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Mar 20 2012

I get email

I got one today from someone who has commented here a few times as nmcc or NMcC, and who commented yesterday to tell me how wrong I am about the word “cunt” and to say “Sarah Palin is a cunt.” I deleted that comment and put him – his email address showed he’s a Nigel – in moderation. The message I got this morning expressed surprise at the deletion of the comment. (It started with “Hi” – this is more significant than you might think.) I replied, brusquely,

Really? You would have thought “Sarah Palin is a cunt” was well within my commenting policy? I’ve been very explicit about that. Other things not within my commenting policy: “Al Sharpton is a nigger.” “Woody Allen is a kike.” “Salman Rushdie is a wog.”

I hope that clears things up.

——– Ophelia Benson, Editor Butterflies and Wheels ———

He replied. This is how he replied:

Dear Ms Benson,
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email.
I must say, I don’t expect much in the way of civility from the ‘new’ atheist type, but I confess I thought elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation might not have been beyond you. Obviously not.
In regard to my comment: This is simply a difference of opinion, though one that you have blown up into a difference of principle – or, rather, you have attempted to do so. In my opinion (I assume I’m allowed to have an opinion since we don’t live in a ‘new’ atheist world yet, and neither, thank Christ, are we ever likely to!), and as I said in my comment, the word cunt, like the word dick, and like the word asshole, are rarely, if ever, used to refer to a particular anatomical feature of a male or female. Words can take on a life of their own. Language evolves and grows and changes to the degree that words are unrecognisable from what they first meant, implied or described. The word gay, of course, is an obvious example.
I use the word cunt all the time. So do a lot of people I know. I never use it with the slightest thought of it having any connection with the female genitalia. To my knowledge, neither does anyone else.
So, in fact, you are quite simply wrong to ascribe any inference of misogyny to me or anyone I know. Indeed, your introducing the terms nigger, kike and wog,  simply shows how ludicrously – not to mention hysterically and self-righteously – wrong you are.  The simple fact is, there is NO comparison to be made with the words mentioned. All 3 of those words, as far as I’m aware, were specifically coined to refer to others in a racist and openly hateful and derogatory way. Those words refer to specific people and are used to degrade and denigrate those specific people. The word cunt is NOT used in any such way by the majority of people who use it. It most certainly is not used to denigrate or degrade women.
You have a different opinion. Good for you. Keep advocating your point of view. Perhaps you’ll change my mind on the issue.
I am unlikely to change your mind for the simple reason that you have got no qualms about DELETING my point of view, and would further, in the unlikely event of you ever being in a position to do so, have no problem in countenancing my being made to conform to your mistaken and ludicrous views through threats of censorship.
I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.
Incidentally, have you any idea how pathetic you appear to me in your phoney concern for women’s interests?
Are you not the person who is encouraging your fellow dopey ‘new’ atheists to attend a gig at an American military base? What was it you called those state-sponsored thugs and murderers? Oh yes, ‘good people’.
Tell me, what’s worse: Using the word cunt completely bereft of any hateful connotations or intentions in regard to women, or sanctioning and applauding those who, at the behest of a religious nut, are responsible for wrecking their already impoverished lives through murdering and maiming their children and husbands?
Go ahead, tell me. You hypocritical cunt.
Yours sincerely,
Nigel McCullough

 

202 comments

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  1. 1
    Jacob Schmidt

    AHAHAHA

    Sometimes, you just gotta laugh at the stupid. This is one of those times.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Well it certainly is stupid. The confidence of it! When he’s completely wrong about “cunt” in the US, which in fact has a larger population than the UK, so the certainty with which he shouts that NO ONE uses it to denigrate women is…risible.

  3. 3
    Ken

    1. There are no short apologias for self-important wankery.

    2. Rule of thumb: if it takes more than five sentences to explain why you are not a douchebag, then in all likelihood you are, in fact, a douchebag.

  4. 4
    Ken

    Also: shorter Nigel: “Private web site owner won’t publish my comment calling someone a cunt? THAT’S FASCISM.”

    I keep looking again, like a car wreck. Nigel is just so transcendentally ridiculous.

  5. 5
    baal

    Sample size of 1 (or you and your friends) hardly qualifies for let alone etymology.

  6. 6
    Ophelia Benson

    I hope he visits the US soon and roams around calling people cunts. That would work out well.

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    I want a like button for Ophelia’s comment at #6. That is all.

