate's girlfriend broke up with him and he got drunk for two weeks straight and kept talking about flying out and killing her dog, slashing her car tires and destroying all her clothes. (he didn't)
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2008


It's a word, and not one that any history I'm aware of invests it with the same power as "nigger."

Really? You don't know that there's a history of vaginas being associated with oppression, violence and slavery? There is. A long one.


Yeah, with my long history in the northeast and attending liberal schools, being fairly far-left, the whole nine, I think I may have heard something about that. Maybe a few times, even.

I'm not looking to get in a battle here, but when I think "nigger," I think of white cops with dogs attacking innocent black men just walking down the street, and of those cops saying something to the effect of "Nigger, you should have stayed home." Or of slave-owning men saying it to a terrified black man with a bit in his mouth and whose family has been sold part and parcel. You know, millions of actual concrete occurrences over hundreds of years, being pretty much the preeminent word to use when referring to black men in the USA from like 1600 (? Languagehat??) to....choose a date....1968? 2008? Take your pick.

I am unaware of any pattern of usage that would be analogous re:cunt or twat. Which was my fairly clearly stated point.

Are women oppressed in this country? Of course, even today. And all over the world. But...as I said, I'd like to be shown how "cunt" can be talked about as even on the same plane as "nigger." Or "kike," which has a similar history. "Faggot" I'm seeing my gay friends take back on a fairly daily basis, like my black friends seem to have taken back "nigger." But you better be gay or black (respectively) when you say them. I'd think, in the context of it being used as an epithet, that "bitch" should be far more radioactive.

Thanks, tho.
posted by nevercalm at 1:48 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


ArtW, I knew it would be contentious, I actually expected a lot more vitriol. This is a much better result than I expected.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:49 PM on July 9, 2008


I could murder a pint.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:49 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just so long as you know the answer is "no", and always will be.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on July 9, 2008




Brandon, that particular asterisk was used more to preserve the cunt/cant pun than anything. Also to keep the word off of the RSS feed. After more inside I stopped bowdlerizing.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2008


Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?

If not, your use of the word seems dangerously close to Internet Tough Guy syndrome: you're only edgy and rebellious on your keyboard.

Look, I'm all for creative use of language. I plan to teach my daughter that sometimes a curse word or off-color word is quite appropriate, and that if you're artful about it, you can get away with saying all kinds of stuff.

But we've had more than one lengthy discussion on the grey about boyzone, with many respected female members of the site pleading for a toning down and reminders from wise people of all genders that we should all strive to be more conscious of our speech and its impact on others, so I don't understand the flippancy and the disingenuous "it's just a word" stuff. In the beginning was the Word -- so obviously words are very important and not just funny sounds or interesting assemblies of lines on pages and screens.

Please, just try a little bit harder, that's all I'm asking.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


MONTY, YOU TERRIBLE CUNT.
posted by fire&wings at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


nevercalm, I don't think you really need a long history behind the use of a slur for it to recall the entire painful history of the oppression it represents, and for it to register as deeply offensive. I'm hard-pressed to think of any freshly coined slurs, here.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:56 PM on July 9, 2008


I think it is sweet when you septics occasionally remember your puritan roots.
posted by zemblamatic at 1:57 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Preview is a pretty useful thing....

I addressed that "nigger" is being reclaimed, but walk (as a white guy) into the neighborhood that generated this whole discussion and call someone a nigger, and see how fast you become part of the sidewalk.

Yes, context is everything. I don't necessarily like calling women cunts (because I know how angry a word it is, or can be) but I think that calling rich white men "cunts" or "twats" and calling a group of drummers in the park they're trying to evict "niggers" is not even remotely on equal footing. Consider "those cunts are trying to get those niggers out of the park" vs "those cunts are trying to get those drummers out of the park."

And again, I think the whole thing is colored by my reading of a decent amount of literature where the word just isn't that bad, and nowhere near as loaded as some of what Jessamyn invoked.

Also, "Jessamyn" registers as a misspelling as I type this. Is that a Firefox thing or a Metafilter thing? Bad, bad...
posted by nevercalm at 1:58 PM on July 9, 2008


I think the use of the superscript can help us all here.

"Wow, did you see what that cuntUK just did?" is no need for offense, but if someone says "I bet you didn't even read the link you stupid cuntUS," then you know they are a misogynist. Similarly, it OK to say "These niggersI'm black are always hanging around my apartment," but if you say "We should round up the niggersbigot and shoot them," then that person should probably be warned, and then banned if a repeat offender. "Faggotsqueer power! know how to party," can make us all beam with pride at our wonderful inclusive community, while "I don't like those faggotshomophobe," marks the poster as one to be shunned.

If we'd all follow these simple steps MetaFilter could become a much better place. This time it can be different.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2008 [47 favorites]


yeh and fanny means bum apparently. How offensive to women is that?
posted by bonaldi at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, yes but what about the triple-cunted hooker?
posted by Skorgu at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2008


cortex wrote: As an aside, I'm having trouble thinking of an example of 'faggot' being used in a neutral or positive way, unlike 'queer' or 'gay' - perhaps another transatlantic difference?

For a long time, Dan Savage's letters opened with the salutation, "Hey faggot".


I have no idea who he is. A queer, I'll wager? That last sentence raises an interesting point - I have no idea whether people will read it as suggesting that I'm a homophobe or gay or neither. Whereas I'm probably recognisably British online, so folk are more likely to cut me slack where 'cunt' is concerned.

xod writes 'So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?'

I honestly can't think of one, but 'cunt' would certainly do it in polite/elderly company. If I said it in front of my Nan she'd beat me to death with her walking sticks.

Stewriffic writes 'And also? When the words referring to womenly parts are used as an insult to men, why do you think they're insulting? Because they're calling men WOMEN! '

Is this true? I'm not sure it is, in anything other than what you might call a residual sense. Does calling someone a 'stupid fuck/cock/shit' carry any implication that you're comparing them to sex/penis/excreta? It seems that the words have power, or whatever you want to call it, as a result of their original negative meanings, but now they're just pretty much angry noises of varying degrees. (Obviously this doesn't hold true if you're directly calling a woman a cunt, but still...)

lord_wolf writes 'Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?'

If we were at a meetup in Glasgow, I wouldn't think twice until they gasped in shock (which I kind of doubt those particular users would?). At a meetup in the US, I wouldn't use the word at all. Which seems to be the point - on MetaFilter, we're pretty much in the virtual US, so it seems civil to avoid directing the word at other users.
posted by jack_mo at 2:01 PM on July 9, 2008


Firefox thing. MeFi doesn't have its own spellcheck anymore. Hasn't for a long time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2008


ArtW, What answer? There isn't a question on the table as far as I know.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2008


As jack_mo mentioned up-thread when people from Scotland go down south there is often a need to decuntify speech. I understand that it means different things in different places and will modify my language accordingly.

Whether people on MeFi accept it or not, it is as common in some circles as 'shite' or 'wanker'- it is on that level of non-offensiveness to a sizeable proportion of the urban population of the UK. There is also the interesting thing that some people will call someone 'a sound cunt' meaning that they are a decent or good person so where that fits into the narrow American definition of the word, fuck knows. This exists far beyond the pages of an Irvine Welsh novel. It exists across all social classes and situations. I have heard both men and women use it with impunity.

I am sure that in past comments on MeFi I have used it in a throwaway manner. I would probably be less likely to do so in the future if it is considered to be so offensive by others. For context, if you look at a big predominantly British community on the web, such as b3ta, you will see it everywhere. In many parts of the UK, the word is not a big deal.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


zemblamatic writes 'I think it is sweet when you septics occasionally remember your puritan roots.'

COLONIALIST!
posted by jack_mo at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2008


Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?

Depends what kind of conversation it was, TBH. I'd absolutely use the word 'twat' in person when in casual conversation with people I didn't suspect of having a stick up their arse.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


From Cunt: A Declaration of Independence:
On the choice occasions popes and politicians directly refer to female genitalia, the term "vagina" is discreetly engaged.

If you will be so kind, say "vagina" out loud a few times. Strip away the meaning and listen solely to the sound. It resonates from the roof of your mouth.

A "vagina" could be an economy car..the Chrysler Vagina!"

Or a rodent: "Next on Prairie Safari, you'll see a wily little silver-tailed vagina outwit a voracious pair of ospreys."

Say "cunt" out loud, again stripping away the meaning. The word resonates from the depths of your gut. It sounds like something you definitely don't want to tangle with in a drunken brawl in a dark alley.

A "cunt" could be a serious weather condition: "Next on Nightline, an exclusive report on the devastation in Kansas when last night's thunder cunt, with winds exceeding 122 miles an hour, ripped through the state."
posted by ahughey at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What if we had an application and review process for the usage? Like, you'd have to plan ahead for deploying the word, but then at least we'd know it was all on the level.
posted by everichon at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2008


Ambrosia Voyeur, reasonably freshly coined slur: "breeder". I particularly hate it when I get called that, but mostly because I got a vasectomy in my early twenties.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:05 PM on July 9, 2008


Now that I think of it, the term "drum circle" is pretty damned offensive, too. (I'd hit it - rythmically.)Favorites whore
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


xod: "So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

Shower?

I find it interesting that, on the whole, Americans* tend to expect people to use language with a view to respecting the cultural sensitivities of Americans, while those of other nationalities tend to be happy for people to use the language that would be appropriate in the country the speaker/writer lives and accept that some parts of that language would be inappropriate if they were to use them.

*I would like to write this so that I wasn't referring to specific American people, many of whom I like, but the people of America as a homogenous group. Just pretend I have the language skills to do that, would you? Please?
posted by dg at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]



Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?

Depends what kind of conversation it was, TBH. I'd absolutely use the word 'twat' in person when in casual conversation with people I didn't suspect of having a stick up their arse.


I've used "cunt" the same way. But only if they didn't have a stick up their fanny. Or arse. Ass, sorry. Whatever.
posted by nevercalm at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2008


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word"

No word, just act like the world should be arranged for your convenience.
posted by Artw at 2:08 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


ArtW, What answer? There isn't a question on the table as far as I know.

Well just so long as you're making no requests I guess we'll have no problem.
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on July 9, 2008


Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?

Well, kind of the point of this conversation is there are different uses among different cultures. If one's culture didn't find the use of the word cunt to be particularly offensive, it seems like one might use it without realizing the implications for other people who might be offended.
I don't see it so much as a real life vs. internet thing at all.

If not, your use of the word seems dangerously close to Internet Tough Guy syndrome: you're only edgy and rebellious on your keyboard.


It's weird to me that you think only men use the word cunt on the internet, and for only the reason that they want to appear edgy and tough. It's also sort of weird to me that some people would only avoid using it because they want certain girls to like them. If you're the kind of person who uses the word as misogynistic slur, that doesn't change just because girls can't hear you.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2008


If we were at a meetup in Glasgow, I wouldn't think twice until they gasped in shock (which I kind of doubt those particular users would?). At a meetup in the US, I wouldn't use the word at all. Which seems to be the point - on MetaFilter, we're pretty much in the virtual US, so it seems civil to avoid directing the word at other users.

I have probably used it overmuch in America then, oblivious to the offence being caused.

I also don't see how "cunting" as in a "cunting mess he's made of this" would fit into the uber-narrow US interpretation either.
posted by bonaldi at 2:12 PM on July 9, 2008



But we've had more than one lengthy discussion on the grey about boyzone, with many respected female members of the site pleading for a toning down and reminders from wise people of all genders that we should all strive to be more conscious of our speech and its impact on others, so I don't understand the flippancy and the disingenuous "it's just a word" stuff.


Repeated for emphasis. Many people in this thread seem to be confusing the use of these terms in a comic sense with their haphazard or casual use. This isn't a discussion about gender equality or parity. Calling a woman a 'c---' is astronomically more offensive than calling a man a 'dick'. The reason for this is that our culture felt the need to invent ways to massively offend women solely for being women but felt no need to invent a similar insult for men.

Having said this, I have to admit that I've used the C word in one comment on metatalk that I can remember, and I used it deliberately in a humorous and shocking context and when it was obvious that the term was being directed at men. In my opinion, to do this robs the word of its power.

But truth be told I regret even using it there. It was a sloppy bomb-throw because I lacked confidence in the rest of my comment being able to get the point across in the way I wanted, and if I could edit the comment, I'd remove the word and replace it with something else. But truth be told I've never actually uttered the c- word in real life.

So I'm on the side of saying that at least in American culture, the term has no place and no acceptable use, and I for one won't be using it or it's T-cousin anymore.

And for the "it's just a word" crowd. They are all words. Like "I love you" or "I hate you". The point of words is to communicate something. What does c- communicate?
posted by Pastabagel at 2:12 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


but walk (as a white guy) into the neighborhood that generated this whole discussion and call someone a nigger, and see how fast you become part of the sidewalk.

This reminds me of a funny story when a white friend of mine was walking through East Palo Alto and pointed out a raccoon to his girlfriend while shouting out coon. He had to talk fast after that to avoid a beatdown. Eh, guess you had to be there.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2008


Five years later, I'm still not really sure what 'cunt' means to Americans, or exactly how it causes that offence.

It means "vagina"--in the sense that "I think that women are bad and this thing I am describing is as bad as women."

Now do you see why people take offense at the word?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]



zemblamatic writes 'I think it is sweet when you septics occasionally remember your puritan roots.'

COLONIALIST!


COLONIST!
posted by yeti at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"
Dentist.

You can argue semantics and feminist critique all you want here, but the truth of it is that the word isn't as offensive to us Brits as it is to you Yanks. It hasn't the same anti-female connotations as it does stateside. It's a strong word and one which is only pulled out on special occasions, but for most people, it's one of a series of genitalia based insults.

Anyway - In the spirit of entente-cordiale, I'll do you a deal. I'll try not to say it if you try not to get overly upset if I accidentally do say it.

Also, If it's good enough for Jarvis...
posted by seanyboy at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


BTW, I don't care if or how people use the word(s). What they're actually getting at is pretty obvious from their general tone, and I'm perfectly fine with people outing themselves as Scottish, or jerky, or feminist, or whatever. I just modulate how and if I respond to them. It's much better for my state of mind than to get automatically ruffled every time the word cunt shows up.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:16 PM on July 9, 2008


from here:

Pussy can be used as a noun that labels another person as weak or timid. Attacking another guy’s manhood by calling him a pussy is extremely offensive and completely inappropriate. More and more is “pussy” falling under this definition, and the label of a pussy is a direct shot to his testosterone. In this case, the word takes on the same meaning as the word “chicken,” except it is far more vulgar. Although the definitions of pussy are defined in terms of gender, they don’t necessarily have to be. In this case, a rare instance can occur where a woman is called a pussy in terms of her cowardly actions.

Basically, calling a man a pussy is saying he doesn't conform to what's being seen as positive qualities of stereotypical male characteristics--strength and courage. Rather, a pussy is a man who exhibits the negative, female-linked stereotype of being weak and docile.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


ClanvidHorse writes 'There is also the interesting thing that some people will call someone "a sound cunt" meaning that they are a decent or good person so where that fits into the narrow American definition of the word, fuck knows.'

That sense and 'daft cunt' for someone faintly annoying are the uses I've picked up from living in Scotland. A bit like 'the dog's bollocks' meaning something good in the South of England, I suppose. Do people do that in the US? 'That lady is a great wang!'.

dg writes 'Shower?'

As in 'shower of cunts'? Another good Scottishism.

bonaldi writes 'I also don't see how "cunting" as in a "cunting mess he's made of this" would fit into the uber-narrow US interpretation either.'

I think the lesson here is that we're better than Americans at swearing. (Although 'motherfucker' is pretty good. And 'shiiiiiiiiiiit' like they say on The Wire.)
posted by jack_mo at 2:17 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


jack_mo - I quite like it when they pronounce "bitch" as "bee-hatch".
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2008


Would any of the people who are "edgy" or casual about using cunt and twat use them if the discussion had taken place in real life and jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero and other female members of mefi that you liked/wanted to like you were present?

I'd be more likely to use the word in spoken conversation than to write it in MetaFilter for the reason that is less likely to be misconstrued. If I was talking to jessamyn, ThePinkSuperhero et al., they would know how British and inoffensive I am, and interpret my language accordingly. They'd have the sense to interpret the words I use in the context of it being me using them. I'd be twatting and cunting away and leave them thinking "who is this charming English gentleman?" On Metafilter, however, my words stand alone and are bound to be interpreted in the context of how the reader uses that vocabulary. If I use the same language that I do in spoken language, I'd come across less favourably, because people bring there own baggage and attach it to my words in a way that does not happen with the spoken word.
In fact, I'm probably not careful enough with this kind of thing, so whilst people who know me in real life think I'm a nice chap, I'm sure Metafilter thinks I'm a bit of a dick.
posted by nowonmai at 2:21 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth : BTW. We understand the whole "I think that women are bad and this thing I am describing is as bad as women." argument just fine. You're not explaining anything new there at all. Fact is that a whole bunch of women based words are used as insults. If you stopped bitching and stopped acting like a washer-woman, then you'd realise that the word is bad to you because culturally, you've been taught that it's a bad word. For me, not so much. This doesn't mean I don't understand the whole "words have power" concept. It just means I'm less upset by that particular word.
posted by seanyboy at 2:22 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


yeh and fanny means bum apparently. How offensive to women is that?


Yes "fanny" is unisex on this side of the pond.

So far, I've made six trips to the British isles, I've read and seen plently of British/Irish books and movies...I have NEVER heard or read "You fanny!" the way one would hear "You cunt/twat!" in the states.
posted by brujita at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2008


In the U.K., they call it "Twatter" and it ain't nuthin but a thang.

"If flagging is for pulling comments"

Careful, this means something else in the UK.
posted by Eideteker at 2:24 PM on July 9, 2008


Don't make me start with the Clawfinger lyrics.
posted by Artw at 2:24 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


A bit like 'the dog's bollocks' meaning something good in the South of England, I suppose. Do people do that in the US? 'That lady is a great wang!'.

I can think of plenty of examples of positive ("s/he's got some balls") and negative ("grow a pair") uses for testicles-as-metaphor, but I'm coming up blank for positive cock and vagina comparisons off the top of my head.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:24 PM on July 9, 2008


Jack_mo, take that back you baby sodomizing, mother fisting, tardfucking, anal pustule or I might have to break out the mildly offensive stuff.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:25 PM on July 9, 2008


Note: none of my comments or sentiments are directed towards UK mefites. I totally understand that the words under discussion have different meanings and impact in your society. I've read my Welsh, Ennis, etc.

I'd absolutely use the word 'twat' in person when in casual conversation with people I didn't suspect of having a stick up their arse.

Well, you're hardcore. I live in the US, and in real life , I know of no male held in high esteem by women who tosses words like "twat" about casually in conversations with them. "Cunt" is right out.

It's weird to me that you think only men use the word cunt on the internet, and for only the reason that they want to appear edgy and tough.

Well, again, given that we've had discussions about boyzone before and I was speaking specifically about that thread, I'd be mighty surprised if it were the case that female members of Mefi were throwing the words around in that conversation. If there were women using the words "twat" and "cunt" in the thread that inspired this MeTa, I'd love to know of it.

But, man...I don't understand why this is so difficult . I can totally see why thehmsbeagle and others often throw their hands up and walk away after boyzone discussions.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2008


"...it's not like you'd go to tea with the Queen and say "Pass me the marmalade , you old cunt"

Of course not. I don't even like marmalade.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

Bush.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Artw, I've not really seen bee-hatch, bee-atch or bee-otch sometimes, but bee-hatch, not so much.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2008


Yankzone.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


"...it's not like you'd go to tea with the Queen and say "Pass me the marmalade , you old cunt"

Of course not. She's got servants for that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:29 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes "fanny" is unisex on this side of the pond.

But it means something else in Australia, right? Particularly when used in the phrase "Rootin' around in her fanny pack".

But, man...I don't understand why this is so difficult . I can totally see why thehmsbeagle and others often throw their hands up and walk away after boyzone discussions.

Don't do it man, it's not worth it!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:30 PM on July 9, 2008


But, man...I don't understand why this is so difficult . I can totally see why thehmsbeagle and others often throw their hands up and walk away after boyzone discussions.

Yup.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2008


This reminds me of a funny story when a white friend of mine was walking through East Palo Alto and pointed out a raccoon to his girlfriend while shouting out coon. He had to talk fast after that to avoid a beatdown. Eh, guess you had to be there.

My husband and I were taking the subway home from rehearsal one night when I brought up the possibility of hanging curtains upstage to create a backstage area. In theatre, curtains are called "blacks". So there I was on the subway, loudly discussing whether or not we should "hang some blacks". Took me a minute to figure out why the woman across from me was looking at me funny.
posted by Evangeline at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


Ahem.

I said YANKZONE. The conversation is over. Anyone who disagrees with me should feel very ashamed NOW.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


We should all strive to be citizens of the world. But you can't be too concerned about offending this cunt or that cunt, or else you'll sound like a twat.

"Leave literal cunt alone!"
So should we not pull back the literal hood? I don't want to overstimulate anyone.
posted by Eideteker at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to delve into the sociopolitical etymologies of the word in question, nor do I want to focus on which user(s) said what, but I want to say this about censorship:

One of the values of a permissive, low or no censorship communication environment is that people will reveal themselves and their values - and this is a benefit and not a hazard. Free speech is very much a double-edged sword - but in the end all it does is reveal who each of us are.

