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The C-word

January 16, 2014

I see that Alan Pardew, manager of Newcastle United, has apologised for calling Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City, a ‘fucking old cunt’. The interesting thing is that there was far less outrage about this than there would have been, say, twenty years ago. Back then the c-word was regarded as really quite horribly offensive, not just a swear-word but a deeply misogynistic swear-word – in Britain, that is, where, when applied to a person, it connoted an exceptionally nasty person. It was the worst swear-word in town. The theory seemed to be that only the word for a woman’s genitals was deemed bad enough to describe someone whom you hated and despised, so there was a sort of double-insult going on – a contempt for the person so addressed and a contempt for women too. (This was not the case in America, where cunt seems to have had different connotations; at any rate, in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David, after calling a fellow poker player a cunt for folding on a strong hand, explains to his wife that the word is just a standard insult for a man who doesn’t ‘act manly’).

Anyway, things seem to have changed here in Britain. No one seems particularly outraged by it; the Independent newspaper printed the word in full when reporting the incident, and Pellegrini has accepted Pardew’s apology, and the whole thing seems like a bit of a storm in a tea-cup. I’ve noticed that the word seems less taboo than formerly. I’ve heard it used by women as well as men as a generic insult, not an especially violent one and not misogynist in tone.

It’s funny how these changes occur – perhaps in a more feminised society it just doesn’t sound so ugly as it once did: it’s become more of a comical insult, like dick or prick. A victory for sexual equality, in fact. 

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One Comment
  1. Eleanor permalink

    A very interesting and controversial topic. However much the C-word has become widely used and appropriated by society I still think the word retains a certain value, in that there are hardly any words left that illicit such feelings of contempt. Also, given your acceptance of the word and your apparent feelings towards women’s liberation how would you feel if the word were bestowed in a negative way against your wife or daughters? Am I sounding very Daily Mail here? Probably, I used to work for them, but I don’t think your attitude towards the word applies to everyone, especially women.

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