  8. 8
    New England Bob

    What a clueless maroon that guy is. Of course he first gets in to the format of the greeting like anyone who has nothing of value to say usually does. What was that nonsense he is on about at the end? I wonder if this is a POE. Could he really be that ignorant?

  9. 9
    musubk

    I must say, I don’t expect much in the way of civility from the ‘new’ atheist type, but I confess I thought elementary good manners by way of an introductory salutation might not have been beyond you. Obviously not.

    o_O

    This guy doesn’t waste any time before hitting crazy town.

    completely bereft of any hateful connotations or intentions in regard to women

    He’s stuck with the (unfortunately) common misconception that if you don’t explicitly hate women, you’re incapable of doing anything misogynistic.

    And he comes off as *really* self-righteous.

    I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.

    state-sponsored thugs and murderers

    wrecking their already impoverished lives through murdering and maiming their children and husbands?

    Good grief…

    Also, I love the juxtaposition here:

    I don’t expect much in the way of civility from the ‘new’ atheist type

    You hypocritical cunt.

  10. 10
    Pen

    When in America, do as the Americans do. When on the Internet… I don’t know – err on the side of caution? But brace yourselves, Americans, for visiting France, where the French version of ‘cunt’ is used by everyone from the President to someone’s granny in every other sentence for mildly annoying events or people of either sex. Also, when visiting Britain, try not to mention fannies, fanny packs, whatever. It makes us laugh because in the UK it means the same as cunt only slightly politer.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    Well what I think is really funny is the anxious concern with polite salutation at the beginning, in combination with the extra salutation at the end. I mean really. “How dare you not begin with ‘Hi,’ how rude, blah blah blah blah, you cunt, yours sincerely,
    Nigel McCullough.” Do admit.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Darn, musubk got there before me.

  13. 13
    Brian

    Turd of the highest order.

  14. 14
    Aratina Cage

    So, if a woman doesn’t start off correspondence by saying “hi”, then Nigel McCullough (NMcC) gets to close by calling that woman a “hypocritical cunt”? Who knew! Such a wonderful person this Nigel McCullough. How dare a person not follow the rules of polite correspondence to the letter!

  15. 15
    'Tis Himself

    Dear Mr. McCullough,

    You’re an idiot and an asshole.

    The word you so proudly and repeatedly use is considered misogynist in North America.

    Sincerely,
    Someone who’s not so stupid as to use his real name on the internet

  16. 16
    Ophelia Benson

    Probably also not someone so stupid as to send an abusive email to a stranger and sign his real name to it (if it is his real name, of course).

  17. 17
    BL1Y

    Is “cunt” not allowed because it is sexist, or because it is vulgar?

    If the former, I could see there being a very strong argument that you are wrong, as the usage of words varies greatly across cultures, generations, contexts, etc. While it may have a sexist origin, there are likely many instances of its use that are no longer themselves sexist.

    Of course, the issue of whether or not it is sexist is separate from whether you can kick people off your blog. I delete comments that contain the word “fooey.”

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    18. Sexist. I’ve heard it all before; it’s all been written here (and old B&W) before. It’s mistaken, and I don’t want to go over it all again.

  19. 19
    Matt Penfold

    Cunt is no more acceptable in the UK than it is in the US. It is probable the last really taboo word in the UK. TV programs can have “fucks” in them after the watershed (shown after 9pm) and no one really minds. Throw in some “cunts” and people do mind.

    There is a synonym for cunt, twat, which is widely used in the UK and is no longer consider to be very offensive. Certainly is no longer carries any sexist overtones in the UK.

    I suspect he just got a bit confused. I imagine that happens to him quite a bit.

  20. 20
    Pteryxx

    Betting on BL1Y at #18 coming back to sexistsplain why Ophelia’s totes wrong in 3… 2… 1….

  21. 21
    satanaugustine

    Yeah, this sort of nonsense is typical for Nigel. He loves to wallow in his imaginary persecution complex over blog writers having and enforcing some standards on their very own blogs (how dare you, Ophelia!). He repeatedly argued that his right to free speech was being infringed upon by Greta over on her blog. He consistently leaves ignorant, socially clueless, and intentionally antagonistic comments on whatever blog he comments on.

    He is an idiot extraordinaire.

  22. 22
    BL1Y

    “Roy Moore is a dickhead.”

    Okay, or not okay?

  23. 23
    Matt Penfold

    Betting on BL1Y at #18 coming back to sexistsplain why Ophelia’s totes wrong in 3… 2… 1….

    I think you win your bet.