That's the thing about communication. You can't actually "unpublish" things. You can't really "unsay" things. It's been said. Erasing it only protects a few people from being "offended" - people who should probably learn how to deal with being offended in a more constructive manner than resorting to censorship - which as simply outlined above is a fool's errand and the worst, laziest psychological sinecure and bandaid. The thought still exists, it's been said, people will remember that it was said long after it was erased.

Let fools hang themselves. It makes it easier to keep mean or stupid bastards out of your life.

You're offended be some fool's bigotry? Who cares!? Be offended! You'll get over it - and in the meantime you've learned more about your social environment, information that can be useful to you. If you're surprised or concerned about the person who offended you - talk to them! Use your own free speech. Don't eliminate theirs.

So, you use your own free speech to help convince others that you do indeed find it hurtful. Those that get it will get it. The rest you ignore.
posted by loquacious at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jack_mo, take that back you baby sodomizing, mother fisting, tardfucking, anal pustule or I might have to break out the mildly offensive stuff.
That's not mildly offensive. The Profanisaurus is mildly offensive. :)

I have NEVER heard or read "You fanny!" the way one would hear "You cunt/twat!" in the states.
I hear people getting called a fanny all the time, but again it's not gendered.
posted by bonaldi at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


A few weeks ago, I was innocently telling my (British) boss how excited I was to watch some movies over the weekend that I had rented, especially Fanny and Alexander.

He almost choked on his tongue.

Hey, sometimes I forget too.
posted by triggerfinger at 2:36 PM on July 9, 2008


When dissing someone for inferiority, the go-to comparisons are
-effeminacy (pussy, faggot [which comes from a word for an old woman, itself], bitch, cunt)
-stupidity (moron, retard, idiot)
-other inborn inferiority (nigger, other ethnic slurs)

Calling someone a dick or a cock, on the other hand, usually speaks to their arrogance, inconsideration of others, meanness, or recklessness, doesn't it? unless it's modified, like "stupid dick" means arrogant+stupid=foolish.

I think the use of the gender-based terms as insults pretty closely aligns with a masculine-dominant power structure. Dicks= too much power, Pussies=too little. Language that reinforces this women=weakness tradition is bothersome to me. Pussies are strong, my sistas!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2008 [7 favorites]


that particular asterisk was used more to preserve the cunt/cant pun than anything. Also to keep the word off of the RSS feed.

Your perfectly sane explanation does nothing to ease the intense loathing I have for that convention.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


My husband and I were taking the subway home from rehearsal one night when I brought up the possibility of hanging curtains upstage to create a backstage area. In theatre, curtains are called "blacks". So there I was on the subway, loudly discussing whether or not we should "hang some blacks". Took me a minute to figure out why the woman across from me was looking at me funny.

That's awesome! I have a similar one, only a bit worse....I work occasionally in a studio where they tape a very political black talk show. It looks like Charlie Rose, nothing but a table with blacks all around.

So the host was hanging out and shooting the shit with his guests after taping, talking to some fairly prominent black leaders. We had to strike the blacks and set up for the next morning. The head walked onstage, clapped his hands together and said - totally without thinking - "Alright, let's get these blacks outta here and set up for tomorrow."

Talk about awkward pauses......
posted by nevercalm at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, it upsets me to see it, very much so. I find it hateful and repulsive.

Obviously, I am not alone. A lot of people find it hurtful and derogatory. I think that if a significant number of people flag comments that contain it as offensive or sexist, that those comments should be treated as offensive and sexist. We have a unique community that is not tied to any one locality, and our community standards are not tied to any one locality. Instead, they are derived from several local traditions and I think it's important to respect those traditions. There are certain slurs that are not offensive in the US that read as bigoted and hateful elsewhere, and I would hope that we would, as a community, avoid using those words as well, to the best of our ability.


As for reclaiming the word cunt, I wholeheartedly agree with women doing so in an explicitly female-positive context where everyone knows what's going on.

I don't think a man using it on a message board to insult someone will do much to reclaim it as a positive word.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:46 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


brujita writes 'So far, I've made six trips to the British isles, I've read and seen plently of British/Irish books and movies...I have NEVER heard or read "You fanny!" the way one would hear "You cunt/twat!" in the states.'

What?! It's used all the time. Usually in a kind of exasperated way, and nowhere near as strong as twat/cunt.

BrotherCaine wrote: Jack_mo, take that back you baby sodomizing, mother fisting, tardfucking, anal pustule or I might have to break out the mildly offensive stuff.

I'll burn you with my fuck, you pribbling, khazi-licking pignut of a limp-cartso feele-fucker. I always find it best to combine those three cornerstones of British culture: Whitehouse lyrics, Polari and Elizabethan slurs.
posted by jack_mo at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


... faggot [which comes from a word for an old woman, itself]...

It's also a delicious meatball made from offal! Hey, when life gives you lemons...
posted by Evangeline at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2008


When there are names to be called, I prefer the term Jive Turkey.

It used to be more popular, but I think it can make a comeback.
posted by stubby phillips at 2:53 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]




"Absolutely - that's what I meant, that it's possible to use an offensive word in a non-offensive way, and it's wrong to say that a word is intrinsically 'full of hate'. (As an aside, I'm having trouble thinking of an example of 'faggot' being used in a neutral or positive way, unlike 'queer' or 'gay' - perhaps another transatlantic difference?)"

Heh. This reminds me of a childhood memory. Here comes a tangent...

The Camp Fire Girls organization (nowadays, just Camp Fire, and not just girls) used to have ranks (heck, maybe they still do) that you would earn while a member. When inducted into the Wood Gatherer's rank, a poem was recited:

As fagots are brought from the forest
Firmly held by the sinews which bind them,
So cleave to these others, your sisters,
Wherever, whenever you find them.
Be strong as the fagots are sturdy,
Be pure in your deepest desire;
Be true to the truth that is in you;
And--follow the Law of the Fire.
(1913 version.)

By the time I was in Camp Fire Girls in the 70s, it had changed to:

As branches are brought from the forest
Firmly held by the sinews which bind them,
I will cleave to my Camp Fire sisters
Wherever, whenever I find them...

But our Camp Fire leader did not like the 1970s version of Camp Fire Girls (mostly, I think, because all of the awards (beads) you could earn for religious stuff had been removed), so she got all of us the 1960s version of the Camp Fire Handbook, and we used that instead. And that one still had the "fagots" version of the poem, which made us giggle. Though I'm not entirely sure any of us actually knew why. We memorized that version, though, and I still know it to this day.

Oh, I see that there is actually a modernized version of this poem:

As firewood is brought from the forest
for the warmth and clear light to blaze skyward,
I will reach with my Camp Fire friends
for the heights that I know are within us.
I will strive to grow strong like the pine tree;
to be pure in my deepest desire,
to be true to the truth that is in me, and
to follow the law of Camp Fire.

I know this isn't really what you were asking about, but I thought it was interesting. The word "fagot" meaning a bundle of sticks is pretty much extinct in the US; the slur is all that remains, though some have tried to reclaim it.
posted by litlnemo at 2:57 PM on July 9, 2008


Ambrosia Voyeur:

I've always understood 'knob' and 'bell-end' to be points on the stupidity, not meanness/arrogance/power-abusing, spectrum. Perhaps that's just me.
posted by CKmtl at 2:59 PM on July 9, 2008


The British pronunciation (with a nod to regional variations, of course) of 'twăt' has always amused me because of its similarity to 'splat'. Sort of onomatopoeic.

I can definitely tell that the British wrote the material for Grand Theft Auto over the years, by the distinctively, if subtly flavored word-play that they use in their advertisements, product and store names, and other phrases strewn throughout the game. While the game might be about America, it is definitely written from an UKer's POV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:00 PM on July 9, 2008


Easiest way to put down abuse of this terrible term? Cunt Smasher. (STANDARDIZED GERALDO WARNING: Not Safe For Eyes)
posted by carsonb at 3:02 PM on July 9, 2008


Jack_mo, I'm laughing right now, so I guess you won. I'll concede later after I have time to look those terms up. Back to work.

Brandon, since I share that loathing for bowdlerizing, albeit to a lesser extent, please accept my apology. Although I'll carve out an exception for using it ironically with the word anus.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:02 PM on July 9, 2008


How do we feel about "quim"?
posted by nanojath at 3:04 PM on July 9, 2008


And I will add -- I'm female and American, and the words "cunt" and "twat" don't offend me in the slightest unless they are clearly spoken with hateful, misogynist intent. Which is all a matter of context, really. But I am aware that I am an outlier on this, and some of it probably comes from reading so much British English that I am no longer sensitized to these words.

(I also read the LSG group on Ravelry, and that is no place for the timid.)
posted by litlnemo at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


How do we feel about "quim"?

Thumbs up?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:09 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Language that reinforces this women=weakness tradition is bothersome to me. Pussies are strong, my sistas!

Americans! If upon visiting the UK you hear someone described as a hard cunt it means that they are somewhat soft and effeminate, and should you feel safe insulting them or challenging them to a fight.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I knew a Scot who used to use "cunny" as a mild epithet. When he said it, it often sounded like "can nae," which made it more amusing—"cun-nae do it," etc. I don't have any real point aside from the fact that his accent made a lot of what he said sound like absolute gibberish, so I think people ignored most things he said.
posted by klangklangston at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2008


I've always understood 'knob' and 'bell-end' to be points on the stupidity, not meanness/arrogance/power-abusing, spectrum.

Ckmtl, I'd have to agree with you on "knob," whih I think of as sort of a person that sticks out and goes "bonk" on things, but where's the bell-end?! Are my men missing parts?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2008


How do we feel about "quim"?

Thumbs up?


He's great on crosses though his distribution could be improved.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:15 PM on July 9, 2008


Again, there's a risk here of trying to apply logic or some simplified sort of semantics to something as complicated as taboo.

The word 'nigger' is right up there as—outside of specific cultural contexts—just about one of the most taboo things you can say in the US as well, but it's not because the word means "black person", any more than 'cunt' bothers people because it mean "vagina". And, in fact, if 'cunt' in the US had no connotation other than an anatomical "female genitalia", it wouldn't be taboo, just as 'black' isn't at this point, in general usage, anywhere comparable to 'nigger'.


I can't help but think that there's a difference in 'nigger' being used by a large group of people in power (socially/economically, rather than just politically) and, well, 'cunt' just not being used in such a widespread manner. Probably because 'woman' did the job well enough.

It's the out-and-out revulsion surrounding the word that gets me, not some kind of theoretical quest for gender equity in swearing, but I'm coming from a context of cunting liberally (although with caution when at work or not among friends), and realise there's cultural differences (as with 'retarded', which I can't believe even moderately enlightened people use). 'Cunt' does have a connotation of power and arrogance on par with 'dick', where I'm coming from, which is why it's a pity to see it blacklisted anywhere.

(I heart cunts and dicks and motherfuckers immensely, but they still feature in the Vocabulary of Frustrated Exclamations all the same.)
posted by carbide at 3:16 PM on July 9, 2008


his accent made a lot of what he said sound like absolute gibberish, so I think people ignored most things he said.
Yeh, Americans get this faraway glazed look when you get too fast in Scots. It wouldn't be offensive to remind us to slow down a bit, folks.

I think the use of the gender-based terms as insults pretty closely aligns with a masculine-dominant power structure. Dicks= too much power, Pussies=too little. Language that reinforces this women=weakness tradition is bothersome to me. Pussies are strong, my sistas!

As others have pointed out, though, this doesn't always hold. I know one guy who's a total bell-end: he tolls the bell so hard that he's practically a bawbag, and definitely a knobber, possibly a ballshaft, but he's definitely not got too much power. Whereas this other guy's a hard cunt, a right angry twat when he's pished, and I'd never say he's weak, although fair enough he can be a bit of a diddy, and a diddy's a diddy (unless it's a diddy ride).

Both those guys get on my tits (and I don't have tits though I can be a total fanny), but they're also spunkers and arse-candles, so what else can you expect?
posted by bonaldi at 3:25 PM on July 9, 2008 [11 favorites]


gah missed posts. AV: a bell-end is what a knob-jockey tolls mightily upon, usually while driving the wank chariot
posted by bonaldi at 3:26 PM on July 9, 2008


Bell-end is the glans. So's the knob.
posted by CKmtl at 3:30 PM on July 9, 2008


Yankzone

You just figured that out?
posted by timeistight at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2008


I wore my "See You In Tee" shirt (that's literally what it says) to work one day. Walked right up to the HR department and nobody batted an eye.

Perhaps that's less offensive than the actual word? I dunno, it takes a lot to offend me, like a Takeshi Miike movie or something.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2008


diddy ride

I have an insanely lascivious Northern Irish friend who uses the word 'diddy' all the time, and because of him, as far as I'm concerned it's the most perverse, upsetting and misogynist term in the English language.

BrotherCaine writes 'I'll concede later after I have time to look those terms up. Back to work.'

I'll burn you with my fuck, you [random Shakespearean insult], [toilet]-licking [herb used to treat hemorrhoids] of a limp-[dick] [child]-fucker.
posted by jack_mo at 3:43 PM on July 9, 2008


Yankzone

You just figured that out?


Just claiming my right to win the conversation and shame you all with a single word.
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on July 9, 2008


Wankzone.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:45 PM on July 9, 2008


I've found the best way to use a phrase that people will find offensive is to use the correct anatomical term. Hence 'dick-head' becomes 'penis-head' (or better: 'penis-face') or someone isn't a 'pussy' they are a 'vagina'. I don't know why people are more bothered by this, but I've found it to be almost universally true in terms of reaction.

And "twat" shouldn't be vilified. It sounds too much like the sound a ruler hitting a desk would make, and that's just funny.
posted by quin at 3:46 PM on July 9, 2008


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

Dentist.


Greatest. Non. Sequitur. Ever.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:48 PM on July 9, 2008


I don't really have a dog in the race either way, but I sure see a megaton of difference between this thread and the many recent threads about how the USA is all about the Free Speech and rules #1 A-OK for its anything-goes-speech-wise culture.

What happened to that?
posted by stinkycheese at 3:50 PM on July 9, 2008


YANKZONE

You'd prefer TINYISLANDPROVINCEOFTHEGERMANEMPIREZONE ... ?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:50 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Am I the only UKian to whom the idea of referring to anyone other than a bloke as a cunt simply fails to compute? I am aware, now, that the word has a misogynist usage in American English when directed at women, though it still jars each time I come across examples of this and I have to read back and double check the gender of the person being so insulted.

See also this joke, which could perhaps be construed as a short essay about the ways in which taboos on language can be a great practical conduit for ruling class oppression.
posted by motty at 3:51 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't really have a dog in the race either way, but I sure see a megaton of difference between this thread and the many recent threads about how the USA is all about the Free Speech and rules #1 A-OK for its anything-goes-speech-wise culture.

What happened to that?


Holy cunting twats, where was I for those?? I've never, ever felt that way in my entire life of living in the USA.
posted by nevercalm at 3:54 PM on July 9, 2008


Am I the only UKian to whom the idea of referring to anyone other than a bloke as a cunt simply fails to compute?
No, I was thinking about this for a while on the way home. I've never heard a woman be called a cunt, and if I did, I'd assume they meant she was overly masculine, a very aggressive and hard type.
posted by bonaldi at 3:58 PM on July 9, 2008


Ranking of offensive words in Britain - wanker more offensive than nigger....

Also my childhood was ruined by Happy Days' Mr Cunningham and a particular nasty comment to Joanie. His words have lived with me throughout my life and when I read American Psycho - I thought, 'Well he's a bad-ass, but no worse than Mr Cunningham'"

"Joanie, get upstairs or I'll be forced to nail your fanny to the bed"

Fuck!
posted by meech at 3:59 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Up in Canada, it's Mrs. Cleaver's "Walt, you were a little hard on the beaver last night".

People speak differently in different places, what'd ya know? But the majority of voices here belong to USians and, really, this is more about their tolerance than anything else.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:07 PM on July 9, 2008


Greatest. Non. Sequitur. Ever.

You're not familiar with the basic stereotypes of Brits, I see.
posted by languagehat at 4:08 PM on July 9, 2008


Recently heard Walsh going on about the swearing in Trainspotting... that, and certain other subcultures (like Cockney twats), you might hear it bandied about like a mild swearword. But apart from that it's pretty damn offensive. Though not quite the nuclear strength it seems to have in America (Walsh talked about freaking out gangster rappers by saying 'cunt' in front of them'

"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

Anything at all in a booming American accent usually does the trick... demanding a free glass of water with every meal is good one to start with
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2008


Ranking of offensive words in Britain - wanker more offensive than nigger....

That's a bit weird. I think possibly the "not swearing" column and some semantic confusion might be at the heart of it. You'll notice that without "not swearing" it sways very hard towards "very severe".
posted by Artw at 4:11 PM on July 9, 2008


Goddamn is pretty awesome, it's the John Wayne of swearing.
posted by Artw at 4:14 PM on July 9, 2008


Ward. Beav's dad was named Ward, you jive turkey.
posted by stubby phillips at 4:15 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am aware, now, that the word has a misogynist usage in American English when directed at women

That's just it, though. The "when directed at women" bit. How is any insult, when directed at a woman, not misogynistic?

(The answer, of course, is MOST OF THE TIME. Calling a woman a cunt is not a slam against all woman, it is a slam against that woman, and I'll venture that more than 50% of the time, she will have done something to prompt it, in much the same way a dickish man will have done something to deserve that descriptor.)

Consider "those cunts are trying to get those niggers out of the park"


Also, consider that it would mean THE EXACT SAME THING if you said "those dicks" or "those pricks" or "those assholes" or "those fucks" or "those shits" -- my point being that CUNT simply means SWEARWORD, and nothing more. Perhaps in your neck of the woods, it is gender-specific. Perhaps its relatively greater taboo may add some intensity. But come on, you boobs: It's just a word.

I would also like to ask of all the women here: When was the last time YOU PERSONALLY were called a cunt? How about a bitch? Right to your face, I mean. How many times? Probably not too many. Meanwhile, men are called dicks and pricks and assholes etc., ALL THE DAMN TIME--and not just during nasty breakups, either.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:21 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I only learned about the BritEng meaning of 'fanny' recently while talking to some co-workers from our UK office. I quickly realized that talking about how well my fanny fit in my pants was right out as a conversational topic.
posted by elfgirl at 4:25 PM on July 9, 2008


"I grew up in Northern Ireland. [It] was a place where the word 'cunt' expressed the worst form of contempt one person could feel for another. If you loathed or despised a person, 'cunt' said it all.

It was scrawled on the walls of rubbish-strewn back alleyways or in public toilets reeking of urine and feces. Nothing was worse than being treated like a 'cunt' or nothing so stupid as a 'stupid cunt.'"

-- Jack Holland, Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice.

That's the context some people here are coming from. Like 'nigger,' the word alone isn't the problem. It's that it's one weapon in diverse arsenal including much more than words that has generally been used to disempower a group of people. If black people in the U.S. hadn't been treated as subhuman for so very long, and weren't still struggling for social and economic equality here, 'nigger' would just be an outdated term. It wouldn't be a slur. But it's all too current.

The problem isn't that cunt means female genitals. That's denotation. The connotation is that in common usage you're being told you're worthless for whatever reason while also being reminded that that's what women are. It can be divorced from its disempowering and dehumanizing historical and social context, but that's rather difficult in most situations because that context is so powerful, so painful, and still so very real. And why would you be using the word as an insult, ironic or not, unless there was still some power in the term to strip away value? Some people wince when you use it because it's taboo. Some of us wince because it's a word we've been verbally abused with. We flinch because it's still a weapon. It's different from 'dick' or 'asshole' because there isn't a long glorious tradition of treating men as something other than human just for having a dick or an asshole.

This is different from empowering usage and from literal usage. It is all context dependent and requires a human reading the text, and not a dictionary definition, but the fact that there are some acceptable uses doesn't mean the more colloquial use isn't an issue.

When dissing someone for inferiority, the go-to comparisons are
-effeminacy (pussy, faggot [which comes from a word for an old woman, itself], bitch, cunt)
-stupidity (moron, retard, idiot)
-other inborn
racial/ethnic inferiority (nigger, other ethnic slurs)

Gay slurs are really a separate category. It's true that the effeminate stereotype of gay men works on two levels, but it is different. There are a few others I can think of, but those 4 are really the go-to categories that people are likely to say out loud when they're really wanting to insult someone and that are likely to go unremarked on by others.
posted by Tehanu at 4:27 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


To go off on a tangent, one swear word that you wouldn't think to have two meanings is "cock," but if you read the book Pissing in the Snow (a collection of dirty stories from first-half-of-the-20th-century Ozark Mountains, you'll see that mountain folk occasionally used "cock" to mean female genitals. See story 93 in this excerpt.

Pissing in the Snow has a whole lot of my favorite swear words in it, such as twitchet, tallywhacker and jemson. It's one of my favorite books.
posted by Bookhouse at 4:30 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

....demanding a free glass of water with every meal is good one to start with


Wait... That's all it takes? Ordering water with your meal? Well no wonder you lot toss the word "cunt" around like it's nothing: apparantly, your whole fuckin' nation is self-lubricating!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2008


I would also like to ask of all the women here: When was the last time YOU PERSONALLY were called a cunt?

Meanwhile, men are called dicks and pricks and assholes etc., ALL THE DAMN TIME


What are you driving at? That the use of "cunt" as a slur to women is so rare as to not be problematic? Are you really that guy? Insert "pricks, dicks and assholes" confirmation bias joke here.