  24. 24
    Ophelia Benson

    BLetc – I told you – it’s all been said before. Look through the archives if you’re that curious.

  25. 25
    besomyka

    I use the word cunt all the time. So do a lot of people I know. I never use it with the slightest thought of it having any connection with the female genitalia. To my knowledge, neither does anyone else. … The word cunt is NOT used in any such way by the majority of people who use it. It most certainly is not used to denigrate or degrade women.

    I think Natalie wrote something on this. Ah, right. Hipster Misogyny(http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/03/16/hipster-misogyny/)

    The pseudo-logic goes like this: Racism is bad things done by racists who totally hate different races, and I don’t hate different races, therefore I’m not a racist, therefore whatever I do isn’t racism. Presto! It’s “ironic” or “reclaiming” or “making fun of racism”, and anyone who can’t tell that, and are accusing me of racism, must obviously be wrong or hyper-sensitive or something, because as logic totally proves, I’m not a racist and don’t hate any races, therefore nothing I do can be racist.

    You find the same sort of thing happening all the time in regards to sexism and misogyny.

    If you haven’t, go read it!

    Communication is a multi-person activity, and his intent is one of the things that matters least. What does matter is how the people receiving his speech perceive it, and we’re not psychics. Nigel, if you seriously don’t intend to offend, then PLEASE use a word that DOESN’T OFFEND.

    Just that easy.

  26. 26
    Rieux

    Clearly someone needs to go plot Nigel’s garbage on Jen McCreight’s CUNTO card. I haven’t got the time to check it carefully, but my guess is that there’s five-in-a-row in there somewhere. (See also comment #21.2 on that post’s comment thread for one commenter’s demolition of all twenty-five excuses. And several other comments subsequently.)

    BL1Y is clearly angling for a winning game-board him/herself. #23 here is a blatant shot at U3, and #18 could arguably be any one of C3, C4, U1, U2, T4, O3, and/or O4.

    How cluelessly misogynist are these doofuses capable of being?

  27. 27
    Ophelia Benson

    Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I will add that there was a pretty hilarious conversation about this general subject over lunch at the Orlando conference – one of the posh lunches that preceded a talk, in this case Russell’s talk on Locke and secularism. Me and Dave Silverman and Tom Flynn, mostly. I told Dave about the whole “but in the UK it doesn’t mean that at all, and in Scotland a man will greet a friend at the pub with ‘Hallo ya wee cunt how’re ya?’” thing, and he wouldn’t believe me. Really. He just did not believe the Scotland thing.

    Then we got onto douche, and I said I don’t use it but I don’t get much irritated when others do, and we agreed that it’s such a satisfying noise to make – DOOSH! Then Tom said he once found himself calling someone a fuckstick, to the puzzlement of everyone. Then either he or Dave said a new one is “douchewaffle” – then I said “fucksticks and douchewaffles, that’s what I call a breakfast.” Then we got thrown out of the Hyatt. No, just kidding.

  28. 28
    Ophelia Benson

    26, yes, I quoted Natalie’s post just a couple of days ago! Excellent stuff.

    Rieux – veryveryveryvery.

  29. 29
    EmilyBites

    Yeah, as another Brit…cunt is the rudest thing you can say in the UK too, and if Nigel goes around randomly using it in public he could seriously damage his career, get punched, etc. It’s considered disgusting and obscene, but no synonym for ‘dick’ is similarly taboo. Most people say ‘the c-word’ unless they’re with friends – and although men say it a LOT to other men (both affectionately and rudely) there’s also a special way of saying it to women, and it usually comes with a ‘You fat -’ or ‘You stupid -’ at the beginning. Isn’t learning about other cultures fun!

    And you just know his aside about ‘gay’ in the middle is this: ‘”Gay”‘ is now used to mean ‘crap’, but it’s got NOTHING to do with how also means homosexual. It’s totally evolved as a word and to say that’s homophobic is SO narrow-minded and stupid of you.(Cunt)’

    (Also Ophelia; you’re great, don’t let the blighters get you down etc.)

  30. 30
    John Morales

    Nigel McCullough purports to be sincere:

    I am unlikely to change your mind for the simple reason that you have got no qualms about DELETING my point of view

    I reckon that featuring said point of view as its own post kinda disproves demolishes that claim.

    (Cruel, Ophelia is)

  31. 31
    EmilyBites

    @JohnMorales
    Yup, bet he wishes she hadn’t let him express his point of view quite so thoroughly now…

  32. 32
    chrisj

    I still don’t understand this “UK usage of cunt” thing. I mean, I’m British and I think it’s an offensive misogynistic term on the basis of how people around me use(d) it, both now and back in the 1980s. I’m not aware of any significant difference between US and UK usages in this case, unlike, say, fanny or bollocks.

  33. 33
    Michael Clarke

    @20 I have heard, and sometimes used the word “twat” all my life and never knew it was a synonym for “cunt” until Ophelia mentioned it in a blog post some time ago. In fact I was so convinced she had got it wrong that I looked it up and was astonished to find that Wiki agreed with her.
    In my experience it was normally applied only to males, generally managers who exhibited a higher than normal degree of incompetence.
    I’m still amazed that I could be wrong for so long. Is there any chance Wiki and Ophelia could both be mistaken? Perhaps Ophelia wrote the Wiki definition!

  34. 34
    BL1Y

    Michael: I don’t think you were necessarily wrong about what “twat” means. You were wrong about its etymology, but there’s a difference between the origin of a word and what it means now.

    For instance, the fact that “faggot” originally meant a bundle of sticks doesn’t make it’s current popular usage any less offensive. If non-offensive words can gain offensive meanings, it stands to reason that over time once-offensive words can lose their offensive nature.

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Michael, well it certainly means “female genitalia” in the US. When I was an elephant keeper (at a zoo) in the early ’80s we had to check the elephants’ (all female, 4 of them) genitals for herpes-like ulcers they had; I nicknamed this duty “twat watch”; I didn’t have to explain it to anyone, and we didn’t use it when tv cameras were around. There’s no mistake about that.

    But we prounounce it to rhyme with “cot” or “hot” here – although that’s not much help, because you don’t pronounce “hot” the way we do.

    Alun Cochrane used it on that Saturday, and it rhymes with cat. That’s not how we say it. There’s a word “twat” that means “hit” there; I’ve seen people claim that UK “twat” derives from that.

    I suspect, though, that there’s been some accidental transfer – that people picked up “twat” from here without quite getting what it meant (or how rude it can be). It’s like “bloody” for us in the past – we could just never grasp how taboo it was.

    I can tell you this though: if you call someone a twat in the US, it will not go over well!

    And I know very well not to say “fanny” over there – not to mention “minge,” which isn’t a word for us at all.

  36. 36
    Didaktylos

    Someone should long since have commended for Mr McCullough’s edification the following: Better to say nothing and risk people thinking you stupid than open your mouth and leave them in no doubt …

  37. 37
    Ophelia Benson

    Then again, come to think of it, if you call someone a twat-rhymes-with-cat that would probably make a difference. Confusion rather than outrage. Wut?

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    Nooooooo, Nigel has really important stuff to say.

  39. 39
    Sili

    (Cruel, Ophelia is)

    But just.

    –o–

    I have at some point used “fucknoodles”.
    Unfortunately in the same sentence as “cocknuggets”, so I’m no angel.

    –o–

    I’ve had an English acquaintance be puzzled, when I told him I didn’t like “cunt”. He claimed he didn’t associate it with vulvas at all.

  40. 40
    BL1Y

    If there were a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific, and about 40 or so people survived, and they all happened to be like Michael was, ignorant of the origin of the word “twat” and just used it as a rather generic insult, what would the word then mean? If he was were to say that “twat” doesn’t refer to female genitalia, would he be wrong?

    What if this went on for years? Babies were born and grew up in a society where “twat” had no sexist connotations? What would the word then mean? Would it still be ‘offensive’?

    And what if one day Michael were rescued from the island, brought to Los Angeles where he meets a wonderful person of the gender of his preference, and he and this person fall in love and get married. They move in together, and one their first year anniversary Michael’s spouse gets him a cat, and says the cat is named “Freckles.”

    Is Michael’s spouse being offensive because on the island where Michael lived the word “Freckles” was used to degrade women?

  41. 41
    Josh Slocum

    BL1Y: Stop it. We’ve been over this all ready as you’ve been told. Go read the fucking back catalogue. And stop making stupid hypothetical scenarios that have nothing to do with the world we live in.

    Seriously. Stop it. We’ve all had enough.

  42. 42
    kosk11348

    In the UK, “twat” seems to be a synonym for “twit,” which means a bothersome fool. I think many kids grow up not realizing there’s a difference.

  43. 43
    Ophelia Benson

    BL – did you not understand what I said? I (and we, many of us) really have had this conversation before. At great length. That’s why I don’t want to have it again. You really aren’t telling us anything we don’t already know.