Tehanu, I disagree with you that gay slurs are a separate category from effeminacy, though gender non-binarism is definitely a superclass which contains either version of that category. Otherwise, hear hear, well said.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:34 PM on July 9, 2008


I think the word 'minge' sounds far worse than cunt or twat, but I agree with lots of those people up there - context is everything. I like the term 'cunts-in-hats' and used it a couple of times but I was politely ignored and now I know why! Actually, I did know that lots and lots of people find the word 'cunt' incredibly offensive and that's why I only use it for shock value (not very often, I'm not a big swearer). I am somewhat amazed that people find the word 'twat' offensive. It sounds too silly (pronounced both ways) to ever be taken seriously.

But, yeah. Context context context.
posted by h00py at 4:39 PM on July 9, 2008


Let's see if my haitch tee em ell is working:

Much ado about nothing, if you ask me...
posted by stubby phillips at 4:40 PM on July 9, 2008


I have a friend who has pretty much convinced me that being called a cunt is a compliment. Which I choose to believe, cause I get called it a lot.

I prefer the word "hole" when I want to insult a woman. It's far more offensive than all the others.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:44 PM on July 9, 2008


That's just it, though. The "when directed at women" bit. How is any insult, when directed at a woman, not misogynistic?

Whenever it's an insult that's about some gender-neutral aspect of the woman being insulted? "Liar", "idiot", "loudmouth": there's an awfully long list available here if you want it of words that carry no such inherent charge. They could be being hurled by a misogynist or in some context that imbues the insult with misogyny, but that's context, not something inherent to the usage itself.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:50 PM on July 9, 2008


Ward, right. It's been awhile, forgive me.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:56 PM on July 9, 2008


--"cun-nae do it," etc.--

Your friend was saying "can't", not cunt.

I use (very sparingly) both pronunciations of twat. That is maybe cultural seepage from both UK + US.

Fanny means vagina in Oz, just by the by.
posted by peacay at 4:56 PM on July 9, 2008


no, cunny's slang as well. most scots sounds either like slurred mumbled moans or hacking coughs, so they're hard to distinguish. It's one of those languages where pronounced one way a word means "vagina", the other it means "cannot".

And man it's goddamn useless abroad.
posted by bonaldi at 5:05 PM on July 9, 2008


Dude, that was my dad too. In some small way...
posted by stubby phillips at 5:11 PM on July 9, 2008


One of the Victorian English terms for vagina was cunny.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:12 PM on July 9, 2008


What about thee boners?
posted by stinkycheese at 5:15 PM on July 9, 2008


cunny's slang as well

Sure, but as quoted it's slang for "can't" (well, really, isn't it just a local derangement-come-accented pronunciation rather than being true slang. Although I s'pose the fact that "cunny" exists may have influenced the way can-ae gets spoken.). I mean, I guess there's a minute chance they are saying: "cunt do it" but the most obvious reading is "can't". I've spent quite a bit of time with Scottish friends over the years and I've never had a problem distinguishing between can-ae and cunny. I may not understand half of the rest of the stuff that they said but this part seemed fairly crystal.
posted by peacay at 5:22 PM on July 9, 2008


I miss EB.
posted by lunit at 5:23 PM on July 9, 2008


Oh yeh, I think what's klangklangston's trying to say, though, is that it was funny when he said "cannae do it" because it sounded like he was saying "cunny do it".
posted by bonaldi at 5:23 PM on July 9, 2008


When was the last time YOU PERSONALLY were called a cunt? How about a bitch? Right to your face, I mean. How many times?

Does MeFiMail count?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well jessamyn, I hope any such person isn't here any longer or you were later given an incredibly sincere apology. And chocolate. And free tickets to a show.
posted by peacay at 5:32 PM on July 9, 2008


No, it was funny for the opposite reason—he was playing on people taking it for "can nae," while making it clear in context that it was an oath. And, of course, he'd use it in far more phrases than just "… do it," and it may further help to add that I can't remember him ever saying it outside of a bar, though I can't remember any real discussions we had outside of a bar either.
posted by klangklangston at 5:33 PM on July 9, 2008


What are you driving at? That the use of "cunt" as a slur to women is so rare as to not be problematic? Are you really that guy? Insert "pricks, dicks and assholes" confirmation bias joke here.

Quite the opposite, actually. I'm saying the rarity of female-directed slurs like cunt and bitch makes them more powerful; if women started throwing them around as casually as you just threw those three at me (btw, thanks for disproving your own point re: confirmation bias; "that guy" was a nice touch of class), maybe they wouldn't feel so assaulted when men used them.

cortex: Good point.

isn't it just a local derangement-come-accented pronunciation

Oh no you didn't!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:40 PM on July 9, 2008


I think we should all defer to The Pink Superhero's intrinsic expertise in this matter.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:41 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I came late to this party, but let us remember the philosophy of the late, great George Carlin: "There are no bad words, only bad thoughts." "Cunt" is a "c", and a "u", and an "n", and a "t". It's four-letters long. It is most usually stated to derive from a Germanic word (Proto-Germanic *kunton), which appeared as kunta in Old Norse, although the Proto-Germanic form itself is of uncertain origin (from Wikipedia). It's one syllable long.

Really, that's the long and short of it. "Cunt" can be used angrily, with malice, or jokingly, with love and affection. It can't be eliminated, destroyed, or forgotten. Your job is to decide if you want it to be a speed bump for your life. Want to spend precious minutes, hours, days decrying "cunt"-usage, be my guest--it's your life. But don't expect your outrage to change the mind or behavior of others, especially when the word is fluid and can absolutely be interpreted in various ways.
posted by zardoz at 5:44 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


So, the person who first used "twat" in that thread hasn't been in here. He has been called out for using the term before. He still uses it. I'm guessing he will keep using it until either he or the site is gone. I'm guessing it makes him feel a bit transgressive, but he can call it a cultural difference and the conversation starts anew. He's probably asleep now, but it doesn't matter, because he'll wake up, possibly see this thread and say the same things over and over.

But those are all just guesses and assumptions and possibilities.

Another guess--this will all boil down to a bunch of people talking the same shit they did last time. Except, after reading this thread, it's not a guess.

Nothing's going to happen. It's like a brand new day all over again, but with different people telling the same jokes. I'm almost glad there's such a constant in the universe.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:46 PM on July 9, 2008




The Puritans traveled from England to America in the early 1600s. The Puritans that founded Salem, Massachusetts left England in 1608. They had many reasons for leaving England ... mostly to “establish themselves as rightful interpreters of the word cunt independent of an inherited social and cultural order.” *
posted by netbros at 5:51 PM on July 9, 2008


MetaFilter: Jane, you ignorant cuntslut.
posted by Eideteker at 5:52 PM on July 9, 2008


However, I strongly suspect that a lot of Americans are going to assume those using the term are misogynist assholes.

Not me. I'm fine with it, as I know it's part of the UK vernacular, but yeah, some people might be offended by it, and some people might be offended by a lot of other things.

I think the Americans using it toward a woman are really head-tripping over the fact that a woman can be assertive, and they're threatened, so they call a woman a cunt or a bitch. So it's really a compliment, in that respect. My answer would be yes, I am a bitch, thank you. Or yes, I do have a cunt, would you like to see it or are you afraid it will eat you?

I would like to know why calling someone a big dick is an insult. I would think guys would like that (I remember hearing guys in high school bragging about the size of their members: "I call my dick my third knee," stuff like that). But I'm not an language expert.

I'm not very offended by anything on this site: I am more offended by people picking at typos or correcting grammar in a casual comment section than anything else. Hey, it's not college and we're not being graded. Let's all take a chill pill on that one, please.

(on rare occasions, I use the c-word in my car, muttered under my breath, but I mainly use: asshole, dick, motherfucker and "go back to (state of license plate), and learn how to drive, you prick!")
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:53 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I keep seeing the US vs. UK issue, but an Aussie I dated would make any limey tosser blush. Before dating her I never knew the word cunt was as versatile as the word fuck.
posted by ryoshu at 5:57 PM on July 9, 2008


Recently I was browsing through my husband's coin collection and noticed that somebody took some time and effort to alter the capital "E" into a "U" on a large cent coin. It's a pretty fantastic job when looking at it with the naked eye., although my pic is blurry. I imagine a schoolboy in 1847 was delighted with himself. "I made cunt. Heh heh."
posted by LoriFLA at 6:00 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I keep seeing the US vs. UK issue, but an Aussie I dated would make any limey tosser blush. Before dating her I never knew the word cunt was as versatile as the word fuck.

It's the first thing many of us say, as infants. That, "bleedin' Yanks" and "whinging Poms".
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:06 PM on July 9, 2008


After nearly six years on the site, it's unlikely anyone is going to say anything offensive enough to drive me away, try as some of you fuckers might ;-)

Many in this thread have asked why cunt is so offensive and bridle at the idea that it has the same weight as a racial slur. For what it's worth, here's my experience of the word cunt: the first time I heard it, I was only about 13 and not even sure what it meant but I was bowled over by the level of invective, hate, and implied violence that was directed at me when a strange adult man called me a stupid little cunt. Years later, it was spit at me by a man who didn't succeed, but who was mightily intent on trying to rape me. So yes, for most of my life, it has been a pretty raw, frightening, hostile, and hurtful thing to hear directed at me or any other woman. It's often an insult and a threat all rolled up into one tight, hard-edged word. I think the first time I heard it used in a non-hostile fashion was in a passage in Tropic of Cancer - and there are those who might be forgiven for finding Miller a tad hostile.

Is cunt as bad as nigger would be to a black? I don't know. I can only speak to my experience that it was an undeniably hate-filled word in almost any context I ever heard it used; or at least until somewhat more recently, perhaps the last decade or so.

As with most vulgarities, the word has been somewhat defused over time. And I agree it is less about the word itself than the sentiment behind it. But it still has a lot of negative baggage for me and I know very few women who are OK with the term; for those who are, it is somewhat in the sense that "nigger" is OK as jive used among friends & family, but not too kosher when you aren't a member of that in group.

But despite my having grown largely impervious to web invective, on Mefi we've had the repeated theme that many women don't feel comfortable here and I'd have to say that "cunt this" and "cunt that" are part of an overall tone that can be off putting. "Hmmm - is this cunt-uttering person a UK denizen? An American adolescent jerkoff? A scary woman hater I should avoid at all costs? A basically good guy with salty language? My ex?" Many women aren't going to want to be bothered sorting all that out - they'll ignore you, and if there are too many of you cunting it up around here, they'll just go away. Yes, I'll probably still be here but I would think you would want some other women than just a handful of leather-hided, grizzled, cuss-impervious web vets ;-)

BrotherCaine, I do appreciate that you brought this topic to the table - just the fact that we can have a civil discussion on the topic is very encouraging. So I guess this is as good a time as any for me to say how much I appreciate the heightened sensitivity that so many of you mefi guys have exhibited since those giant feminist threads. There have been so many great guys who jump in threads saying "knock it off" or "that ain't right" - so many guys who have tried to be more aware of women's concerns - it's totally heartening, I love you and I kiss you for that - and you know who you are!
posted by madamjujujive at 6:08 PM on July 9, 2008 [17 favorites]


"bleedin' Yanks"

I think you meant Septic Tanks.

I haven't read the ~220 comments above, but will say that in Australia, cunt isn't necessarily a terrible word. It's often used in matey cameraderie ("mate, you're a mad cunt!") or as mild to strong disapproval ("John Howard is such a cunt, isn't he?").

As far as I've noticed, it's generally only used against men, for what that's worth. In fact, I can't think of any instance where I've heard a woman called a cunt. They're more likely to be called bitches.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:16 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Years ago, I dated a woman who was a history professor at Boston College. I offered to take her on some motorcycle rides, and she enjoyed it enough that I bought her some gear. She started to think of herself as some kind of biker babe, and kept urging me to take her to a biker bar "for the experience." I avoided doing this, thinking that it might not go like she thought it would, but one Saturday evening coming back from the Cape, she insisted, again. Against my better judgment, I stopped at a joint I knew in New Bedford down in the mill district, and parked my Boomer at the far end of long line of Harleys. I locked up our helmets, and muttered something like "Be cool." as general advice as we went in.

We pushed up to the bar in the not-too-crowded joint, and I ordered a shot and beer from the big, tattooed New Bedford woman running that end of the bar. I turned to my date just in time to hear her say "Champagne cocktail." in response to the head back gesture the bar woman used to indicate she was taking your order. The bar woman snickered at that, turned her head half round to the guy working the other end of the bar, and said, loud enough for most of the bar to hear "Hey Frank, we got any champagne? This cunt wants a champagne cocktail!" And then the bar woman turned to gaze back at my date, along with 30 suddenly interested guys behind their beers and smokes. "You buy the bottle," the bar woman said, levelly.

The blood just drained from my date's face, and with it, any interest she had in biker bars. "Jeez." was all I could muster, and I took her elbow, and we hit the door. I honestly didn't know she was crying until we got down the block towards my bike, but the power of that one word to crumple an educated persona has stayed with me. It took me 5 minutes to get her geared up and out of there, she was blubbering so much.

It was just a 30 second exchange, but I'm sure it was the first time that woman had been casually called a cunt to her face in public, and it took her completely off guard. And, of course, it pegged her as a poser in a new leather jacket in a place not forgiving of temporary role assumption, like no other expression could. We talked about it later, but the mere memory of the event was enough to upset her to the point of crying again, and nothing really useful came of it. It was months before she'd go riding again, and it took a perfect New England fall day and the promise of the Kancamagus Highway to get her out again.
posted by paulsc at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2008 [8 favorites]


Ah minded ay the cunt. Fuckin sure n ah did. Ah used tae think he wis a fuckin hard cunt, back it Craigie, ken? He fuckin hung aroond Wi Kev Stronach and that crowd. Fuckin bams. Dinnae git us wrong like; ah thoat the cunt wis fuckin sound. But ah mind, thir wis one time some boys asks the cunt whair he fuckin came fae. This boy goes: –Jakey (that wis the cunt's name likey, ur you fae fuckin Grantin or Roystin? The cunt goes: – Grantin is Roystin. Roystin is Grantin. The bastard went right fuckin doon in ma estimation eftir that, ken? That wis back it the fuckin school though, ken? Fuckin yonks ago now. Anywey, the other fuckin week thair, ah wis doon the flickin Volley wi Tommy n Secks, ken Rab, the Second Prize, likes? This cunt, this Jakey cunt, the big fuckin radge boy fae Craigie, he comes intae the pub. He nivir fuckin lits oan tae us. Ali mind ay smashin loads ay fuckin crabs tae bits Wi stanes Wi that cunt. Doon the fuckin harbour, ken? He nivir fuckin recognised us. Didnae fuckin ken us fae Adam . . . the cunt. Anywey, the cunt's mate, this fuckin plukey–faced wide–o, goes tae pit his fuckin money doon fir the baws it the table. Fir the pool, ken? Ah sais tae um: – That cunt's fuckin nixt mate, pointin tae this wee specky gadge. This wee cunt's goat his fuckin name up oan the board, but he wid've jist fuckin sat thair n said fuck all if ah hudnae fuckin spoke like. Ah wis fuckin game fir a swedge. If the cunts hud've fuckin come ahead it wis nae problem like. Ah mean, you ken me, ah'm no the type ay cunt thit goes lookin fir fuckin bothir likes; but ah wis the cunt wi the fuckin pool cue in ma hand, n the plukey cunt could huv the fat end ay it in his pus if he wanted, like. Obviously, ah wis cairryin ma fuckin chib n aw. Too fuckin right. Like ah sais, ah dinnae go lookin fir fuckin bother, but if any lippy cunt wants tae start, ah'm fuckin game. So the wee 36 specky cunt's pit his fuckin dough in, n he's rackin up n that, ken? The plukey cunt jist sits doon n sais fuck all. Ah kept ma eye oan the hard cunt, or at least he wis a fuckin hard cunt it the school, ken. The cunt nivir sais a fuckin wurd. Kept his fuckin mooth shut awright; the cunt. Tommy sais tae us: – Hi Franco, is that boy gittin lippy? Ye ken Tam, he's no fuckin shy, that cunt. They fuckin heard um like, these cunts; but they nivir fuckin sais nowt again. The plukey cunt n the so–called hard cunt. N it wid've been two against two, cause you ken Second Prize; dinnae git us wrong, ah lap the cunt up, but he's fuckin scoobied whin it comes tae a pagger. He's pished ootay his fuckin held n he kin hardly haud the fuckin pool cue. This is fuckin half–past eleven oan a Wednesday mornin wir talkin aboot here. So it wid've been fuckin square–gos. But they cunts sais fuck all. Ah nivir fuckin rated the plukey cunt, but ah wis fuckin disappointed in the hard cunt, or the so–called hard cunt, like. He wisnae a fuckin hard man. A fuckin shitein cunt if the truth be telt, ken. Big fuckin disappointment tae me, the cunt, ah kin tell ye.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:21 PM on July 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


I understand that in England 'cunt,' seems to be the equivalent of 'asshole' here, but I still don't use it much (and I am not very big on linguistic squeamishness as most of you know). This is mainly because 'cunt,' is such an ugly word for such a wonderful thing.
posted by jonmc at 6:23 PM on July 9, 2008


Sys Rq, you set yourself up for it with the "nobody calls anybody a cunt ever and everybody's always calling *cough cough* guys, just generally any guy here, *cough cough* assholes, dicks and pricks," sorry I couldn't resist the joke.

But your arguments remain incomprehensible. Now you're claiming that there exist more nasty things to call men than there are to call women, and that makes "cunt" worse simply for standing out. That seems to contradict your claim that "CUNT simply means SWEARWORD, and nothing more." I don't agree on either point. What about the fact that more of the insults that are designed specifically for use against women like, slut, tramp, doxy, floozy, bimbo, jezebel, etc. etc. etc. are about sexuality? Does that tell you anything about sexism and power dynamics in language?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:29 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?

Ashes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:31 PM on July 9, 2008 [9 favorites]


"I've only heard the term used in my life by people who are going on a drunken hatefilled spitting rant, or as a prelude to a phrase like 'I hope she gets raped'."

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of said around you.

I'd much rather see "nasty words" than see nasty words being policed, or people self-censoring.
posted by orthogonality at 6:33 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


but I would think you would want some other women than just a handful of leather-hided, grizzled, cuss-impervious web vets ;-)

Nah, you broads are alright.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have to say I'm proud to be a member of Metafilter given the responses here. I was expecting a lot of "CENSORSHIP CENSORSHIP YOU CANT MAKE ME STOP SAYING CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT CUNT". It's refreshing that no one got all defensive about it.

As for the refrain that bringing this up is not going to change anything, I suspect that at least a few people will refrain from using cunt and twat without at least clarifying the meaning, or making sure that it is not directed at an American woman. Others will self censor entirely when online in a forum dominated by American's, and some won't change at all. Some Americans who are ignorant of the less charge usage of these words in other circles may now take the time to take a breath and think about meaning before being offended. Even a tiny bit of change is all it'll take to make me happy. I'm not out to eradicate any particular word, phrase or usage. I just want this community to stay civil.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't have brought this to Meta if I hadn't thought one or two people were offended. Calling people out on their language would ordinarily not occur to me. Calling people out on their hate might, but I didn't see that here (at least in the thread mentioned)

I prefer the word "hole" when I want to insult a woman. It's far more offensive than all the others.

I'm going to lose all of the feminist goodwill here by saying the most offensively misogynist curse I ever came up with is "cockholster". I've never actually been angry enough to deploy it against someone though (yet).
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:47 PM on July 9, 2008


"I'd much rather see "nasty words" than see nasty words being policed, or people self-censoring."

I'd rather always have everyone use good judgment rather than have any police force, and I'd rather that beer made me thinner and pot made me more ambitious.
posted by klangklangston at 6:52 PM on July 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yea, I object to the Pommy/Seppo-centric nature of this conversation.

When I was growing up 'twat' was pretty much the only swearword my mother would use. It's about as offensive as 'oh my goodness!'. 'Cunt' can be used either like 'fuckhead' (relatively offensive, but not gendered) or as Ubu refers to, a usage more like 'bastard': no offense whatsoever, no gender implication.

(etymology of Pom)
posted by jacalata at 6:59 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, context is everything. I don't necessarily like calling women cunts (because I know how angry a word it is, or can be) but I think that calling rich white men "cunts" or "twats" and calling a group of drummers in the park they're trying to evict "niggers" is not even remotely on equal footing

what. You don't "necessarily" like calling women cunts? So sometimes you do like it, but just not as a general rule?

I can see why this has been such a productive and thoughtful conversation. Anyone else who likes calling people cunts want to weigh in on how inoffensive it is to the people being called cunts?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:02 PM on July 9, 2008


Cunt is a vile insult in my neck of the woods (British Columbia). Twat is seldom heard; it has a connotation of "foolish and ineffectual", and just like cunt, insults by comparing to a stereoype of femaleness.

Cunt is a private word here; it's used in the bedroom. It's not an insult in that context. That's the only context I can think of where it's not.

When you call someone a nigger, you'd better have earned the right. You'd better have paid some dues to own that word. Using it because people who have paid those dues do, is offensive. The same holds true for cunt.

If you suffer from such a poverty of language that you can't communicate without those words, then I feel a bit bad for you, but I also stop listening or reading anything you have to say.

Sure, the terms are used by women, as well. They're usually trying to fit in, to be edgy or perhaps not get slagged as a prude. That's sad, too.
posted by reflecked at 7:03 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


What ever you do be inflexible while you do it. Stand up for what you believe on the faces of others, and never forget to force people to do it your way.
posted by nola at 7:04 PM on July 9, 2008


I thought the British word was, "koont." Like, "Yah fackin' koont, yah."
posted by The Straightener at 7:04 PM on July 9, 2008


Orthogonality, I like to say I don't like imposed censorship, but I suspect when reading metafilter I'm actually benefitting from its judicious application (at least as far as blog spam). As far as I'm concerned the ability to censor myself is a tremendous gift (when it's motivated by courtesy rather than fear).

I met a guy once, and the first thing out of his mouth was "Hey man, I'm going to kill you." I thought I was about to get in the fight of my life, but because he was smaller and younger, I asked if he had Tourette's. It turned out that he did. Had he been my size and age I might've started a fight pre-emptively.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2008


I'd much rather see "nasty words" than see nasty words being policed, or people self-censoring.

Huh? Those two things are not equivalents. Noone is advocating there be proscription on language by edict. But don't you self censor every time you open your mouth or compose a comment?? You don't call your boss "you old cunt" just because you're thinking it. I think the phrase is 'a bit of decorum'.
posted by peacay at 7:06 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd rather that beer made me thinner and pot made me more ambitious.

It doesn't?

Cunt/twat/etc aren't words that bother me, but knowing that they sometimes bother other people is enough to make me selective in my use of them. Words can be given a lot of power and meaning by people, and you don't have to agree with those people or be a self-censorist to take those meanings into account when you talk and write.

A big part of the trick of communicating at least marginally well on a site like MeFi, with members from a lot of places and backgrounds, is learning to write in a voice that is both authentically your own, and is transparently readable to as many people as possible. Even if a word or attitude is locally unremarkable, if I know that its use will create problems in understanding by some readers, I need to think carefully before using it and make sure it is sufficiently critical to my message to justify its use.
posted by Forktine at 7:10 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


learning to write in a voice that is both authentically your own, and is transparently readable to as many people as possible.

fucken oath!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:15 PM on July 9, 2008


I'm going to lose all of the feminist goodwill here by saying the most offensively misogynist curse I ever came up with is "cockholster".

you forgot "cumbucket"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:18 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe I've just happened to find an odd subset of USians with which I've generally been surrounded, but I only found out about a year and a half ago that "cunt" was very, very offensive to some people (through very, very much offending some people and, consequently, feeling badly about it). Most of the people I've known use "cunt" and "dick" as a gender specific "asshole" with neither one holding any more animosity than the other. Or, y'know, more literally in more intimate situations. But, yeah, holding them both on the same level. I dunno .... maybe I make too many friends in hip-ish New England dive bars?

I tend to get more upset about the whole pussy=coward thing.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:18 PM on July 9, 2008


I'm going to lose all of the feminist goodwill here by saying the most offensively misogynist curse I ever came up with is "cockholster".

you forgot "cumbucket"


Sorry, mine's "spunktrench".
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:33 PM on July 9, 2008


you forgot "cumbucket"

But you didn't forget it, did you? Now I'll call you 'wankstain' and then someone can come along and remind us that we are not on Fark so we can stop listing all the naughty names we can think of. Or we could just stop ourselves. Time and a place, dear boy!
posted by h00py at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Which I actually use affectionately. Is that a reflection on me or the type of woman I date? I'll put together an AskMe.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2008


(s)
posted by h00py at 7:35 PM on July 9, 2008


Um, we are not on Fark so we can stop listing all the naughty names that we can think of. Thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:37 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Dude, you're harshing my buzz.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:38 PM on July 9, 2008


I'm with The Light Fantastic, and it's reflected in my profile, actually, that for authentic vitriol, I like the ubersimplified "hole" and its counterpart, "tool."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:42 PM on July 9, 2008


Um, we are not on Fark so we can stop listing all the naughty names that we can think of. Thanks.

Turd burglar.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:48 PM on July 9, 2008


"It doesn't?"

Not even when I up the dose!

"Um, we are not on Fark so we can stop listing all the naughty names that we can think of. Thanks."

And because I'll find the work stylebook (I believe we hyphenate "cum-dumpster") and we'll all end up wearier and sadder.

(Saddest moment of the afternoon was reading some copy for Beaverhunt about how one of the women has a fantasy of fucking our 63-year-old depressive managing editor, then looking over at him and seeing him crying as he walked back to his desk.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:52 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I see your 'turd birglar' and raise you a 'bowel troweler' and a 'sperm burper.'

(Now back to the. I'm not a big fan of cruelty and making people feel small. I'm also not a fan of euphemistic or sterile language and I am a big fan of vulgar slang, and I suppose a lot of people of various persuasions are, which is where the conflict arises)
posted by jonmc at 7:53 PM on July 9, 2008


Now back to the.

...topic at hand. Long day, sorry.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 PM on July 9, 2008


Tilly Trotter.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:55 PM on July 9, 2008


Idiot face. You smell like wee.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:58 PM on July 9, 2008


wee what?
posted by jonmc at 8:04 PM on July 9, 2008


Okay, I never use either word in MeFi discourse, but I still appreciate this thread for exposing me to the Sickipedia Index of Sick Jokes. Thank you, MetaFilter, you continue to broaden my horizons!
posted by yhbc at 8:06 PM on July 9, 2008


A wee bit of a fart-chasing bastard whoreson of a stuff-twat, that's what!
posted by loquacious at 8:14 PM on July 9, 2008


fart-chasing bastard

I don't chase farts, sir. That's why I carry a flamethrower.
posted by jonmc at 8:15 PM on July 9, 2008


Words are not this dangerous.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


*slices ikkyu's throught with a sharpened adjective*
posted by jonmc at 8:21 PM on July 9, 2008


I once called Steve Den Beste a cunt here on metafilter, and I meant it like a despicable thing, and I think I sorta apologized to Steve about it via memail and I told Jessamyn that I wouldn't argue if she deleted what I wrote via email. I actually still regret that because I totally meant it in an aggressive demeaning way, so I'm sorry Steve and I'm sorry to anyone else that I hurt or offended by using it in that way.

Now many of my English, Irish and Scottish friends have called me a cunt or a wee feckin' twat and I took no notice, but if someone called my wife a cunt I'd have a garbage can over their head in the next moment and speaking of that, one time my wife called me when she was on a girls night out and drunk as a lord and said "I just burned the shit out of my twat with a cigarette because Stella bumped into me" and I was filled with my usual boundless sense of love, lust and admiration for my beautiful queens punk rock girl, shit is funny like that I guess.

I'm sorry I called you a cunt Steve, it wasn't cool.

It's a mean word here in America and I'm happy to not use it in any context where that might come across, but y'all do what you like, I'm fairly open minded, if not a little careless but very well meaning. I kinda feel like when you insult someone you should make it really personal anyway, you know?

Oh also, in re faggot being used in a triumphant or friendly way:

I was once standing on the loading dock of my job and this seven foot tall flamboyant gay dude I'm friends with from the neighborhood, finished up his cigarette and said to me and the three women I was standing with "I'll see you faggots later" and then he stepped off in an intense way. That was pretty awesome, but it is pretty singular I guess.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:44 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's good that you brought this here, BrotherCaine, it really is. I'm sorry if my (lost) comment seemed otherwise. But just scroll up to jessamyn's comment and then read down to mine.

on preview: possibly minus D_W's comment.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:50 PM on July 9, 2008


Am I the only UKian to whom the idea of referring to anyone other than a bloke as a cunt simply fails to compute?
No, I was thinking about this for a while on the way home. I've never heard a woman be called a cunt, and if I did, I'd assume they meant she was overly masculine, a very aggressive and hard type.


Yes ditto. I'm female and I find the US usage 'cunt=nigger/kike for women' bemusing, because I've never heard it used that way. I understand the point being made but it's very far from my own experience.
posted by Flitcraft at 8:57 PM on July 9, 2008



on preview: possibly minus D_W's comment.


Huh?
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:06 PM on July 9, 2008


So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?

"Boris Johnson"
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:13 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sorry Jess but I have to throw this one in. It has always been so unbelievably offensive to me, so much so that it is almost funny! A guy I went to college with used it quite a bit and I've never heard it used anywhere else. "cunt muscle" Not sure why but I'm laughing as I type it. Cracks me up! Ok, I'll slink off now. Carry on...
posted by pearlybob at 9:17 PM on July 9, 2008


"Asshole" is a crisp non-gender specific that doesn't hurt or offend any groups except for possibly the ostomy bag crowd, and even then that'd be reaching.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:17 PM on July 9, 2008


Well, after reading all the comments here, I'd have to say I agree.
posted by sluglicker at 9:18 PM on July 9, 2008


BrotherCaine writes "another time when a guy in 7-11 called the Sikh behind the counter a sand nigger."

Don't you just love it when bigots get their slurs mixed up.

jack_mo writes "Which seems to be the point - on MetaFilter, we're pretty much in the virtual US, so it seems civil to avoid directing the word at other users."

This seems like a pretty poor reason.

Stewriffic writes "Pussy can be used as a noun that labels another person as weak or timid. Attacking another guy’s manhood by calling him a pussy is extremely offensive and completely inappropriate. More and more is “pussy” falling under this definition, and the label of a pussy is a direct shot to his testosterone. In this case, the word takes on the same meaning as the word “chicken,” except it is far more vulgar. Although the definitions of pussy are defined in terms of gender, they don’t necessarily have to be. In this case, a rare instance can occur where a woman is called a pussy in terms of her cowardly actions."

So the chicken is the bad guy?

fearfulsymmetry writes "demanding a free glass of water with every meal is good one to start with"

Wait. Really?

jessamyn writes "Does MeFiMail count?"

Wait, Really? Were they asking for a favour at the same time?

ryoshu writes "an Aussie I dated would make any limey tosser blush. Before dating her I never knew the word cunt was as versatile as the word fuck"

On the subject of cross cultural sexually idiomatic language my sister spent a year in Australia and picked up the delightfully robust phrase "Fucking the dog" as a substitute for the more common "slacking off". It has it's more literal meaning here which resulted in several WTF? moments until she suppressed it.
posted by Mitheral at 9:20 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


That sense and 'daft cunt' for someone faintly annoying are the uses I've picked up from living in Scotland. A bit like 'the dog's bollocks' meaning something good in the South of England, I suppose. Do people do that in the US? 'That lady is a great wang!'.

Not that in particular, but I have heard a man describe a really good (non-sexual) situation as "the tits".

Ashes

Heh. Wimbledon.

Also, I don't know if this will explain things to UK people but Larry David based a sketch on calling a man a cunt.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:24 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


This seems like a pretty poor reason.
So, wait, what's a good reason for Brits to avoid using a word in contexts only Americans find offensive that's not "because this place is full of Americans so be civil and respect their norms"?
posted by bonaldi at 9:30 PM on July 9, 2008


"...drunk as a lord..."

Some of my best friends are lords and I can do nothing but be affronted. I take umbrage!
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:32 PM on July 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I wanted to be truly offensive when referring to a woman I would forego cunt in favour of "that dumb [cow|sow]." Cunt in my mind is more gender-neutral term for asshole.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:36 PM on July 9, 2008


my sister spent a year in Australia and picked up the delightfully robust phrase "Fucking the dog" as a substitute for the more common "slacking off".

Fascinating! I had a boyfriend from down south who'd say "screwed the pooch" when he meant that he'd fucked up. I'd like to suggest a monograph for languagehat to begin work on immediately... The American South and Australia: Same Disgusting Idiom - Different Meanings.
posted by moxiedoll at 9:42 PM on July 9, 2008


First they came for the cunts
And I did not object because I was not a -

hang on, that's not right.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:47 PM on July 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


I and I use "bombaclot", seen?
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:49 PM on July 9, 2008


Cunt in my mind is more gender-neutral term for asshole.

I think you got that one precisely the wrong way around.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:52 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


To this day this is probably the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life:

My brother one Xmas got a book of advertising bloopers collected from newspapers and such. I have no reason to believe they weren't genuine.

One was an ad for Sesame Street Live. The copy was supposed to say something like, "bring your kids to see all their favorite characters, like Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and the Count."

They only forgot one letter, but it was a very important one.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:22 PM on July 9, 2008


The "u" in "favourite"?
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:24 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]




Cunt in my mind is more gender-neutral term for asshole.

Something is wrong with this sentence.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:34 PM on July 9, 2008


Just gonna close my eyes and let my coochie goddess speak her marvelous mind, yes

Cunt...
Quaint...
Cute...
Clit...
Cunning...
Cuddly...
Quim...
Queen...
Quake...
Quiver..
...QUONSAR?!?!!1eleventycunt
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:37 PM on July 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


picked up the delightfully robust phrase "Fucking the dog" as a substitute for the more common "slacking off"

A friend's Brit buddy visiting over here said "I'm going to knock up your sister", which in America means to get a girl pregnant. Good times.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:38 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Mr. Wino, you didn't deserve the "possibly". Too many things at once.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:46 PM on July 9, 2008


I've used the word in a Metatalk thread that I recall, having come home slightly drunk and reverted to type and forgot where I was. I'm also from somewhere where it's not polite discourse but nor is it misogynist. I can certainly live without using it here if it upsets people needlessly, and to be honest I knew that but forgot whilst with beer taken.
I have fond memories of the expletive-strewn banter of my youth, but like jack_mo and others have said above, you go other places and adapt, and if my purpose here is to engage in a conversation I've no problem with adhering to the generally acceptable standards. You can quote this back at me next time I slip up.
posted by Abiezer at 11:20 PM on July 9, 2008


Did I read all 286 comments? Certainly not. But I got the message: no more 4 letter words including rain, snow and Bush. A hearty AMEN to no more Bush. Oh, wait, amen is a 4 letter word. So be it.
posted by Cranberry at 11:33 PM on July 9, 2008


CUNT - Just another internet acronym waiting for a massive response.

Let me begin.....

"See you next time!" (Imagined with the wave of a hand, a smile and that exclamation point that says you are SO seriously wanting to make contact at least once more.)
posted by LiveLurker at 11:51 PM on July 9, 2008


I once knew an Australian who used 'Fuck my dog' as his favourite epithet. I got infected with the meme, and for years I would innocently use the expression in surprise, to the absolute horror of everyone around me.

FWIW, I'm the cunt who used the word cunt in the thread. I didn't call anybody a cunt, but made a joke. In response to my earlier twat reference, somebody talked about how the twat yuppies would be talking about the state of their twat investments, and I commented that they'd reminded me that I needed to call my cuntbroker.

Hateful? Offensive? If you've got a stick up your arse, perhaps.

As ever, a load of miserable cunts flagged it and the comment was deleted. No biggy. I'm not whining about it.

And yes, as I'm not sensing any consensus here, I'll use the word again. I daresay it'll be flagged and deleted again. I'll live.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:16 AM on July 10, 2008 [6 favorites]


I don't even know what thread we're talking about, but I will admit to having used the c-word in all seriousness less than a dozen times in my life and I regret every one of them. It has such a hateful connotation in the U.S. that I literally cringe when I hear people say it. In exchange for avoiding the c-word as much as possible I will refuse to use a word that you non-Americans really hate.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:18 AM on July 10, 2008


I once knew an Australian who used 'Fuck my dog' as his favourite epithet.

"Well, fuck a brown dog!" was a popular expression of surprise here a few years back. Another similar phrase, meaning "good luck! have a good time!", was "get a big black dog up ya".

O tempora, o mores.*

*no, not really.
posted by Wolof at 12:38 AM on July 10, 2008


I can't help you there - I don't hate any words, although I sometimes hate the way they are used.
posted by dg at 12:39 AM on July 10, 2008


Can't
Understand
Normal
Thinking
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:18 AM on July 10, 2008


Ever since I was a boy, the words Fuck and Cunt have reminded me of cricket. I get a really vivid image of a cricket crease with batsman and wicket keeper whenever I hear the words. The image is really clear in my mind and, until I was watching cricket on the tell with my old man for the first time in years recently, was completely inexplicable.
posted by Jofus at 1:27 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Peter, thanks for dropping in. I wasn't trying to single you out with this callout, and your cuntbroker comment was taken by me in the spirit you intended (I think). I've just been seeing cunt around a bit lately, and I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of the American context. For the record, I did not flag your comment. Not that I'll never flag a comment for using a word I find offensive, but it is all in the context.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:28 AM on July 10, 2008


No, BrotherCaine....it is all in the intent.
posted by LiveLurker at 1:45 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, BrotherCaine....it is all in the intent.

It was just a cunning stunt.
posted by ryoshu at 1:48 AM on July 10, 2008


Vacapinta and I were just sitting around here remarking about this, in fact.

We laughed.

Metafilter types seem to have a never ending fascination with spit bombing.
posted by LiveLurker at 2:02 AM on July 10, 2008


LiveLurker, while I agree that the intent is the more important element, if you accidentally posted a pedophile joke into a forum thread about a missing child, the context would be pretty important too.

Spit bombing? Is that like snowballing? I'm lost.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:17 AM on July 10, 2008


C.U.N.T.....See you next time!
posted by LiveLurker at 2:23 AM on July 10, 2008


I don't think I've ever heard of an American calling a group of people or a man a "cunt."

I assume you didn't go to public school.
posted by spaltavian at 2:25 AM on July 10, 2008


fearfulsymmetry writes "demanding a free glass of water with every meal is good one to start with"

Wait. Really?


Customer service is a privilege, not a right...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:05 AM on July 10, 2008


Customer service is a privilege, not a right...

But water is a fundamental human right. Anyway, most of the English people I know seem to have no problem asking for some tap water at a restaurant or even a pub.
posted by grouse at 3:26 AM on July 10, 2008


Peter, thanks for dropping in. I wasn't trying to single you out with this callout.

I didn't feel singled out or offended by your making the post, BrotherCaine. I know some people find it offensive. Not much I can do about that. I can't undo their personal histories, or the misogynistic culture that they live in.

For me, it's a completely trivial issue. Where I live, it's how we speak. It's so ingrained into both my speech and writing patterns that it's part of who I am. Some people won't like that. I'm a big boy, I can deal with that.

I do get somewhat irritated and annoyed when Americans feel that because something is one way in their culture, the rest of the world has to adopt those particular mores -- but that's Americans for you. I love how they have these peculiar little euphemisms like 'the 'n' word', or 'the 'f' bomb', that communicate the word that they're talking about without actually speaking the dreaded word -- in some peculiarly quasi-superstitious manner, like the way religious jews won't speak the name of God.

But if you expect me to start adopting your voodoo rituals at my advanced age, you can fuck *right* off.

I can say fuck, right? After all, Ken Tynan died in a masturbatory frenzy for our right as freeborn Englishmen to say fuck over the airwaves -- but I know that the word implies coitus and many Americans find the idea of that offensive too...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:26 AM on July 10, 2008 [7 favorites]


I love how they have these peculiar little euphemisms like 'the 'n' word', or 'the 'f' bomb', that communicate the word that they're talking about without actually speaking the dreaded word
Like the way they say "I'm just going to the bathroom" when they mean toilet but are too prissy to say the word. If you're heading to the shithouse for a slash or to snap one off, be a man and say so, for fuck's sake.
posted by dg at 3:32 AM on July 10, 2008


Toilet itself was originally a euphemism. Bathroom itself is not really considered a euphemism today in America. In U.S. English, a toilet is not a room.
posted by grouse at 3:39 AM on July 10, 2008


Ken Tynan died in a masturbatory frenzy for our right as freeborn Englishmen to say fuck over the airwaves

i hope that masturbatory frenzy was meant figuratively, otherwise i'm imagining this guy as some hobo cunt with tourette's, having somehow broken into a radio studio, yelling fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck as he beats the bishop until his heart explodes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:45 AM on July 10, 2008


And as I posted on the thread about the suspended schoolteacher in Buttfuck, Indiana (btw, why is it all small American towns are named after the act of anal sex?), when my kids were doing English A Level at 17, there was a little book on the curriculum called The Canterbury Tales.

I quote from the prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale:

What ails you that you grumble thus and groan?
Is it because you'd have my cunt alone?
Why take it all, lo, have it every bit;
Peter! Beshrew you but you're fond of it!
For if I would go peddle my belle chose,
I could walk out as fresh as is a rose;

Here, we *teach* the word to our kids. It's part of our great literature. Can I help it if you lot over there barely even have civilization yet?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:50 AM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


Can't Understand Normal Thinking.
posted by fixedgear at 3:53 AM on July 10, 2008


i'm imagining this guy as some hobo cunt with tourette's

Not far off the mark
, I suppose?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:54 AM on July 10, 2008




He set aside his career in order to become a pornographer, although his attempts to compile an anthology of masturbation fantasies foundered after being rebuffed by Vladimir Nabokov, Graham Greene, Samuel Beckett and others

well, he should've known better than to try to encroach upon their territory.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:01 AM on July 10, 2008


Can I help it if you lot over there barely even have civilization yet?

I take it that you're one of those people who think the invasion of Mesopotamia was about oil...?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:04 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Balderdash & Piffle is a great show, by the way.

Careful. We're veering very, very, close to tripping the Cooter counter right here...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:09 AM on July 10, 2008


C.U.N.T.....See you next time!

I always heard it as "See You Next Tuesday," which makes me think of "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today."

Yesterday I read about "cunt" being a non-insulting term for a woman's privates before the turn of the century, when it started becoming an insult. Is that around the same time of suffrage and women getting the vote, I wonder? (sorry cannot find the link now but it also gave the etymology as being from a German word) I believe it said insults like dick and asshole also started becoming popular around the same time period. Why is that? Something to do with the times, WWI, the introduction of the automobile, what?