    This post just wasn’t about “hey what words do you think are sexist and why?”

    And by the way this isn’t a matter of “We already got together at Women’s Studies Symposium and decided what was sexist” as you said at Popehat.

  44. 44
    besomyka

    @41 The first time she used freckles out of ignorance I’m sure Michael was offended and told her so. But now that she knows, yes it WOULD be offensive if she continued to use the word around him. Why would she care so little for the feelings of her spouse?

    With Nigel, we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he never intended and never associated the C-word with misogyny. But once people got upset, and once it was explained, he should have stopped – particularly around us.

    That he didn’t indicates that he cares not at all about what we think.

    ‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’

    ‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.

    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

    ‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

  45. 45
    Aratina Cage

    With Nigel, we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he never intended and never associated the C-word with misogyny.

    No way. We cannot give Nigel the benefit of the doubt there. Nigel has been reading and commenting at FTB for a loooong time. Nigel knew damn well what it meant when Nigel used it.

  46. 46
    Ophelia Benson

    No I don’t think we can give Nigel the benefit of the doubt at all. I think he knows perfectly well how misogynist it is. That’s why he flung it at me. If he’d thought it wasn’t misogynist, he would have used a different word, that he did think was misogynist.

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    Ach, Aratina beat me to it.

  48. 48
    EmilyBites

    The question is, on the island of cats, is BL1Y still a dingbat?

  49. 49
    Josh Slocum

    The only way to deal with this deliberate bullying/teasing/faux innocence behavior, I’ve come to believe, is just to fucking ban them. One warning is all you get. I’m sick of the conversation being toxic everywhere I turn—these assholes are controlling the weather and I wish it would stop.

  50. 50
    Ophelia Benson

    I mean, it’s really very simple. If you use a word in a foreign language that you think means just “bozo” or the like, and someone gently tells you it’s actually a vicious racist epithet…you don’t insist on using it anyway, you turn red in the face and apologize and never use it again. Simple.

    But these shits do the opposite: they go red in the face with rage and shout it as loud and often as they can.

    That’s because they are shits. All of them. Scum of the earth.

  51. 51
    Ken

    Call me judgmental, but I think that Nigel’s email has a crazy-angry frothing HOW DARE WIMMINEZ DISAGREE WITH ME tone that makes me less inclined to think he’s using the word in a woman-friendly manner.

  52. 52
    MosesZD

    In the UK, “twat” seems to be a synonym for “twit,” which means a bothersome fool. I think many kids grow up not realizing there’s a difference.

    Ah, yes. I got in trouble for that one time. Got a 3-day suspension on a message board. Didn’t matter I was right, I could cite the definition, etc. And it was very clear from the context I meant exactly that.

    And, btw, cunt is not necessarilymisogynistic in all English speaking cultures. The Australians have a different take on the word from what I understand. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English states that it is “a despicable man”, however when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in the Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it can convey a positive sense of the object or person referred to.

    Like “Billy is a funny cunt.”

    OTOH, you need to ‘when in Rome do as the Romans.’ And claiming ignorance of the local custom, when you’ve been informed of the local custom, is no excuse for breaking it because you custom says what it says. Especially as usage of “cunt” in America is the worst form of the usage of the word.

  53. 53
    Aratina Cage

    Ach, Aratina beat me to it.

    :) That’s OK. I actually did the same to you and musubk earlier. But, yeah, I remember that some people, me included, thought NMcC was Nancy McSo-and-so for a long time until someone called her out mistakenly because of something stupid NMcC said and Nancy jumped in and differentiated herself from NMcC. Suffice it to say that NMcC, Nigel, has been a pain-in-the-neck in nearly every comment of his I’ve seen.

  54. 54
    Ophelia Benson

    But Moses you weren’t “right” – you may have been right that that’s what you meant by it, but you weren’t right that that’s what the word means, period. It’s not. It sounds as if your explanation should have been accepted, but it’s not just a matter of being right.

    And if a word normally means “despicable” then it’s not just straightforwardly a huggy word if you put “funny” or “nice” in front of it. It will remain tricky.

  55. 55
    Aratina Cage

    Like “Billy is a funny cunt.”

    Well, that makes it all better then!* Because, you know, when Nigel used it in the letter to Ophelia and when the people at ERV’s slimepit use it about the people they hate, that’s the sense they are all using it in.

    *At the risk of causing a further derail.

  56. 56
    BL1Y

    You see, Moses, America has global dominance on cultural issues, and so whatever we take a word to mean is the final say on what its true meaning is. Australia isn’t allowed to have its own culture, or its own words that mean their own things.

    Also, “barbie” doesn’t mean a barbecue or grill, it’s a brand of doll. Now that you’re aware, don’t make that mistake again.

  57. 57
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    BL1Y, you got a lot of erasers thrown at you by teachers when you were in school, didn’t you?

  58. 58
    Karl

    My own familiarity with the word “cunt”, mostly from watching British comedy, is as a particularly rude way of saying “complete bastard” (ironic because “bastard” itself has a different meaning in this context). I’ve heard the “complete bastard” context for the c word far more often than I have heard it used to describe genitalia, and I’ve never (almost? can’t be totally sure) heard it directed at women.

    However it may well be that the reason I have only heard it addressed to men is because it could so easily be used as a sexist slur towards women. It’s certainly a word that’s chosen for its capability to give offense, which, because of its inappropriateness, is probably why it’s appeared in comedy.

    My view on the word is that it’s acceptable, albeit vulgar (and that’s probably the point) to use it towards a man. However I can’t think of any context in which it would be appropriate to use towards a woman because of its potential for sexist abuse. I do think it likely that “Nigel” wanted to express his dislike for Sarah Palin in particular, rather than meaning his taunt to be misogynistic, but even if that is the case some people (particularly in the US by the tone of the comments) are going to view it the other way. For that reason alone I have to agree with the ruling that it was an inappropriate remark that deserved to be moderated.

    Having said that, if “Sarah Palin is a c word” is inappropriate, then the remark to Ophelia of “you hypocritical c word” is ten times as inappropriate. If meant as a joke, not funny.

  59. 59
    BL1Y

    Ms. Daisy, It’s always surprising how people saying we ought not to offend others are often very quick to hurl insults at people they disagree with.

  60. 60
    John Morales

    MosesZD:

    The Australians have a different take on the word from what I understand. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English states that it is “a despicable man”, however when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in the Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it can convey a positive sense of the object or person referred to.

    As an Aussie, I can tell ya that it’s used in both senses, and that we know damn well to what it refers (female genitals) depending on usage. Context and relationship is everything regarding acceptable usage; do it inappropriately, you’re asking for painful consequences.

    (Bugger it, it’s the ‘colourful language’ and the ‘affectionate insult’ trope, you bastard :) )

  61. 61
    Beauzeaux

    I grew up on a small farm in Missouri. (Really olden times — we had no electricity or running water. I was ten years old before I saw a TV.) Around Christmas someone would send us boxes of fruit and dried nuts. Among the nuts were what we called “Nigger toes” — Brazil nuts. Another of our charming rituals was the rhyme “Eeny meeny miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe.”
    Around aboutage 10, we moved to southern California and I was exposed to the real world. Frankly, it was mortifying to learn what I had been cheerfully parroting. But once I knew even a tiny particle of this word’s history, I stopped using it. I stopped allowing anyone to use it in my presence. (Just typing the word now makes me very uneasy.)
    I didn’t take up the cause of explaining rural speech morphemes to black people I met. I doubt I would have been received with a warm welcome.
    So why the fuck does every dunderhead misogynist take it in HIS head to lecture women about how inoffensive words like “cunt” are???? Is their vocabulary so stunted that removing “cunt” would leave them unable to form coherent speech??
    Apparently.

  62. 62
    BL1Y

    Beauzeaux, It’s offensive that you consider rural Missouri to be less “real” than Southern California. (Just as offensive as it is for Republican candidates to refer to rural Missouri, but not California, New York, or Massachusetts, as the “real America.”)

  63. 63
    Aratina Cage

    Also, “barbie” doesn’t mean a barbecue or grill, it’s a brand of doll. Now that you’re aware, don’t make that mistake again.

    Uh, yeah, that’s a fail. “Barbie” in US culture is a name, meaning you would use it where you would use a person’s name, or it is a modifier that needs something after it to modify. There really wouldn’t be any confusion there at all.

  64. 64
    John Morales

    [meta]

    BL1Y:

    It’s always surprising …

    Perhaps you have a problem, when you fail to learn from experience.

  65. 65
    BL1Y

    Uh, no Aratina, the Aussies (is that offensive?) are just wrong on both the meaning, and the capitalization. The lowercase “barbie” is probably a result of their misunderstanding of the meaning.

    And someone tell the British they’re using the word “chips” wrong. Those are fries.