If nothing else, I am getting educated by this conversation. I don't know where I'll ever use the info, not like they ask these types of questions on Jeopardy...
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:39 AM on July 10, 2008


jackmo - If we were at a meetup in Glasgow, I wouldn't think twice until they gasped in shock (which I kind of doubt those particular users would?

on MetaFilter, we're pretty much in the virtual US,

If i remember rightly it was your naughty american pal that was shocking everyone !
or maybe she was canadian - same thing really : )

I'm not too sure if people in glasvegas use the c word as much as over here when referring to someone - its more of a word to use when youre talking very fast and need a full stop somewhere - also scottish guys can never, ever say anything nice about each other in case people think theyre gay, so feminising the other guy is also a great diversionary tactic -there's also the thing of not being an english gentleman and being very rude and so on - or maybe they all just need to wash their mouths out with soap and start behaving themselves. On a trainspotting side note type thing - the drugs rehab in leith is being closed by the council, so the numbers of people using the c word will be decreasing shortly.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:47 AM on July 10, 2008


demanding a free glass of water with every meal is good one to start with

Yeah, can I just add my utter confusion to this? I've never had a problem getting free tap water in restaurants and pubs in the UK. The only exception was one hideously over-priced club years ago (and they were actually breaking the law, which requires licensed clubs to provide tap water.) I know some restaurants have a tendency to try and push you towards buying expensive bottled water, but I've never encountered it myself.

On topic: as much as I'd always try to avoid saying "cunt" on MeFi, because I know how plenty people don't like it, I'd hope that people would also have the good sense to not immediately assume that I'm a mouth-frothing misogynist if I did drop it into conversation. The air of "ah, but I know what's secretly going on in your mind" that a few comments here seem to have is pretty insulting in itself.
posted by flashboy at 4:54 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, can I just add my utter confusion to this?

I believe it's the whole shouty entitled American abroad everything-overseas-must-be-as-it-is-in-the-US-or-I-am-squealing-quite-loudly thing that's being aimed at here. The actual example may have been a little loose.

And now I am out of hyphens, which is fortunate for all y'alls.
posted by Wolof at 5:04 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


y'alls.

Y'all is plural. Y'alls is nonsense (unless it's y'all's).

I return you to the other discussion of semantics already in progress.
posted by elfgirl at 5:09 AM on July 10, 2008


everything-overseas-must-be-as-it-is-in-the-US-or-I-am-squealing-quite-loudly

i agree with the crow-eating cunt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:13 AM on July 10, 2008


I only popped by because I thought this was the thread where we complained about drum circles. Damn drum circles!
posted by purephase at 5:16 AM on July 10, 2008


Nobody has mentioned that no less than Shakespeare himself, via Hamlet, drops a thinly veiled c-bomb? I'm amazed.
posted by Skorgu at 5:21 AM on July 10, 2008


Like the way they say "I'm just going to the bathroom" when they mean toilet but are too prissy to say the word. If you're heading to the shithouse for a slash or to snap one off, be a man and say so, for fuck's sake.

I'm pretty sure I've also heard British people say they're in the toilet, when in fact they're in the room with a toilet in it. I'm not much of a prude, but I don't stand around in toilet bowls either.
posted by creasy boy at 5:32 AM on July 10, 2008


Perhaps you Scots mefites can educate me as to the meaning of the term 'radge', as in 'he was a right radge cunt, that fucker.'

The word appears all the time in Irving Welsh's dialogue, but I've never heard it in real life. Though it's possible that I have heard it, but the speed and density of the dialect of the Schemies that I was talking to rendered it unintelligible.

about on par in offensiveness with words like kike or nigger

There are a bunch of words that are used to refer in a derogeratory fashion to a bunch of people who, historically, have been not just oppressed, but subjected to slavery and genocide. These words were very much used to refer to the oppressed group by the oppressor, and so I'll happily buy that there's a rational reason to consider such words offensive -- though my own preference is for using them in order to strip them of their power, not fetishizing them and granting them even more magical and symbolic power.

Cunt, on the other hand, simply refers to a part of the female anatomy. Women may have been oppressed, but I don't see how using a particular word that refers to that particular part of the anatomy should be regarded as inherently offensive or oppressive. I mean, it's somewhat arbitrary, isn't it? What is it that linguistics says? There's no inherent relationship between signifier and signified? Why is cunt granted this power as opposed to say, tits?

It seems to me that the people who object to the use of the word cunt are actually seeking to strengthen the relationship between the word and the negative signified that they refer to. By objecting to a wider, more common, casual use of the word, they are attempting to fix the meaning of a word that's been part of the English language for at least the last 700 years or so.

Finally, re. the link to the list that shows cunt to be the 'worst' of the British swear words. What this link fails to convey is the complete lack of seriousness with which we tend to regard this issue these days.

As evidence in support of my claim, I'd offer up Gordon Ramsey, whose cookery shows generally start just on the watershed hour of 9.00pm, but who seems constitutionally incapable of forming a sentence in that doesn't contain the word fuck in it at least twice.

Not only is the man an enormous star, he's probably one of the most fancied men in the UK. His use of profanity doesn't appear to be any sort of obstacle to his audience of middle aged, middle class, cookery show watching housewives.

If Gordon started using the word 'cunt' in place of 'fuck' on his show, the man would probably unleash a tidal wave of vaginal secretions so vast that it would make the after effects of Hurricane Katrina look like a kiddy's paddling pool.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:33 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"?

No, that's Romeo & Juliet.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:33 AM on July 10, 2008


refer in a derogeratory fashion

de-rogering is the english public school version of wonderemptying.

just doing my bit for cross-cultural understanding, here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can I help it if you lot over there barely even have civilization yet?

Son, we gave the world Flava Flav, so don't go getting high and mighty on us.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:48 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Careful. We're veering very, very, close to tripping the Cooter counter right here...

Too lazy to link, but cooter counter was already tripped by Florence Henderson upthread. As for the language issue, the solution is as per usual trying not to be offensive on the one hand and trying not to be offended on the other. Some people will be consistently bad at one or both of these, and that's their way of telling you not to be friends with them.
posted by Kwine at 5:52 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did violet blue get derogered by xeni jardin, or was it the whole of Boing Boing in a kind of backward bukkake?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:52 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


A definition of radge? Hmmm, maybe it would be better for the Sarge to help you out on that one as it is definitely used more on the east than the west coast.

As far as I know, like the word cunt in Scotland, it is multi-faceted, having a hundred different meanings depending on context, tone, whatever. But generally, I have thought radge to mean something simlar to what 'fly' means on the west coast. As in, 'ye better keep an eye oan that yin, he's a fly cunt'. In certain contexts, being fly or radge may be a good, bad or both. A fly cunt might have a scam to get free cable telly in which case this may be considered to be ingenious and thus applauded for it or he might be stealing from friends in which case it is not.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:57 AM on July 10, 2008


Son, we gave the world Flava Flav, so don't go getting high and mighty on us.

Man's got a point.

Did violet blue get derogered by xeni jardin


All evidence suggests the opposite: the wonderemptying was a response to VB derogering XJ.

was it the whole of Boing Boing in a kind of backward bukkake

I confess complete ignorance of this act, which is why English public schools will probably always remain one step ahead of the rest of the world.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:05 AM on July 10, 2008


it's not like you'd go to tea with the Queen and say "Pass me the marmalade , you old cunt"

Sure, but "pass us the cunting marmalade, Bets" would be perfectly appropriate.
posted by goo at 6:12 AM on July 10, 2008


only if you take your etiquette tips from Paul Keating.

which, of course, is the right thing to do.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:16 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


PeterMcDermott, oddly, he spells his last name Ramsay.

Also, I am personally convinced that all his effing and blinding is put on for the telly. He's got to be somewhat of a softie behind it all (his staff retention rate is way, way higher than the average for food and bev, so he's doing something right).
posted by chuckdarwin at 6:18 AM on July 10, 2008


Mitheral writes 'This seems like a pretty poor reason.'

How so? It's offensive in this context, seriously offensive to some, so I'll avoid using it as much as I do in real life. The alternative of sending the whole of America to a Cunt Inoffensiveness Re-education Camp just so I can use the word seems like a bit of a hassle.

sgt.serenity writes 'If i remember rightly it was your naughty american pal that was shocking everyone !'

True enough!
posted by jack_mo at 6:19 AM on July 10, 2008


Y'all is plural.

Not necessarily. Y'all can indeed be singular, and if you wish to be unambiguously plural in your usage, you say "All y'all."
posted by middleclasstool at 6:21 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think so. All y'all is a double plural, it indicates some group of people larger than the group that would be referred to by y'all.
posted by grouse at 6:26 AM on July 10, 2008


youse cunts can overthink a y'all of y'alls.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:31 AM on July 10, 2008


OK, while we're on the reverse acronym tip:

Come Upstairs Now, Twat?

No...? OK then...

Cunt Inoffensiveness Re-education Camp

Cunt Unoffensiveness and Neutralization Training?

"pass us the cunting marmalade, Bets" would be perfectly appropriate.

The thing that brought Gordon Ramsay to mind was hearing him on the radio last week, talking about being invited to some dinner at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the British food industry. Gordon was saying, 'Typical of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall -- he gets invited to Buckingham Palace, and can't be bothered to brush his hear before he meets the Queen.'

I couldn't help but imagine Ramsay complaining about this while simultaneously insisting that Her Majesty 'please get a fucking move on with that OBE, and then get the fuck out of my kitchen!"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:38 AM on July 10, 2008


Take it to Language Log, wankers.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:39 AM on July 10, 2008


Specific Language Log place to which is should be taken.
posted by flashboy at 6:44 AM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


See also: yuns.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:50 AM on July 10, 2008


"please get a fucking move on with that OBE, and then get the fuck out of my kitchen!"

fair enough. they gave kylie minogue an OBE the other day, for *cough* service to the music industry.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2008


Y'all can indeed be singular, and if you wish to be unambiguously plural in your usage, you say "All y'all."

True enough. I guess I should have been clearer and said that y'all doesn't take an 's' in its plural form.
posted by elfgirl at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2008




Perhaps you Scots mefites can educate me as to the meaning of the term 'radge'

it may be an old word meaning 'lusty' or somesuch - but it means a crazy person now, if it's not the lallans explanation - it's come from the gypsies in craigmillar (area of edinburgh) then onto everyone else, there's a few words in trainspotting that have, such as 'barry' meaning 'good' and 'gadge' which may mean someone who isnt a gypsy - mr languagehat would probably know ..........
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:55 AM on July 10, 2008


See also: yuns.

See also: me wanting to poke someone in the eye every time I hear that aural atrocity.

Gah, when I was in high school, there was a guy who bought me beer whose wife said that all the time. It almost wasn't worth the free beer.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:22 AM on July 10, 2008


The only apology I ever got out of a guy I used to work with was over calling me a cunt. (He was a gay man who liked to go on tirades about how women are inherently unsanitary. A joy to work with.) I was amazed that it even that registered to him as being inappropriate. (It wasn't my reaction that tipped him off. I was long beyond caring what he called me at that point.) So, even someone who was casually misogynistic and didn't care who knew realized that "cunt" was unacceptable.
posted by Karmakaze at 7:27 AM on July 10, 2008


I love arriving really late to a thread like this...

Anyhow, I lived in the US for 18 months and probably used the word as much as I use it here - which is to say, hardly all the time, but certainly not never - and I was not once aware of it offending anyone. I'm honestly surprised to hear that people think of it as a misogynistic insult. I probably wouldn't direct it at a woman, but that's more to do with the fact I rarely direct any insulting terms at women than anything to do with that particular word itself. I'm old fashioned like that I guess.

It definitely retains some of its power in the UK, and I, like others have said, wouldn't say it in front of my parents (unless quoting), or in polite company. But the people I drink with are not exactly polite company, and in that context it gets used a lot, although never, as far as I'm concerned, in a way that expresses hatred of women.

All that said, I'd be very unlikely to use it here. Probably because here, I consider myself to be in slightly more polite company than I usually find myself.
posted by MrMustard at 7:30 AM on July 10, 2008


PeterMcDermott, oddly, he spells his last name Ramsay.

To be honest, I'm more Harry Ramsden than Gordon Ramsay.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:59 AM on July 10, 2008


bonaldi writes "So, wait, what's a good reason for Brits to avoid using a word in contexts only Americans find offensive that's not 'because this place is full of Americans so be civil and respect their norms'?"

Nothing wrong with that, being aware of your audience is always a good thing. It's the characterization of MetaFilter as a virtual US that is the problem. Many Americans treat MetaFilter that way of course, always talking about "our" country/president/taxes/land/etc. However as there are a substantial number of members and readers who aren't American I don't think we should be encouraging the concept of MetaFilter as "virtual USA". We don't gain anything thereby and risk losing members who are put off by it.
posted by Mitheral at 8:01 AM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


Scunthorpe.
posted by Artw at 8:47 AM on July 10, 2008


Mr. Bounder: Anyway, ehm, you're interested in one of our holidays, are you?
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Yes, that's right. I saw your advert in the blassified ads.
Mr. Bounder: The what?
Mr. Smoketoomuch: In The Times Blassified Ads.
Mr. Bounder: Ah, The Times Classified Ads.
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Yes, that's right. I'm afraid I have a speech impediment. I can't pronounce the letter B.
Mr. Bounder: Uh, C.
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Yes, that's right, B. It's all due to a trauma I suffered when I was a sbhoolboy. I was attacked by a Siamese bat.
Mr. Bounder: Uh, ah, a Siamese cat.
Mr. Smoketoomuch: No, a Siamese bat. They're more dangerous.
Mr. Bounder: Well, listen...can you say the letter K?
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Oh, yes. Khaki, kettle, Kipling, Khomeini, Kellogg's Born Flakes.
Mr. Bounder: Well, why don't you say the letter K instead of the letter C?
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Well, you mean, pronounce "blassified" with a K?
Mr. Bounder: Yes, absolutely!
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Klassified!
Mr. Bounder: Good!
Mr. Smoketoomuch: Oh, it's very good! I never thought of that before. What a silly bunt.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:48 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I once knew an Australian who used 'Fuck my dog' as his favourite epithet. I got infected with the meme, and for years I would innocently use the expression in surprise, to the absolute horror of everyone around me.

I had/have the same problem with "fuck my cock" of Wet Hot American Summer fame. I often forget that not a ton of people outside of my closest circle have seen that movie, and its usually me they're hearing it from first.

Granted, if I was David Hyde Pierce, it would probably be much less offensive.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:57 AM on July 10, 2008


Hmmm - is this cunt-uttering person a UK denizen? An American adolescent jerkoff? A scary woman hater I should avoid at all costs? A basically good guy with salty language? My ex?

always a vag lover, quonsar drank a douche water and found the drive to try cunt-uttering...
posted by quonsar at 9:00 AM on July 10, 2008


CUNT (12): recently played against me in a game of Scrabble by my friend Harriet. And she is a mother. Tut tut.

Although, as a counter argument, I once played the word cunt in a game of Scrabble against my (female) cousin and my gran when I was a little kid. They were not impressed. I thought it was a little baby pig. They explained that was a runt and a cunt was something else entirely.
posted by ninebelow at 9:21 AM on July 10, 2008




I think of the C bomb as maybe the only remaining bad word in America that is not a racial epithet--a violent, hateful thing. I heard Hillary called it many times in unmixed company during the primary and as a generally antiClintonite lefty, was utterly horrified. It's offputting to me even in the bedroom (though perhaps it shouldn't be). And yet I don't think a thing of it when I hear my Scots and English and Irish friends drop it every three seconds.

The debate here, it seems, is about whether, cultural differences notwithstanding--the word should carry the same connotations in other English speaking societies. In that fight, I have no dog, although asking people in another culture to remake their casual language and resignal their words seems possibly to be asking too much. On the other hand, the argument about sexual power--that using female genetalia as a withering insult is hugely problematic--is pretty damned devastating.

But then again, there is this gem from MC Paul Barman:

I radiate like it was '88
and I'm searching for my lady mate
I'm a hunter gatherer
A cunter-latherer
My dandy voice makes the most anti-choice granny's panties moist.

posted by kosem at 9:41 AM on July 10, 2008


My favourite Cunt is that vampire from Sesame Street.

"Four! Four letter epithet! Ah-ah-ah!"
posted by Sys Rq at 10:25 AM on July 10, 2008


On the other hand, the argument about sexual power--that using female genetalia as a withering insult is hugely problematic--is pretty damned devastating.

Is it? Why? I mean, this may be true in a culture as sex-negative as the USA, but it hardly seems to be true everywhere. Why, for example, should calling them a cunt have more power than calling them a pussy? Or calling them a hoo-hah? Why should it be less acceptable than calling someone a dick or an asshole? Other than this is the word that your particular culture has decided to imbue with that power, I honestly don't get it.

My mother was a master of the withering insult. She rarely used the word 'cunt' to insult her children. She was, however, fond of 'you little snatch', 'you little melt' or 'cow's melt'. The latter two refer to the spleen of the cow -- a piece of offal that was normally fed to the dog.

Personally, I think these have much more connotative power than simply calling someone a cunt. Snatch crosses the idea of female genitalia with the idea of someone who is selfish and grasping -- a much more powerfully misogynistic insult to my mind. And how withering is the idea that someone is no better than a piece of offal, that, even in an offal-eating culture, was fit only for the dog?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:32 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Dan Savage, he's been on a quest recently to rescue "pussy" from misogynist-insult sense by replacing its use as a pejorative with "scrotum" instead. The theory being that a pussy is actually a pretty tough piece of anatomy. Stretches enough to let babies into the world, can be treated pretty roughly even for mutual enjoyment, etc., whereas a scrotum likes to hang out there and look tough but you so much as brush it wrong and it's curl-up-and-whimper time. Which seems like pretty good logic to me.
posted by Drastic at 10:52 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good work on Santorum as well.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on July 10, 2008


Twelfth Night, Malvolio, reading a letter:

"By my life, this is my lady's hand! These be her very C's, her U's, 'n her Ts; and thus makes she her great Ps."
posted by Skot at 11:00 AM on July 10, 2008


Is it? Why? I mean, this may be true in a culture as sex-negative as the USA, but it hardly seems to be true everywhere.

I should have been clearer. It is only in the US that cunt, as opposed to other synonyms, is such a violent insult.

But the argument that the insults derived from female genitalia are inextricably bound up with the most problematic sex (male/female) power dynamics is always true, unless you are prepared to argue that somehow women in other English speaking societies do not share a history with their American sisters. Note that I am not saying that somehow these other places where "cunt" is not considered the final obscenity are more or less retrograde than the USA. What I am saying is that as a rule, the feminist language camp has (what I consider to be) a pretty devastating argument against the use of such words as insults. I am not sure if I subscribe to it, but I get it totally .

I don't believe that American prudishness w/r/t sex (such as it is) has anything whatever to do with it.
posted by kosem at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why, for example, should calling them a cunt have more power than calling them a pussy? Or calling them a hoo-hah?

Pussy is also means cat. Hoo-hah is childlish nonce slang for girlparts. Cunt has no other such mitigating context. But if you think that either of these terms is equivalent to cunt, then perhaps you try throwing them around and see if they satisfy.
posted by desuetude at 11:17 AM on July 10, 2008


"Lady Garden"
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on July 10, 2008


But if you think that either of these terms is equivalent to cunt, then perhaps you try throwing them around and see if they satisfy.

I do. Nobody notices or turns a hair at such times. If the feminist argument against the use of female body parts was *that* devastating, one would expect them to have equal power.

But scratch them. Substitute vadge. If I were to say about somebody, 'you're such a fucking vadge', would that have the same power as cunt? If not, why not?

And why would anyone *want* to strip language of its rich, expressive power? Place certain words off limits? It smacks a bit of the old book-burning impulse to me.

But the argument that the insults derived from female genitalia are inextricably bound up with the most problematic sex (male/female) power dynamics is always true

I'm struggling to parse this somewhat, but if this is indeed the case, why would an insult derived from male genitalia be substitutable and have exactly the same meaning? I can call somebody a cunt. I can call them a prick. Both words have precisely the same meaning, precisely the same function. If what you say is true, then men would get offended at their reduction to nothing but a single bodily component. If what you suggest was true, they might even use their oppressive and phallocentric power to prevent such a supposedly disparaging use of this magnificent object to connote an insult. But they don't. Presumably, because most men don't believe that type of this use serves the function that feminist language theory attributes to it.

Speaking of Dan Savage, he's been on a quest recently to rescue "pussy" from misogynist-insult sense by replacing its use as a pejorative with "scrotum" instead.

So does the fact that we already use the word in that sense in the UK rescue us from the charge or misogyny with regard to our use of cunt, or not?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:05 PM on July 10, 2008


nonce slang for girlparts

That sentence can have a very different meaning in the UK.
posted by jack_mo at 12:07 PM on July 10, 2008


Yeah, nonce slang generally refers to littlegirlparts.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:14 PM on July 10, 2008


"butt munch..."
posted by Lynsey at 12:19 PM on July 10, 2008


"Perhaps you Scots mefites can educate me as to the meaning of the term 'radge'"

it may be an old word meaning 'lusty' or somesuch - but it means a crazy person now, if it's not the lallans explanation - it's come from the gypsies in craigmillar (area of edinburgh) then onto everyone else, there's a few words in trainspotting that have, such as 'barry' meaning 'good' and 'gadge' which may mean someone who isnt a gypsy - mr languagehat would probably know ..........


OED:
radge, adj. and n.

Brit. regional and slang (now chiefly Sc.).

[App. orig. a variant of RAGE adj. Compare RADGIE adj.]