  66. 66
    Aratina Cage

    Why would Aussies be offensive? Have you stooped to simple contrarianism toward everything now that you have been soundly spanked?

    Anyway, BL1Y, go ahead and use the different cross continental versions of “BARBIE” (there, all caps–is that better for you?) in sentences below. Go ahead. I’m waiting…

  67. 67
    Mandrellian

    Mozes stated:

    “And, btw, cunt is not necessarily misogynistic in all English speaking cultures. The Australians have a different take on the word from what I understand. The Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English states that it is “a despicable man”, however when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in the Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it can convey a positive sense of the object or person referred to.

    Like “Billy is a funny cunt.” ”

    I’m an Australian male and I can confirm we do insult each other in a friendly way, like your Billy example and others, such as “How are you, you dirty old wanker?” or “Hahaaa, nice try, fuckwit”. We’re renowned for our self-deprecatory and irreverent humour and we like to extend that lac of respect to our favourite people :D

    But throwing insults around is something you generally do with a good friend in an appropriate context and not the standard way of interaction. The practise is also mostly confined to Australian men of a type who generally love fart jokes, large V8 automobiles and complaining about how their favourite sporting team is a pack of lace doilies.

    But really, in Australia, outside a locker room or other similar man-cave, dropping c-bombs isn’t any more acceptable than it is elsewhere in the English-speaking world – we do actually know what it means, y’know! Sure, you can say any horrible thing to your mates, but if you wouldn’t say a particular thing to your mum, avoid saying it to anyone you don’t know, male or female.

    And to Nigel The Fucking Martyr:

    “I use the word cunt all the time. So do a lot of people I know. I never use it with the slightest thought of it having any connection with the female genitalia. To my knowledge, neither does anyone else.”

    Well, bully for you! You clearly don’t know any women, gynaecologists, girls, doctors, females or, um, people who fucking well know what a “cunt” is.

    Okay, if neither you nor anyone else you know of recognises any connection between the word “cunt” and female genitalia, firstly: that does not mean such a connection does not exist and it does not mean that using it as an insult is okay, or SHOULD BE okay, with everyone else and secondly: well, you’re an ignorant little fucker aren’t you?

    If you wouldn’t say it to your mum, don’t say it to someone you don’t know.

    If you did say it to your mum, I’d hope she’d clip you across your fucking ear.

  68. 68
    John Morales

    [OT]

    BL1Y:

    the Aussies (is that offensive?)

    I doubt self-identifiers are offensive to those who so self-identify; on the other hand, you septics should not be offended by our affectionate term for you.

    </aussie>

    (Yeah, I know you’re trying to be jocular)

  69. 69
    Stacy

    It’s always surprising how people saying we ought not to offend others are often very quick to hurl insults at people they disagree with

    Nobody here is saying “we ought not to offend others”. They’re saying we ought not to use words that demean people based on inherent characteristics like gender, sex, race, or ethnicity.

    Keep up, or go play somewhere else.

  70. 70
    Mandrellian

    “Also, “barbie” doesn’t mean a barbecue or grill, it’s a brand of doll. Now that you’re aware, don’t make that mistake again.”

    Are you kidding me?

    If a “barbie” isn’t a barbecue or grill, what the fuck am I meant to throw my prawns on?

  71. 71
    Aratina Cage

    If a “barbie” isn’t a barbecue or grill, what the fuck am I meant to throw my prawns on?

    Well, you probably don’t want to throw your prawns on Barbie. What good would that do?

  72. 72
    BL1Y

    “Nobody here is saying “we ought not to offend others”. They’re saying we ought not to use words that demean people based on inherent characteristics like gender, sex, race, or ethnicity.”

    Awesome that “towelhead” is okay, since turban wearing isn’t an inherent characteristic.

  73. 73
    Aratina Cage

    Le *sigh*

    How many ways can one person be so wrong?

  74. 74
    John Morales

    BL1Y:

    Awesome that “towelhead” is okay, since turban wearing isn’t an inherent characteristic.

    You imagine that if it’s not OK to do X because of Y, then that implies that any not Y means it’s OK to do X?

    (Your sophistry is becoming tiresome)

  75. 75
    Josh Slocum

    People of good faith: know that B is doing this deliberately. It’s textbook trolling. It is not interested in changing its mind and it will not. You can continue to allow it to dominate the discussion by putting forth more effort than it deserves, of course, but know that getting it to act civilized (or to converse honestly) is not a potential outcome.