    A. adj. Extremely angry, enraged; wild, violent; mad, crazy.
1857 J. SULLIVAN Cumberland & Westmorland 88 A radge man. 1923 G. WATSON Roxburghshire Word-bk. 245 Radge, very angry; mad with rage. 1994 I. WELSH Acid House 48 They're radge, the Doyles, every fucker in the scheme kens that. 2000 M. HERMAN Purely Belter (film script) 18 Fourteen of 'em there was in the house last night. They stink an'all. Crap all over. But I can't do owt about it. He goes radge if I mention it.

    B. n. In early use: a lascivious woman. Now: a mad or violent person; an idiot; (also in weakened use) a person.
  Sc. National Dict. (1968) records the sense ‘a loose-living woman’ as being in use in Aberdeen, Argyllshire, Lanark, and Selkirk in 1967.
1923 G. WATSON Roxburghshire Word-bk. 245 Radge, a loose-living woman. 1990 S. ROBERTSON Fish-Hooses 38 Here, let mi tell ye aboot a peer loonie I kent and abody made a radge oot of him cos he wis a bittie queer-looking. 1993 I. WELSH Trainspotting 172 That's the spirit Franco, Sick Boy slapped Begbie on the back, tryin tae encourage the radge, tae gie him mair rope so that he'll come oot with another crass Begbie classic or two. 1997 I. RANKIN Black & Blue xxx. 436 He'd rung Burke's, the barside payphone, asked a punter what time the place shut. ‘Party's nearly finished, ya radge!’ Phone slammed home. 2002 L. HIRD in A. Searle Hope that kills Us 57 This was Ronnie's pub. These radges were his real family.
posted by languagehat at 12:21 PM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


I note that the transition in sense from "a lascivious woman" to "mad or violent person; an idiot" may not be without relevance for this thread.

I note also that some people are willing to expend a great deal of wordage and mental energy to preserve their precious right to insult women while pretending they're not.
posted by languagehat at 12:24 PM on July 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


language hat - would you mind explaining the difference between swearing and the use of vulgar language?
posted by Cranberry at 12:31 PM on July 10, 2008


As far as I know, like the word cunt in Scotland, it is multi-faceted, having a hundred different meanings depending on context, tone, whatever.

I love words like this. One such word, in Liverpool, is 'bifter'. It has recently spread outside of Liverpool -- generally to refer to a joint. However, it's original uses were multiple. ie:

Giz a bifter -- give me a cigarette
Roll us a bifter -- roll me a joint
The bizzies arrived so we gave it the bifters -- the police came, and so we ran away
Go 'ed, la. Give it the bifters -- continue to beat up your opponent with vigour and enthusiasm.
Where's bifter? -- hanging out on Metafilter

Thanks for the etymology of radge, languagehat. Much appreciated.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2008


Peter, you're asking questions which have been addressed pretty well in this thread.

"Cunt" as an epithet is more offensive than "vadge" because of its very usage. Just as "nigger" and "person of African decent" describe the same thing in different tones, carrying different baggage. Yes, it's terribly unfair to you, what with your location, your upbringing (your mother sounds charming), and all us prudish USians asking for far more sensitivty than we're entitled to from you, and also to all the other forgotten lulzy words like "poontang" that can never top the shitpile, but that's the fact of it.

Now, you can complain and rail on about how inexplicable the notion of vulgarity is, and how unfair dialectics are, and how "feminist" theories just don't jive with the beliefs of "most men," and how you can and will say whatever mere words you damned well please. But in doing so, you come off as a defensive boor. OR you can be a peach and show a little sensitivity, a little interest in how other people in this community feel about the matter.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:43 PM on July 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


See. I don't think that "prick" and "cunt" are exactly substitutable; not even in the UK--not even when men aren't out-and-out using their, "oppressive and phallocentric power" in choosing one over the other. This is the center of our disagreement, and of your disagreement with feminist language theory. I will agree, however, that the debate is academic in the UK because (in my experience at least) the word has by and large been stripped of its violence and hate. It doesn't make genital insults equivalent, gender neutral, or stripped of their sexuohistorical baggage.

And I really don't think we should strip language of its rich, expressive power, PMcD, or that people in the UK should not use the word. For the avoidance of doubt: banning words never does anybody any good. In fact the expressiveness and power of language is what gives "cunt" is peculiar richness here in the USA. That it does not pack the same devastating punch in the UK is, to my mind, less a function of Anglo valor or sex equality across the Atlantic than some folks seem to imply. You motherfuckers just talk funny.
posted by kosem at 12:48 PM on July 10, 2008


I note also that some people are willing to expend a great deal of wordage and mental energy to preserve their precious right to insult women while pretending they're not.

To people in the UK the word cunt is not an insult to women, there is no misogyny involved.

Anyone who pretends otherwise is being dishonest.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I note also that some people are willing to expend a great deal of wordage and mental energy to preserve their precious right to insult women while pretending they're not.

Jesus, give me some credit. If you want to insult a woman, calling them a cunt is useless because it's too generic. For an insult to have any real power, it needs to be specific and have genuine resonances.

Which is why calling someone a self-righteous blowhard would have much more power to insult someone than simply calling them a cunt.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:11 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you want to insult a woman, calling them a cunt is useless

See, you don't get to decide that, because you're not a woman. (Haven't we had this discussion before?) You can decide that blacks shouldn't be insulted by "nigger" because it's just the Latin word for 'black' with a little phonetic change, but that doesn't have anything to do with reality, and neither do your feelings about whether women should be insulted by "cunt."
posted by languagehat at 1:23 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Cunt" as an epithet is more offensive than "vadge" because of its very usage.

I'm not deliberately trying to be dense here, Ambrosia, but to me, this just reads as though you're saying 'it is because we say it is'.

OR you can be a peach and show a little sensitivity, a little interest in how other people in this community feel about the matter.

I believe that I do that, Ambrosia. I don't believe I've ever called anybody here a cunt. I don't believe I've ever used the term in a misogynistic fashion. And judging from this thread, there's far from a consensus over the use of the word.

I didn't especially want to get into this. Jessamyn invited me to start this discussion here, but I wasn't particularly interested in doing so. It's not that big of an issue for me. However, given that it has started, it doesn't seem especially unreasonable or defensive to put the case for the opposition. As I said earlier. I've used it before. I'll use it again. Sometimes it'll get deleted. Sometimes it won't. I'll live.

But if we're really serious about having the discussion, then that needs to be more than a one sided discussion, in which Americans get to tell the world how it has to be -- yet again -- and points of view that are contrary to the dominant American point of view should be reflected in that discussion.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:30 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Kebab"
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2008


and neither do your feelings about whether women should be insulted by "cunt."

What about the fact that where he comes from women aren't especially insulted by the word cunt?

When you grow up in a place where the word isn't any special kind of offensive chances are you will use it now and then.

People should take account of the context and the apparent intent before getting worked up.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:32 PM on July 10, 2008


I once suggested that a good replacement/euphemism for the word cunt would be "kunch." It never took off.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:38 PM on July 10, 2008


People should take account of the context and the apparent intent before getting worked up.

I think most people have. I think very few people are worked up. My angle is now this "Given that many people in the thread have said that they have found this term incredibly offensive, could you make an effort to not toss it around here even though it's not that offensive of a word where you're from because that's decent manners?" I don't think anyone has jumped down anyone's throat about this or not been understanding that this sort of thing won't work 100% of the time.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:43 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, Peter, I appreciate your fair response.

Think of it this way: it's an English word, and it comes from a bygone era when women were in essentially chattel. If you read the wikipedia entry on it, it goes through several reversals - acceptable in the time of Chaucer for public use, vlugar in the time of Shakespeare. One thing isn't up for debate: that it means "vagina." If some English speaking group winds up using "vagina" to signify any person, place or thing, with only modifiers to connote ambivalence or negativity, well, that's the oddity of language, and that's what's going on in UK/Aus/I-don't-know-where-all in this moment. A right cunt, a daft cunt, these cunts over here, dropping the word all over the place does wind up neutralizing its meaning.

Frankly, that's great! That's doing the work feminism wants to do: taking the misogyny out of it, here and now, and in future. But don't deny that there isn't any to begin with! There most certainly is, has been, has built up to be, over a history wherein reducing a woman to her status as a sexual object was okay, and calling her "cunt" was a quick way to do it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:44 PM on July 10, 2008


My angle is now this "Given that many people in the thread have said that they have found this term incredibly offensive, could you make an effort to not toss it around here

Well thats kind of a good point. It really hasn't ever been tossed around here.

A search shows that it has appeared 1430 times in comments, 339 of those uses are in this thread.

For comparison bitch has 8,931 appearances and fuck ranks an impressive 37,199.

It seems pointless to poll the community on a word that is hardly ever actually used.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:55 PM on July 10, 2008


and fuck ranks an impressive 37,199.

Well, we do our fucking best, ya know?

[37,200]
posted by quin at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2008


I think it is sweet when you septics occasionally remember your puritan roots.

I like how Ozzies, Kiwis, and Brits trot out the "Puritan" line anytime an American takes offense. It's the least original thing they have to say about American culture and one of the least relevant.

If the world were ruled by Languagehat and Jessamyn I would get a hell of a lot less email from people saying, "Well, if they call themselves that, why can't I call them that, too?
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:01 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno. My beloved aunt didn't find it all so offensive.
posted by aught at 2:02 PM on July 10, 2008


I like how Ozzies, Kiwis, and Brits trot out the "Puritan" line anytime an American takes offense. It's the least original thing they have to say about American culture and one of the least relevant.

Nah, I'll play the "cultral imperialist", and "bunch of mouthy twats telling me how to use a word they can't even pronouce" line first.

But seriously, you guys do bullshit outrage better than anyone else.
posted by Artw at 2:04 PM on July 10, 2008 [5 favorites]


It seems pointless to poll the community on a word that is hardly ever actually used.

How is over 1000 times "hardly ever used"? Here are a few more numbers

nigger: 64
kike: 74
spic: 73

I think that's what "hardly ever used" looks like. I think you've made your point that you don't think this is much of a big deal.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:12 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


The whole Quentin Tarantino okay-to-say-nigger thing never really took off, did it?
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on July 10, 2008


How is over 1000 times "hardly ever used"? Here are a few more numbers

When its on a site that has been active for 10 years and currently draws at least hundreds (if not 1000) comments per day and where nearly a quarter of the uses are right here in this thread

Its nowhere near the level of most other swear words and you have to look to racial or homophobic slurs to find "naughty words" that are used less.

I think you've made your point that you don't think this is much of a big deal

Thank you, its nice to know people are reading me right.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:24 PM on July 10, 2008


When you grow up in a place where the word isn't any special kind of offensive chances are you will use it now and then.

People should take account of the context and the apparent intent before getting worked up.


Absolutely true on both counts. The point, though, is that when someone tells you "I realize you may not be aware of this, being from Yourland, but around here that term is very offensive," you have two choices: you can say "Oops, sorry, didn't know, I'll try to avoid it, thanks for the heads-up!" or you can say "Tough titties, that's how I speak and you can just deal with it." The second response doesn't tend to get a very good reaction.
posted by languagehat at 2:27 PM on July 10, 2008


The second response doesn't tend to get a very good reaction

Then people probaly aren't actually taking account of context and apparent intent. If its not used in a misogynystic way and its a user that you know to be from a place that uses it with far less venom than you are used to just let it slide.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2008


That kind of leaves you open to total censorship by the proffesionaly outraged though.
posted by Artw at 2:35 PM on July 10, 2008


Reggie Knoble writes "A search shows that it has appeared 1430 times in comments, 339 of those uses are in this thread."

How are you all searching for the occurrences? Because I think a hit on google, for example, just means it appears at least once on the page but it could appear a thousand times and still only be a single hit.

The numbers for nigger seem especially low considering the number of times we've discussed racism here.

Reggie Knoble writes "fuck ranks an impressive 37,199."

And another 15,300 from all the WTFs.
posted by Mitheral at 2:35 PM on July 10, 2008


How are you all searching for the occurrences? Because I think a hit on google, for example, just means it appears at least once on the page but it could appear a thousand times and still only be a single hit.

I used MeFi's own search for all the numbers i got.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:38 PM on July 10, 2008


That kind of leaves you open to total censorship by the proffesionaly outraged though.

Unless you really, truly think this is something that is on the table as an actual threat on MetaFilter, I wish you'd dial it back a little Artw. Moderating a site with people of a huge range of backgrounds and opinions is difficult and we try to do a good and equitable job of it here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:49 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually using that search for nigger shows 1146 results.

So either nigger is used more often than previously stated, moreso than cunt if the uses in this thread are discounted, or the word under discussion is used less than i stated.

Depends how that search function works.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 2:51 PM on July 10, 2008


MetaFilter: a bunch of mouthy twats
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:52 PM on July 10, 2008


"Then people probaly aren't actually taking account of context and apparent intent. If its not used in a misogynystic way and its a user that you know to be from a place that uses it with far less venom than you are used to just let it slide."

Oh, fuck your intent, you retard. And fuck your self-reporting "Well, clearly, I don't mean it misogynistically, can't you tell that I only meant it as a general insult?" My people have historically called blacks "niggers," but I don't hold a claim on it except when I make it absolutely fucking clear that I'm using it either ironically or for a specific point where no other word will do (see above). If you can't do that with "cunt," then you've fucking failed at communication and you need to avoid the word. Hell, I've been called out for saying shit that people took as misogynist—and it was because I didn't make myself clear.

Everything else is disingenuous bullshit, and if you can't take being told that, you should fuck off back to your local pub.

What fucking weeping sores you guys are being.

(Oh, and way upthread Peter mentioned the lack of relation between symbol and symbolized, but conflated that with saying that pussy was equivalent to cunt—no, what the arbitrary nature of signs means is that there's no reason why "cunt" is the word for cunt, just like there's nothing purely "ball" about balls. Onomatopoeia excepted.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:56 PM on July 10, 2008


Sorry, but people need to cowboy the fuck up.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:05 PM on July 10, 2008


Then people probaly aren't actually taking account of context and apparent intent. If its not used in a misogynystic way and its a user that you know to be from a place that uses it with far less venom than you are used to just let it slide.

Well, there's a few different things going on here and I feel like I've seen people talk past each other on this a few times so far in the thread. So:

1. It is good for the listener to take into account context and apparent intent when someone says something apparently nasty. If I know you're from the UK, it'll help me know that your use of the word cunt occurs in the context of a culture where the word has less taboo in general usage and different connotations, and I'll definitely give you credit there.

2. It is good for the speaker to take into account context and likely interpretation when saying something apparently harmless. If you know that much of your audience is from the US, you're (at least by now, certainly) aware that the word cunt has a much stronger, taboo and generally offensive connotation than the one you're used to. Hopefully you'll take that into consideration when you choose your words.

3. That 'cunt' has really offensive and hurtful connotations in the US does not make a UK speaker's casual use of the less taboo cuntUK suddenly by definition misogynistic. There may be some finer points to this discussion, but, yes: I think it's a fair defense of UK-qua-UK usage shouldn't be indicted as equivalent to US usage, and it doesn't make a Scot a misogynist to have their casual UKian 'cunt' overheard by someone from the US.

4. That 'cunt' is a less charged meaning in the UK goes somewhat out the window, practically speaking, on a site where most of the audience is not in the UK. That doesn't mean you can't use the word because it might offend the Americans, it just means you need to consider that the context is very much not the UK, the presumed cultural context of a speaker in vacuum is not UK, and people hearing you say 'cunt' may not have any reason to know that those mitigating circumstances exist.

Which is a bit complicated for a series of bullet points, but the command summary is more or less this: words that you use to mean something relatively mild in your default social context but which have a far-from-mild meaning in another social context are words that it'd be nice of you to weigh carefully and reconsider deploying in that other social context—not because doing otherwise makes you a bigot, but because doing otherwise is just plain inconsiderate if you know better.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:06 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh, fuck your intent, you retard

So sexism bad, derogatory terms for the mentally challanged.......good?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:07 PM on July 10, 2008


So sexism bad, derogatory terms for the mentally challanged.......good?

Talk about the C calling the R a N.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:12 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought the word "pussy" (in the derogatory sense) was a hold over from the anglicized French word "pousse" (which means "push") which at one time was a pre 19th century French-American colloquialism for "being soft." It was quite separate from the term for genitalia. I have no idea where I heard that. But it stuck with me.

Not sure how female genitalia got called that other than the obvious kitty-cat type of reference.

As for using the derogatory "C" word as an insult? The best solution is that Mefites don't call each other names at all. But no. Obviously that goes to far.
posted by tkchrist at 3:13 PM on July 10, 2008


They're just words, Reggie. Is it because I didn't say "Spaz," which I understand is the parlance in the UK?

Or were you being a disingenuous canker again?
posted by klangklangston at 3:14 PM on July 10, 2008


It's SCOPE now.
posted by Artw at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2008


They're just words, Reggie. Is it because I didn't say "Spaz," which I understand is the parlance in the UK?

Not really, that cultural imperialism has seen your preferred term take over.

Or were you being a disingenuous canker again?

You are telling me that people shouldn't say cunt while calling me a retard and I am disingenuous?

Please do feel free to call me another name, it really does strengthen your point, may I suggest wanker, always a good standby in dear old Blighty?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2008


4. That 'cunt' is a less charged meaning in the UK goes somewhat out the window, practically speaking, on a site where most of the audience is not in the UK. That doesn't mean you can't use the word because it might offend the Americans, it just means you need to consider that the context is very much not the UK...

Can't you just say most of the audience is the US? I mean, really? Because that is what this is about. I mean, if that's the way it is, that's cool, but let's be honest here.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2008


Reggie Knoble, you're being a knob. You just came in here and poked around enough until you got a few hornets to come out, then you whined. Read over your comments here again.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2008


That kind of leaves you open to total censorship by the professionally outraged though.

What jessamyn said, but I want to make it clear that I am totally against "censorship by the professionally outraged" and took flak for saying so over at Making Light. But every situation is different, and I don't see any professional outrage here, just some women making clear that they don't feel comfortable with people throwing around the word "cunt." Now, I love "bad words" in general (hell, I wrote a book about them), and I'm fond of the word "cunt"—in its place. That place is not in general conversation on MeFi.

I mean, come on, we all use language differently among "our crowd" than we do in public; that's not censorship, that's good manners.

As for the rest, cortex pretty much said everything I wanted to say. That drongo.
posted by languagehat at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2008


Awesome circle jerk ya going on down here.

I don't know fer certain what it means to cowboy up, but It sounds mighty appealing. I'm thinking I might need some whiskey for bait?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2008


And twat. Which is, IMHO, a different matter entirely, since people actually use it in general conversation here and the thread focuses on shaming them.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2008


Reggie Knoble, you're being a knob. You just came in here and poked around enough until you got a few hornets to come out, then you whined. Read over your comments here again.

Really?

The people who would like to censor others are very free with the insults aren't they?

And I have not whined. I asked why its not good for the word cunt to be used, even in a non insulting way, when it is fine to call a specific user a name that some would take offense to.

Its all well and good standing up to the use of the word cunt but when you follow that up with fuck you retard then you lose the high ground.

P.S. Matt, any chance I could get an edit to my username to include my new titles

Reggie Knoble (Retard, Disingenuous Canker, Knob)
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:31 PM on July 10, 2008


You can put it on your business cards as well.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:33 PM on July 10, 2008


I don't know about that, I might hand it to someone who takes offense.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2008


Can we add an animated gif of the stars and stripes flapping gently in the wind to the logo while we're at it?
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on July 10, 2008


Can't you just say most of the audience is the US? I mean, really? Because that is what this is about. I mean, if that's the way it is, that's cool, but let's be honest here.

When was I being dishonest? It's a known fact of life that the mefi demographic is mostly US—by circumstance, not by design—and that's been explicitly discussed in this thread alone by a whole lot of people. Does the distinction change how you read my argument materially?
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:39 PM on July 10, 2008


"The people who would like to censor others are very free with the insults aren't they?"

And those who would censor no one are pretty fast to whine like toddlers when they're insulted.

For further edification, I haven't argued in favor of "censorship," but rather awareness and alacrity. I meant to insult your stupid position, and you for taking it. I'm glad to hear any regular guff about my use of retard—I've heard it before, and I'm using it here to make a point. Just like how my use of canker was intentional, rather than the lazy "wanker." They mean different things.

"And I have not whined. I asked why its not good for the word cunt to be used, even in a non insulting way, when it is fine to call a specific user a name that some would take offense to."

And it's been explained, I dunno, eleventy-million times upthread that cunt has some pretty nasty connotations, and that it's impolite even in England.

"Its all well and good standing up to the use of the word cunt but when you follow that up with fuck you retard then you lose the high ground."

Fuck the high ground. And fuck your lack of reading comprehension.
posted by klangklangston at 3:42 PM on July 10, 2008


Would anybody like a Mentos?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:43 PM on July 10, 2008


I haven't argued in favor of "censorship," but rather awareness and alacrity.

No, you've pretty much argued that people should speak like Americans or not at all.
posted by Artw at 3:45 PM on July 10, 2008


Oh, Art, didn't you see my concession to "spaz"?

People should talk like Americans AROUND HERE or RISK BEING MISUNDERSTOOD IN A PARTICULARLY OFFENSIVE MANNER.

And if they don't understand that, especially after they've been told multiple times, they are either intentionally being assholes or too stupid to function in society. Either way, they don't earn a lot of sympathy.
posted by klangklangston at 3:48 PM on July 10, 2008


People should talk like Americans AROUND HERE

Well thanks for flat out saying it, and fuck you.

Your sympathy you can keep.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on July 10, 2008


Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the search totals don't include pulled comments, so I'm not sure how useful numbers are.

ArtW, your point about twat (and shame). A big part of the reason I opened this here was because it seemed like the pink superhero's request to use twat less in that thread provoked a storm of twat usage. If that was a nervous defensive reaction "you cant censor me TWAT TWAT TWAT", then I think a little shame is appropriate. If it was just impassioned annoyance at the condo owners, then I've got no beef with that. I probably shouldn't have put the shame comment in there. I did bring it to MeTa though, and I didn't want to say: "lets talk about our feelings in a non-judgemental way". Then people might think of me as a pussyscrotum.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:51 PM on July 10, 2008


Also, I had a huge comment that I was working on that Cortex totally deflated with his much better response. (drongo indeed)
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:53 PM on July 10, 2008


A big part of the reason I opened this here was because it seemed like the pink superhero's request to use twat less in that thread provoked a storm of twat usage.

That was actually the reason I suggested this go here. I didn't mind the original comment [PeterMcDermott's I htink?] at all, but when TPS [and a few more people?] were like "huh, can we not go there?" and people sort of gleefully did, it seemed like the next place to go was here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:56 PM on July 10, 2008


If I've learned one thing from this thread, it's that the drongo are a family of small passerine birds of the Old World tropics. Still no idea why they lend their name to an Australian insult, though.
posted by jack_mo at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2008


As for locality, I've been making an effort lately to say American in place of our, etc... Which has prompted people to assume I'm from the UK. I guess somewhat proving the YANKZONE point.

I think confusing a call to self-censor with actual censorship loses one the right to call anyone oversensitive about language, and when taken to extremes of defensiveness makes one look immature. On the other hand this thread seems to have drifted pretty far from where I intended, and there is a little more on-site censorship than I'd realized (McDermott's cuntbroker comment for example). What were we talking about again?
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2008


Klang, quite clearly you have a strong and principled stance when it comes to avoiding offensive language.

note: Everyone needs a hug

Some more than others.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:03 PM on July 10, 2008


When was I being dishonest? It's a known fact of life that the mefi demographic is mostly US—by circumstance, not by design—and that's been explicitly discussed in this thread alone by a whole lot of people. Does the distinction change how you read my argument materially?
I think it's coming from comments like Mitheral's above that it's somehow bad for us to treat this place like virtual America, yet it so patently is just that, which makes all the meandering around the meaning of language beside the point. It's full of Americans, we've to treat it like America, and try to follow American sensitivities.

(Not that this is necessarily bad, btw. I mean, if the cost of us all being in America is that we can't say cunt a lot, uh, I'll cope. Brits and Aussies rock at swearing, and at doing it without using necessarily offensive words. If we have to drop the swearing that's just US-style chains of offensive terms, it won't break my sack.)
posted by bonaldi at 4:07 PM on July 10, 2008


"Well thanks for flat out saying it, and fuck you.

Your sympathy you can keep.
"

Fuck you right back, Art, at least until you can make it all the way through a goddamned sentence.
posted by klangklangston at 4:10 PM on July 10, 2008


cortex: Your wording in #4 suggests that if only UKians would consider that not everyone on MeFi is from the UK - and is therefore presumably A-OK with usage of the word in question - that all would be dandy.

But it seems clear to me that it's really USians having the problem (we've had people from Australia in the thread saying it's no biggie, etc.). In short, your fourth point reads to me like you're juggling to avoid suggesting it is folks in the US that are having problems with the word.

Now, again, I've no dog in this race. I just think that MeFi shouldn't shirk from the simple fact that, as you say, most of the members here are from the US; that's why this word is especially problematic. It's not that we're not all from the UK.

One of the things that make MeFi frustrating occasionally is that the (USian) majority here often overlooks the fact that things could ever be other than they appear to the majority; in other words, people here rarely stop to consider the legitimacy of viewpoints outside their own. I know, that sounds like something you could say about people on the Internet in general.

I would love sometime to see a thread addressing this often-overlooked aspect of the site. The frustration from other 'aliens' comes through in drips and drabs but, because the majority here are USian, it always seems like a whisper in a crowd.

Example: How is your second point different from saying 'when you post comments, consider the fact that most of the people here are from the US'? I mean, it's true, they are. One might well consider it indeed, but then we're into what people *think* other people's opinions would be. It's a bit of a house of cards, if you see what I mean.

There are often comments made on the blue that make me see red because they're indicative of American exceptionalism, and USians just see them as jokes. For example, in most any thread on Canada's resources, some USian wit will suggest an imminent US invasion to obtain said resources.

Funny to you maybe, not funny to me. But it probably never even occurred to most USians that that wouldn't be funny. Nonetheless, I don't flag it, I don't start a Meta thread about it, I just move on. Because I know that most folks here are from the US, I know they think it's fine, and I know that's the reality of the situation.

I'm gonna go stare at some beans now.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:10 PM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Klang, quite clearly you have a strong and principled stance when it comes to avoiding offensive language."

And clearly, when you can't comprehend a pretty simple actual argument, you retreat to sarcasm.

Or, to put it in terms you might get closer to understanding: Yeah, that's exactly what I said.
posted by klangklangston at 4:12 PM on July 10, 2008


Klang

What is the point in arguing with you?

The point supposedly being argued is the approtriateness of a term that might cause offense and in a little over an hour you have called me retard, spaz, disengenuous and a canker.

You have also implied or flat out said that i can go fuck myself a couple of times.

Once again, so its clear, i am not whining. I just fail to see what I might possibly gain in actually trying to argue with you when this thread is full of people who were making a point similar to your own but done so much better.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:19 PM on July 10, 2008


Or even the apropriateness
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:20 PM on July 10, 2008


I'm pretty tempted to give the USian issue it's own call-out, to seperate it from the twat issue, but that would be metaing a meta, which is just weird.
posted by Artw at 4:24 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meta a meta and the site looks like this.

(Also, it's been done before.)

"The point supposedly being argued is the approtriateness of a term that might cause offense and in a little over an hour you have called me retard, spaz, disengenuous and a canker."

Why might that be?
posted by klangklangston at 4:29 PM on July 10, 2008


It really ought to be discussed sometime, but it merits its own thread, yeah.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2008


Example: How is your second point different from saying 'when you post comments, consider the fact that most of the people here are from the US'? I mean, it's true, they are. One might well consider it indeed, but then we're into what people *think* other people's opinions would be. It's a bit of a house of cards, if you see what I mean.

The difference in principle is that it doesn't matter that the US happens to be the dominant demographic. If 90% of the site was from the UK and the topic was a word that's offensive as all hell in the UK but mild in the US, my position would be precisely the same with the nationalities reversed.

That's what I mean when I say that the demographics here are by circumstance, not design. I have no desire to protect the sensibilities of Americans over those of anybody else, but as it happens that's the dominant cultural context of the people who spend time here.

You can argue that because in practice "dominant culture" collapses to "US culture" there's therefore some justification in diverting the argument from "not offending a shitload of people on the site" to "not offending a shitload of Americans", but I don't think it's that simple, and I think just that bit of sleight of hand (or honest conflation) is being used as the springboard for a lot of anti-American, rather than anti-being-fundamentally-considerate, arguments.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:31 PM on July 10, 2008


Why might that be?

Becuase you're a bit of a tosser, as far as i can tell. You've found a rock to hit people with and you;re damn well going to do it, becuase you enjoy it and it's in some sense sanctioned, but your actions in no way embody any kind of greater principle. At least the prudes have some kind of point - you're just being a shit.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on July 10, 2008


One of the things that make MeFi frustrating occasionally is that the (USian) majority here often overlooks the fact that things could ever be other than they appear to the majority; in other words, people here rarely stop to consider the legitimacy of viewpoints outside their own. I know, that sounds like something you could say about people on the Internet in general.

That I can totally understand and agree with. I'd love it if the site were both more international demographically and more self-aware about the functionally, if not overwhelmingly, international nature of the userbase. I think thoughtful objections to US-centric thinking and phrasing in the discourse here is a reasonable and even valuable thing, in general. I just don't think that insisting on saying "cunt" is really a defensible tack to take, on that front.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on July 10, 2008


I think just that bit of sleight of hand (or honest conflation) is being used as the springboard for a lot of anti-American, rather than anti-being-fundamentally-considerate, arguments.

I don't see that at all. Oh well. I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree then.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:37 PM on July 10, 2008


I don't see that at all.

That, my friend, is what sleight of hand is all about.
posted by kosem at 4:41 PM on July 10, 2008


I just don't think that insisting on saying "cunt" is really a defensible tack to take, on that front.

I'm with you on that. It's a very unfortunate door to a valid discussion, and it's certainly not a line in the sand for me personally.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:41 PM on July 10, 2008


For example, in most any thread on Canada's resources, some USian wit will suggest an imminent US invasion to obtain said resources.

Nobody ever wants to invade Australia to obtain our resources.

Which is fine.

Because you cunts can just stay the fuck out.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:42 PM on July 10, 2008


Well, then, I'll take a bit of my medicine and stop being so glib about it—I used "retard" because I knew that Reggie would take umbrage at it, despite the obvious fact that I wasn't using it purely to demean the mentally disabled. I know this because I'm over the age of three, and know that words can have an effect, even one that I don't intend, especially after I've been told so. And that's the case against the casual use of twat or cunt—words that should be used for intentional effect, because, hell, if you're going to offend people you might as well intend to offend.

But hey, since you couldn't even bother to get past "or," I shouldn't expect any higher-level parsing on your part.
posted by klangklangston at 4:44 PM on July 10, 2008


It's most likely something for another day, given that discussion has gotten a little heated here. Most likely after the next LOLOTHERCOUNTRIES post, or post about Africa that gets derailed into American electoral politics.

And I’m not sorry for those who can’t see the problem with the premise of this thread, or why it’s crossed the line cluelessly inflammatory, but to borrow a line of boyzone argument: That’s because you’re American.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nobody ever wants to invade Australia to obtain our resources.

That's because the bits of your country that have them are full of postapocalyptic maniacs and poisonous things. And giant, killer pigs.
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on July 10, 2008


But hey, since you couldn't even bother to get past "or," I shouldn't expect any higher-level parsing on your part.

Ahead, quit while you're.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:47 PM on July 10, 2008


And giant, killer pigs.

We ride them to work.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:48 PM on July 10, 2008


*leads entire site in drunken singalong of "Kiss Me I'm ShitFaced and "The Spicy McHaggis Jig."*

This, as we all know, is the solution to all the world's problems.
posted by jonmc at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2008


Artw, I'd love to see a USIAN thread, and I'm glad it's not going to be immediately. Because I've read all 400+ comments in this one (some multiple times), and my eyes are starting to glaze over.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2008


Well, then, I'll take a bit of my medicine and stop being so glib about it—I used "retard" because I knew that Reggie would take umbrage at it

Fail

I didn't take umbrage at being called a retard, I found the disconnect between your stand against cunt and your use of what is generally deemed to be offensive language whan addressing me to be strange.


even one that I don't intend

Well I'm not going to argue that words can't have unintended consequences, I will just point out that you quite clearly did intend to be as unpleasant as possible. You said it just now and you said it about your use of the word canker.

So if your point was about unintened consequences, and you attempted to make that point by being quite deliberately hostile, then again, fail.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:51 PM on July 10, 2008


Well, I'm done for the day. See you in tomorrows [X]ZONE thread.
posted by Artw at 4:52 PM on July 10, 2008


turgid dahlia writes 'Nobody ever wants to invade Australia to obtain our resources.'

What about that war with Hong Kong?
posted by jack_mo at 5:01 PM on July 10, 2008


"I didn't take umbrage at being called a retard, I found the disconnect between your stand against cunt and your use of what is generally deemed to be offensive language whan addressing me to be strange."

Why note it if cunt isn't offensive? If cunt is offensive, why argue for its use as not offensive? DOUBLE DARE FAIL.

"Well I'm not going to argue that words can't have unintended consequences, I will just point out that you quite clearly did intend to be as unpleasant as possible. You said it just now and you said it about your use of the word canker."

Not as unpleasant as possible—unpleasant to you for a particular reason. And no, that's not what I said just now, nor in my selection of "canker." If I'd wanted to be as offensive as possible, I would have used some other word, whereas if I wanted to portray you as an irritating sore, I'd describe you as a canker. See how that works?

"So if your point was about unintened consequences, and you attempted to make that point by being quite deliberately hostile, then again, fail."

No, the point was about intended consequences. I intended to come across as hostile, and I did. Because I knew that "retard" et al. was hostile towards you, and I used those words to that effect. That "cunt" is offensive (excepting some fairly minor uses) is well known, and "cunt" should be used with that in mind, just as "retard" is. "Cunt" differs in that it is more extreme that "retard" in America, and less extreme (or arguably the same level of offensiveness) in some other English speaking countries. Just like I'd tell a French friend that "Negro" is going to offend people here, and that it should be used with an ear toward that loaded sense.
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2008


What about that war with Hong Kong?

Dude. That's like the twisted brain-wrong of a one-off man mental.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:29 PM on July 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


And parents, remember: your child could be splatted...by a roboplegic wrongcock.
posted by turgid dahlia at 5:37 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can I get a show of hands from any women still lurking at this cockjoust?

I hate to use the b-word, fellas, but the aggro posturing and willy-nilly slagging is, well, old school MetaTalk, I'll say.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:49 PM on July 10, 2008


* waves *
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:53 PM on July 10, 2008


hi
posted by Stewriffic at 6:01 PM on July 10, 2008


AV said "willy"
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2008


Again. How about we just not call each other names at all. Huh? How about that? Anybody on with that?
posted by tkchrist at 6:39 PM on July 10, 2008


in the interest of SCIENCE!, i've called my wife (US citizen) all of these words. here are her responses:

cunt: no response.
twat: (rhymes with 'thought') "no, pearlie's a twat" (referring to the cat)
vagina: "it's more fun to say 'penis'. penis! penis!"
"ya know why they call it a penile system? cuz they all get butt-raped. penis! penis!"

i forget what happened next, but i think the cat was offended.
posted by stubby phillips at 6:46 PM on July 10, 2008


My long hair sometimes confuses, and then angers, unobservant men. I'm not sure that counts, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:48 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Between us there was, as I have already said somewhere, the bond of the sea. Besides holding our hearts together through long periods of separation, it had the effect of making us tolerant of each other’s yarns - and even convictions."
posted by kosem at 7:00 PM on July 10, 2008


One small thing. I am not from the USA; I'm Canadian. I have asked other women and men from Canada, the UK, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, El Salvador, Australia, and New Zealand how "cunt" is used in their part of the world. The nearly universal response was that it was rude, crude and often passive-aggressively mean. The other most frequent response was: it depends on set and setting. One quote from the answers I got is: "I'm fine with it, and use it myself when I'm with my mates and we're all on the same page." Interestingly, the men I talked to from Oz both said it was fine to use as street language, unless it was used in reference to a woman; then it was a prescription for a fight.

This is confusing, to say the least.

Of course things are different everywhere. I just don't want my dismay at the level of deliberate crudity to be passed off as a reflexive USian reaction. I too, often find attitudes from south of the border to be a little prim. When I go there, I try to remember that.
posted by reflecked at 7:09 PM on July 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


When did we get on about censoring? Did I miss the part where anyone proposed that twat and cunt get bleeped? Weird.

/woman
posted by desuetude at 8:32 PM on July 10, 2008


That word censoring? It doesn't mean what most people who use it here think it means.
posted by dg at 8:51 PM on July 10, 2008


The best we can hope for here is censure.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 PM on July 10, 2008


If the censure's all gone, how about some tonsure?
posted by flabdablet at 9:10 PM on July 10, 2008


"Again. How about we just not call each other names at all. Huh? How about that? Anybody on with that?"

Just don't call me late for dinner.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 PM on July 10, 2008


I knew a crazy old Orthodox bishop who swung a mean censer.

Really, it was a miracle he never knocked anyone's teeth out with that thing.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:21 PM on July 10, 2008


"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

"Burglarize".

My colleagues over here have already learned my response to that particular exhibition of slack-jawed fuckwittery.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:34 PM on July 10, 2008


"People should talk like Americans AROUND HERE or RISK BEING MISUNDERSTOOD IN A PARTICULARLY OFFENSIVE MANNER."

Oh fuck off. Please.

We all, I think, temper our language according to audience. But we're not children either. I don't think I've ever used the particular word under discussion here on MetaFilter, and I don't suppose I ever would, but telling me I've got to speak like an American or risk being misunderstood... well, call me crazy, but maybe that's a risk I'm just about man enough to take.
posted by MrMustard at 11:07 PM on July 10, 2008


Yeah, I'll take that risk, too. Anyone who doesn't like it can kiss my skinny white arse.
posted by dg at 12:06 AM on July 11, 2008


Why note it if cunt isn't offensive?

Because you think it is.

No, the point was about intended consequences. I intended to come across as hostile, and I did. Because I knew that "retard" et al. was hostile towards you, and I used those words to that effect. That "cunt" is offensive (excepting some fairly minor uses) is well known, and "cunt" should be used with that in mind, just as "retard" is. "Cunt" differs in that it is more extreme that "retard" in America, and less extreme (or arguably the same level of offensiveness) in some other English speaking countries. Just like I'd tell a French friend that "Negro" is going to offend people here, and that it should be used with an ear toward that loaded sense.

Then its irrelevant, nobody was saying we should be allowed to call people cunts, just that the use of the word was acceptable in light of the way it is used and the background of the person using it.

I certainly agree that people shouldn't be deliberately unpleasant to other users, and I have done my best to not only think so but to act in that manner.

Which is a lot more than can be said for you.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 12:46 AM on July 11, 2008


If the censure's all gone, how about some tonsure?

We've got loads, boxes, massive mounds of cocksure, that's fer damn sure.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:06 AM on July 11, 2008


I think i said this before - we did a scottish language version of m**beth once and one guy had to say a line that went "sic boondless radgieness kin maister a man !"
and there you go, language hat can say the m word all he likes but i have a wee bit of apprehension of it, it depends where you've been.
I'm not too sure if the c word is much of a rallying point for those of us resisting imperialist americas soft power though.
The lack of adequate healthcare and the rising of standards elsewhere means it's not exactly the mecca it once was.
(can i say the word mecca in the virtual us ?)
Anyway, seeing as i was popping over for a bit later this year, i promise to be annoyingly us centric but i have noted in chats with lots of polish people for instance that they don't really want to go or are even coming back to poland to settle.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:43 AM on July 11, 2008


So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?

Yeah, so this one time, I was explaining this drink to a friend from the UK. I said, "It's like an Irish Carbomb..."

And she said, "I'm sorry, what?!?"

That's right, you UK pansies: we name a drink after something that killed you. Guess you guys don't have the monopoly on offending people across a pond.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:58 AM on July 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


I am unaware of any pattern of usage that would be analogous re:cunt or twat. Which was my fairly clearly stated point.

That's probably because most spousal abuse isn't televised.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:07 AM on July 11, 2008


Oh, are we going to start on the Troubles, now? I'll get my coat...
posted by chuckdarwin at 7:02 AM on July 11, 2008


tkchrist: I thought the word "pussy" (in the derogatory sense) was a hold over from the anglicized French word "pousse" (which means "push") which at one time was a pre 19th century French-American colloquialism for "being soft." It was quite separate from the term for genitalia. I have no idea where I heard that. But it stuck with me.

Not sure how female genitalia got called that other than the obvious kitty-cat type of reference.


Robert Darnton in his great essay The Great Cat Massacre says: "Le chat, la chaste, le minet mean the same thing in French slang as "pussy" does in English, and they have served as obscenities for centuries." The essay is a great read and I recommend it to all and sundry.

stinkycheese: The frustration from other 'aliens' comes through in drips and drabs but, because the majority here are USian, it always seems like a whisper in a crowd.

I really don't understand that. I'm Icelandic. I started reading MetaFilter while still living in Iceland. I started posting while living in Iceland. I've never felt excluded or put down because of my non-Americanness. Sure, I currently live in the US but except for occasional bitching about Americans doing this and that (usually unfair stereotypes in the "bunch-of-puritans" mold) I can't remember much frustration dripping through, except for this thread, especially this comment by sveskemus.

"So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?"

Depending on where they're from: English.
posted by Kattullus at 8:48 AM on July 11, 2008


That's right, you UK pansies: we name a drink after something that killed you. Guess you guys don't have the monopoly on offending people across a pond.

Pity Iraq doesn't have a national booze.
posted by Artw at 9:32 AM on July 11, 2008


A quick question that probably should have been asked long ago: Do people in America actually call each other twats in a clearly and unambiguously misogynistic way?
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on July 11, 2008


Anecdotat: I've heard 'twat' used humorously, with little rancor. However, every once in a while it shows up in compound put-downs said with rancor: twatwaffle, twathat, twatmuffin, twatlizard.
posted by Kattullus at 9:49 AM on July 11, 2008


Do people in America actually call each other twats in a clearly and unambiguously misogynistic way?

Yes.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:51 AM on July 11, 2008


"We all, I think, temper our language according to audience. But we're not children either. I don't think I've ever used the particular word under discussion here on MetaFilter, and I don't suppose I ever would, but telling me I've got to speak like an American or risk being misunderstood... well, call me crazy, but maybe that's a risk I'm just about man enough to take."

Fair enough. Since you don't use the words, and this discussion is all in the context of said words, pretending that the risks are equal across the board for all trans-Atlantic jargon disparity seems a little bit silly—you risk being misunderstood when you say you're going over to knock up someone's sister, but the consequences of being misunderstood that way are fairly much an order of magnitude lower, aren't they? And since you know that the audience here is primarily American, you're aware of that risk.

What I'm saying is that the casual use of cunt or twat pisses people off, and people have left over similar issues, and thus care should be used. That you're already mindful means that it's kinda fucking moot for you, y'know? What's pissing me off are the folks who are pretending that either there's no problem or that it's all those damn Yanks faults for making them abandon what's an otherwise perfectly sensible word, as if they're totally unaware of, oh, nearly 90% of what's been said to them. And it's totally disingenuous to pretend that those points haven't been made again and again and that calling someone out for their casual use of an offensive term isn't both to be expected and a good.

"Then its irrelevant, nobody was saying we should be allowed to call people cunts, just that the use of the word was acceptable in light of the way it is used and the background of the person using it."

And others were saying, no, it's not, because even the casual use is offensive—and beyond that, people were being called twats, and that's what the fucking thread is about. Which you'd know if you'd read the fucking thread instead of wandering in at the end like the last rube off the turnip truck.
posted by klangklangston at 9:55 AM on July 11, 2008


Oh, let me explain what I meant by "used humorously." When I hear it used it's mostly as a funny alternative for "vagina" or "cunt" in the same manner that Americans will use "shag" instead of "fuck." Usually pronounced with an exaggerated English accent. All examples I can think of were self-referrals by women or women talking about vaginas.

I deliberately chose examples I find funny for the compound words, but they were all meant pejoratively (e.g. a woman was frequently referred to as "the twatwaffle").
posted by Kattullus at 10:25 AM on July 11, 2008


What's pissing me off are the folks who are pretending that...it's all those damn Yanks faults for making them abandon what's an otherwise perfectly sensible word, as if they're totally unaware of, oh, nearly 90% of what's been said to them.

FWIW I was really trying to note that here's this nearly 90% of what is said to 'us' and the way that works is that of course 'we' should go along and get behind that POV because it is nearly 90% after all. Irrespective of the word or topic under discussion.

To me, what's interesting about the thread is that that dynamic is playing out yet again, and I think it's something that's understandably neither observed nor much considered by the nearly 90%. IMO that itself would make an interesting Meta sometime but this is not that thread.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:41 AM on July 11, 2008


And others were saying, no, it's not, because even the casual use is offensive—and beyond that, people were being called twats, and that's what the fucking thread is about. Which you'd know if you'd read the fucking thread instead of wandering in at the end like the last rube off the turnip truck.

Your argument gets stronger with every personal insult, well done.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 10:48 AM on July 11, 2008


I think we've (I've?) strayed way too deep into an argument about whether people should temper their language in general for an American audience, or whether said audience should be credited with enough intelligence to understand that there are certain cultural differences in the use of English, and away from the debate about the specific words in question.

klangklangston - Whether you mean it or not, you're coming across like you think everyone should write with particular reference to American sensibilities, and I just can't buy into that. Yes, I'm aware the audience here is primarily based in the USA, but I first started reading MeFi when I was an ex-pat living in the States, and I suspect I'm far from alone. The mix of voices is one of the things that makes MeFi the place it is. Sure there are misunderstandings, but we really should be grown up enough to explain them, realise where the other person is coming from, and move on. You point out that I don't use the words under discussion, but that has less to do with my sensitivity to Americans and more to do with the fact that I don't have need for them here.

As Reggie Knoble nobly said, we should strive to avoid being deliberately unpleasant to one another. I really think that's something you might want to take on board.
posted by MrMustard at 10:59 AM on July 11, 2008


Do people in America actually call each other twats in a clearly and unambiguously misogynistic way?

Yes.


is this common? Is it a specific subcultural thing?
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on July 11, 2008


I think it's specifically an assholes-who-say-fucked-up-shit-to-women thing. I don't think it's confined to e.g. Wisconson or anything, if that's what you mean.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:25 AM on July 11, 2008


is this common? Is it a specific subcultural thing?

It's one of those things I don't know. The way I hear it, as someone who grew up in a swearing household was like this....

cunt - I have never heard either of my parents say this word out loud. When I hear people say it as an insult -- who are not using it in the UK fashion or in the descriptive "my vagina" fashion -- it's an angry invective used in phrases lik "tranny cunt" or "filthy cunt" or something similar. It's the sort of thing you hear alongside someone wishing that some annoying woman should get raped, it's still a word with shock value to me and I don't shock easily.

twat - my mother taught me this word. She'd use it to yell at bad women drivers usually along with a "fuck you" hand gesture. It's used to refer to women in a perjorative way but not usually in a hating way, if that makes sense. If you call someone a cunt in the US it's because you hate them and wish ill will on them, a twat can just be a woman who annoys you or is stupid. I don't hear people use it in the US too much but when they do it's more like "that dumb twat" or some way to refer to a stupid or clueless woman.

People don't use either of these terms in the US to refer to men, at least not in my experience. There is, of course, a "reclaim the cunt" movement, but it's not quite like "queer" where people are actually trying to make a bad word be more of a descriptive or good word. I don't think any woman in the US would be proud to call herself a cunt [outside of special performance artists and statement-makers] but they might like to be able to use the word to refer to their vaginas without people gasping. Right now that's not something you can be assured of in mixed company.

we should strive to avoid being deliberately unpleasant to one another. I really think that's something you might want to take on board.


Generally speaking, I agree with this. This all started because someone in the original thread asked people to please not use words they found objectionable and were greeted with a barrage of them. That's sort of the definition of deliberate unpleasantness, to me.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


-Shugs-

I learn something new every day.

That actually changes things quite significantly, I'd pretty much assumed that this was people who were out to be outraged picking up on the word, determing that it could mean "vagina", seeing that cunt had the same, all without ever actually encountering the word used that way. If this is not people going out of their way to be outraged i'm slightly more sympathetic (though still annoyed at having American social mores pushed upon me).

Weird thing is is live in America, and I've used it pretty commonly in casual conversation, as I do here, and no one has reacted in the way I'd expect from that.
posted by Artw at 11:38 AM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(And casual UK usage of cunt is, as I've said above, way overstated, so pretty much a non issue for me, and I would suspect anybody else, unless their pushing the point out of sheer dickishness. )
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on July 11, 2008


I think it's specifically an assholes-who-say-fucked-up-shit-to-women thing. I don't think it's confined to e.g. Wisconson or anything, if that's what you mean.

I was thinking more along the lines of it being a Jamaican thing or somethign, the weird pronouciation you apparently have here makes it sound imported.
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on July 11, 2008


It may be as simple as that Americans like schwas? Heck if I know.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2008


Possibly you guys should just consider it a different word, with a different prononouciation and a slight overlap in meaning that doesn’t make them synonymous?
posted by Artw at 11:59 AM on July 11, 2008


"Whether you mean it or not, you're coming across like you think everyone should write with particular reference to American sensibilities, and I just can't buy into that."

I'm sorry, I thought that I'd already cleared this up. If you don't write to American sensibilities, you're more likely to, on this site, confuse your meaning for a large section of your audience. Sometimes, that's fine—Scouser gab about the Hillsborough Disaster may be incomprehensible, but harmless (even interesting). But even then, you're excluding a large portion of the audience here. That may be less important than dialect flavor. But that should be a conscious choice.

Right, you're with me? You understand that this is a predominantly American site, and that the consequences for most confusion ("Oh, we call them elevators") isn't particularly dire or worth mentioning, right?

But for "cunt" and "twat," there's a significantly greater risk, which outweighs, for me and for many others, any concessions to naturalism regarding their use as casual terms. Specifically, calling people twats may be mild in England, but it's not here. And EVERYONE KNOWS THIS. So instead of acting like it's the problem of those bloody Americans, realize that you're going to piss people off. If you want to piss people off, that's fine, just be open about it and don't be surprised or play at being surprised when you're called on it. It's not the listener's fault for taking offense—it's your fault for being sloppy and lazy. Why? Because of the context here.

No one's trying to take your tyre centres. And I've used "wog" here before in a way that I knew would piss some people off. But I did it because I was making a point with it, not because I was lazy. "Wog" might be a decent analogue—if I was just using it casually on a UK site, they'd be right to tell me to knock it off, even if over here it's a vague slur at best. And, frankly, even here if I was using "wog" casually, people would be right to tell me to knock it off.
posted by klangklangston at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


klangklangston - Nobody likes being ambushed by preachy lectures based on other peoples cultural baggage, and the reaction to that is always going to be negative. Nop amount of block capitals on your part is going to change that.
posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Possibly you guys should just consider it a different word, with a different prononouciation and a slight overlap in meaning that doesn’t make them synonymous?

I'd say that in spoken conversation with cultural/geographical points of reference, that's probably pretty doable. Unfortunately, "twat" looks an awful lot like "twat" when you right them down, and we don't fly national flags next to our usernames. Makes disambiguation tricky.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:00 PM on July 11, 2008


As a woman, I've appropriated twat and cunt quite happily; it also comes from having many UK-types among my friends. I'm far more comfortable with someone saying twat than I am with someone saying dick. I use them both in place of calling someone a prick or a dick or whatever, and apply it to folks of both sexes and the full range of genders.

That said, I don't think there's much place for referring to anyone by any of the above 'round these parts. Unless you're talking about The War Against Terror - that's a TWAT I just can't get into. ;)
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 2:36 PM on July 11, 2008


I'd say that in spoken conversation with cultural/geographical points of reference, that's probably pretty doable. Unfortunately, "twat" looks an awful lot like "twat" when you right them down, and we don't fly national flags next to our usernames. Makes disambiguation tricky.

Then possibly people should take into consideration context and due some due dilligence before freaking out about something not being on the list of approved American swearing?
posted by Artw at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2008


I really must not snigger whenever 'Fannie Mae' is mentioned on the news, as it probably means we're doomed.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:46 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then possibly people should take into consideration context and due some due dilligence before freaking out about something not being on the list of approved American swearing?

The whole point is that said context is not nearly as available here. If (to use a recent example) seanyboy calls someone a cunt, and I personally know that he's over in the UK, that's going to give me some context, and hooray for me. Double hooray, in a sense, because I'm one of the people looking at the pile of flags (and answering the emails, and dealing with the metatalk thread) that sprout up when folks who have no idea that he's from the UK see a random "sanctimonious cunt" dropped early into an already charged thread.

It'd have made our jobs a lot easier that day if we'd just nixed his comment, but we let it stand on the principle that, yes, there's a context here that makes it more defensible than it otherwise might be. But that context is something that I just happen to have, and clearly there were a lot of people who had no idea he was getting his UK on.

If you want to argue that it'd be nice if everyone just automatically understood from context that dude was using it in the British fashion, I'm not even disagreeing with you. It'd be great if context was always clear, and it'd be great and a shade more doable for folks to at least go hunting for context if they see something shocking. In practice, though, that's asking an awful lot, to the point where it is I think in the territory of unrealistic expecatations given the demographics that do in fact exist here.

I both think it'd be good if folks were never confused or offended by disparate usage, and think that it's nuts and bordering on hostile to knowingly use words that are likely to be read by default as charged and seriously offensive to most of the readers. Doing it by accident? Fine, misunderstandings happen, and we have educational threads like this where folks compare notes amidst the heat of disagreement.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Then possibly people should take into consideration context and due some due dilligence before freaking out about something not being on the list of approved American swearing?"

Right, because the Brits can't take context into consideration and do some due diligence, thus realizing that it's offensive over here? No, it's always on the folks who think that if you're not sure whether people will be offended and you don't want to offend them needlessly that you probably shouldn't use the fucking word in the first place, because you have no responsibility at all for anything that comes out of your mouth or off of your fingers and boo those imperialists are picking on ol' Blighty again just like those goddamned niggers who don't realize that I have plenty of black friends and I'm only using the word to describe "those" black people, you know the ones.

Do you get this at all, Art? Sure, it sucks that you feel ambushed or whatever and you don't take it very seriously, but has an inkling of why people might be upset trickled into your noggin at all? Or are you just going to fall back on more facile lager lout defensiveness?
posted by klangklangston at 2:57 PM on July 11, 2008


The preview, I hates it.
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2008


Right, because the Brits can't take context into consideration and do some due diligence, thus realizing that it's offensive over here?

TBH If I thought that, say, me saying something along the lines of "wearing a top hat makes you look a bit of a twat" would cause genuine distress to anyone I probably wouldn't say it. At the moment I’d gues it pretty much doesn’t*, but cortex and jessamyn have given me some food for thought on the matter. You, on the other hand, give a lot of weight to the argument that this is a constructed issue put out by those who like outrage, with your huffing and puffing and deliberately insulting and condescending tone. And, weirdly for someone who is arguing that words should be chosen for their effect, you’re pretty much driving me to behave exactly as before.

Also “facile lager lout defensiveness” is a bit rich from someone who’s such an overbearing asshole, not to mention the whole casually-throwing-retard-around thing.

* Except people who wear tophats, who knew what they were getting into when they chose the headgear.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on July 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


For extra laughs, compare this thread on prohibited speech with this recent thread on free speech.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2008


Is your point, stinkycheese, that different people post in different threads on different issues? Because if it is, then you've made it quite deftly.
posted by Kattullus at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2008


klangklangston - You keep banging the same drum, and it's the wrong one. Please stop making this into a UK v US argument. There have been people from a number of other countries, with Australia being the best represented, sharing the surprise at the offence caused by one, four letter word. There has also been a not insignificant number of Americans wondering what all the fuss is about.

It's OK, I get it, some Americans find the words under discussion particularly offensive. But I also get, from this thread, and from personal experience, that not all Americans feel that way. And as I've always credited MeFites with above average intelligence and a tendency towards understanding, I find your position - that non-Americans should all pick over every word we say lest it offends a proportion of the majority audience - untenable. And comparing the word in question, and its British usage in particular, with a racial slur is way, way off the mark.

Finally, yes, I think there is some onus on the reader to understand where the writer is coming from. Sure, there's a middle ground that we'd all love to meet at, but as I've said before, I credit MeFi readers and writers with a bit of intelligence. And if people want to misconstrue what I write here because I happen to be from a different country, then frankly, that's their problem.
posted by MrMustard at 3:38 PM on July 11, 2008


klang, I'm gonna have to take issue with how doggedly you're pursuing this, on hypocrisy grounds. You use offensive language here often, relying on a context created from a hopeful public appraisal of you as an irreverent but informed user of the language. Now you're chastising the UK cunts R OK contingent for the ostensible stupidity of their hope for a flexible community context, when it's obvious that your judgment of your audience's fluency in Klang is not perfect. There's no sarcasm tag, there's no irony tag, there's no ironyirony and there's no UK tag. You and Peter McDermott have both basically expressed the same approach at one time or another: "I'll say what I like and if you don't get it, fuck you, context-stupid," so why not let this perceived discrepancy go?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:51 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can’t shake the feeling that it’s purely because he’s found a socially approved opportunity to be a bit of a… well, you-know-what.
posted by Artw at 3:56 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've only read half the thread so far, but just have to put in my two cents before I get back to reading.

I find "cunt" incredibly offensive and never use it, FWIW. However, "cunny"--which doesn't have any of the vitriol or misogyny of cunt imo--has become an injoke between my wife and I. It all started when I told her about a porno mag I found as a boy while I was living in England. It came with a little crappy flexible record insert of a woman talking dirty while supposedly masturbating, in which she repeatedly referred to her cunny. My wife, being American, had never heard the term and found it incredibly funny and quaint, and now uses it to the exclusion of every other word meaning vagina. It's gotten to the point where I sometimes regret introducing her to the word, but we both chuckle every time we say/hear it. Um...so yeah, we're idiots*.

So if I want to really make the people of the UK cringe, what's the word?

When I first moved to the US, I kept in touch my friends in England, and one time I absentmindedly used the word "motherfucker", which elicited a long pause followed by a "That's disgusting" from my English friend, who normally swore like a longshoreman. A couple of months later I was on the phone with another school friend who also disapproved my usage of the word. Mind you, this was about 25 years ago, and in my whole time in the UK I'd never heard anyone say motherfucker. I understand it's become quite common in the UK now, probably due in large part to crappy Hollywood blockbusters.

*My wife was also tickled when my cousin's English girlfriend asked me if I was her boyfriend's "coozin" in her thick Yorkshire accent. She's easily amused.
posted by Devils Slide at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2008


Artw, "look a bit of a twat" is such a non-American construction that we'd immediately think foreign context.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:20 PM on July 11, 2008


Motherfucker would still be on roughly the same level as cunt there though, if just a bit under it, with the curious exception of anyone using it in imitation of 70s Blaxploitation movies or Samuel L. Jackson, which somehow makes it much more alright.
posted by Artw at 7:07 PM on July 11, 2008


Yeah, I think my friends were shocked by it because upon hearing it for the first time, they assumed (as I did) that it meant someone who had sex with their own mother, and as far as swear word meanings go, that's about as vulgar and offensive as they can get. It was only later that I found out motherfucker was coined by African-American slaves who used it to refer to someone (usually a slave owner) who has sex with people's mothers, both in the literal sense and also figuratively as a swear word.

But checking Merriam-Webster just now, I was surprised to learn that they dated its origin to 1935. I was almost certain it was coined in the 19th (or possibly the 18th) century. Does anyone know the definitive origin of motherfucker?
posted by Devils Slide at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2008


OED has a cite to 1918:

You low-down Mother Fuckers can put a gun in our hands but who is able to take it out?

Backdating that further could be fun.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 PM on July 11, 2008


Ah, late 19th C. on "motherfucking", though:

1889 Texas Court of Appeals Rep. (1890) 28 206 According to Sumner, he spoke of defendant as ‘that God damned lying, thieving son-of-a-bitch’;..and according to McKinney, as ‘that God damned mother-f{emem}cking, bastardly son-of-a-bitch!’

1898 Texas Criminal Rep. 37 22 You are instructed, that if prior to the shooting of deceased by defendant, the deceased called the defendant a ‘mother-fucking son-of-a-bitch’, and the defendant..shot and killed the deceased, then you are instructed, in such a case, the defendant could not be guilty of a higher offense than manslaughter, if guilty of anything.

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2008


Tonight at Shea Stadium, I looked across the field and saw a sign that said "cunt cunt cunt cunt". What? Oh, it was an advertisement for the CW11, in a loopy curly font.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:10 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Thanks, cortex. Well, you've tracked it back to the late 19th century, and I bet it does go back even further.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:58 PM on July 11, 2008


I'm all for linguistic diversity but I'm finding it increasingly hard to sympathize with people whose position boils down to "waaaaaaaaaah! I wanna say cunt!"
posted by Kattullus at 9:02 PM on July 11, 2008


And that last example shows just how seriously such a curse was taken back in the day, where it could reduce the charges from murder to manslaughter or less.
posted by Devils Slide at 9:06 PM on July 11, 2008


500+ comments and you're still not finished with this? Holy piss.a)

a) replace with whatever expletive that is appropriate in your part of the world
posted by Termite at 1:50 AM on July 12, 2008


It was only later that I found out motherfucker was coined by African-American slaves who used it to refer to someone (usually a slave owner) who has sex with people's mothers, both in the literal sense and also figuratively as a swear word.

Zat is what we call zee urban legend.
posted by languagehat at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Zat is what we call zee urban legend.

I guess I shouldn't let my guard down just because the source looks and sounds convincing. I think the first time I heard that particular story about the etymology of "motherfucker" was on a program where a distinguished African-American gent (for the life of me I can't remember who it was, it was a looong time ago) matter-of-factly stated that "motherfucker" was coined by and "belonged" to the black community due to its origins during the time of slavery. No one on the panel questioned or denied his assertion.

Since then, I've heard the same thing repeated numerous times and just took it to be fact without ever checking and finding out for myself if that really was the case. But given your background, I'll take your word for it (there I go again!). If anyone has an idea/educated guess about the actual origins of the word, it would be you, since you recently wrote about the etymology of swear words. So, any ideas?

Sorry about the derail, everyone, but the thread seems to be coming to an end anyway, and either way I promise I'll drop it after this.
posted by Devils Slide at 12:09 PM on July 12, 2008


Distinguished gentlemen say all kinds of stupid things about language if you let them. Ask Al Gore what the Chinese ideograms for "crisis" mean next time he mentions it in a speech.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:57 PM on July 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ask Al Gore what the Chinese ideograms for "crisis" mean next time he mentions it in a speech.

Another blow for truth over correctness.
posted by tkolar at 2:09 PM on July 12, 2008






Hedgehogs were totally the wrong animal to choose to sing about spam-holes.

A Northern Irish colleague walked into the office one very warm July afternoon a couple of years ago, planted both feet wide on the desk and aimed the desk fan up her skirt, saying in a very loud voice "MY PHALANGEH'S SWEATEH".
posted by goo at 2:51 AM on July 13, 2008


Twat!? I'm sorry, I cunt hear you!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:09 AM on July 13, 2008


Anus!
posted by flabdablet at 4:45 AM on July 14, 2008


Just recommending In Bruges... it's cuntastic!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:13 AM on July 14, 2008


Oh come on, surely no-one can beat ghandi at saying cunt?
posted by Artw at 6:37 AM on July 14, 2008


Ahh... Poetry
posted by Artw at 6:53 AM on July 14, 2008


That's Premier League swearing... but I think Bruges just about matches it (though it's more finesse rather than brutality)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:50 AM on July 14, 2008


(I would have linked to a couple of 'tube examples but they are a bit spoilerific and you really need the full context)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2008


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