  76. 76
    BL1Y

    John, I’m just trying to figure out how it’s determined which offensive words are okay and which are not.

  77. 77
    carpenterman

    Perhaps in the U.K. the word “cunt” is a gender-neutral colloquialism, but in the U.S., I can assure you, it’s a highly offensive and sexist term. It might not be at the very top of the words-guaranteed-to-piss-off-every-woman-in-earshot list; but it’s in the top five.
    (Note: the word “piss” in this context is used in it’s American slang sense, meaning “angry”, rather then “drunk”. Just wanted to make that clear. Words change meanings, you know.)
    Besides, even as a word, it sucks. It’s just…ugly. Distasteful to the mouth, discordant to the ear, abrupt, squat, and brutish. “Cunt.” Yuck. No word for any true lover of the language.
    And that goes double for “twat”.

  78. 78
    C. Mason Taylor

    “Nobody here is saying “we ought not to offend others”. They’re saying we ought not to use words that demean people based on inherent characteristics like gender, sex, race, or ethnicity.”

    Awesome that “towelhead” is okay, since turban wearing isn’t an inherent characteristic.

    That’s it. This person is a troll. Nothing to see here, folks.

  79. 79
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Insults are about as productive and immensely more enjoyable than respectful debate when dealing with the blatantly disingenuous, BL1Y.

  80. 80
    John Morales

    BL1Y:

    John, I’m just trying to figure out how it’s determined which offensive words are okay and which are not.

    If it offends people, it’s offensive.

    If it’s intended to offend people, it’s offensive.

    If a blogger tells you it’s offensive when employed in their blog, it’s offensive.

    (Does that help?)

  81. 81
    Theo Bromine

    I’m just trying to figure out how it’s determined which offensive words are okay and which are not.

    This isn’t a job interview. It’s not about offensive words, it’s about offensive behaviour. I will go out on a limb here, and say that if someone, in all innocence, uses a word that turns out to be offensive, they will be (for the most part) kindly informed that such language is inappropriate. If their response is to say “Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to offend, and I will pick a different word next time,” everything will be fine. If the response is “I will continue to use words that I have been told are insulting, because I happen to like those words, and people are wrong to be insulted”, then blog owners and commenters are likely to get cranky.

  82. 82
    Mandrellian

    “John, I’m just trying to figure out how it’s determined which offensive words are okay and which are not.”

    “Honest, I’m just asking questions!”

    Really?

    Because, honestly, it looks like you’re being very obtuse. On purpose. Which is something I find more offensive than most sailor-talk.

    Against my better judgement, though, I’ll bite.

    Offensive words are generally considered offensive _when they offend people_. Words aren’t offensive in a vacuum; they are considered offensive on the basis of their effects on peoples’ emotions or sensibilities or sense of propriety. As all those things are subjective there isn’t always going to be consensus on a word’s offensiveness, but if enough people consider something offensive, it’ll often be labelled “an offensive word”; one to avoid in most situations in order to encourage effective group functioning and beneficial relationships. This has occurred innumerable times with slang for genitalia/sex/bodily functions and ethnic/religious groups being very frequent inclusions. Even if a word I use only once offends just one person e.g. something I personally consider innocuous, like “fellatio”, I might elect to avoid that word around that particular person. Or, I might not, if I don’t care about that person’s feelings because I consider them a flamin’ wowser who deserves to be offended, like rent-a-quote Catholic capos who pop up on the TV news all the time whining about gay marriage or reproductive rights or sex ed, as if they had any fucking clue about adult relationships beyond grovelling on their knees for their “Father” to do stuff for them.

    Anyway: once considered offensive, Offensive Words are considered “okay” usually only in specific social contexts, be they blogs, locker rooms, sewing circles, WoW raiding parties, bars, kids’ parties or whatever.

    But hey, if you really need data, maybe you should investigate it scientifically: say whatever the fuck you want, wherever and whenever the fuck you want, to whomever you want, then see who gets offended by what and make a note of each instance.

    Or you could behave like the subject of Ophelia’s post: say whatever you want without regard for social context, then YOU act all offended if someone calls you on it. In other words, act like a massive fuckstick.

  83. 83
    BL1Y

    John: “If it’s intended to offend people, it’s offensive.”

    But, it was established earlier that some things, such as certain insults, are offensive but yet still acceptable. So, what makes one offensive comment bad and another okay?

  84. 84
    BL1Y

    Carpenterman: “Besides, even as a word, it sucks. It’s just…ugly. Distasteful to the mouth, discordant to the ear, abrupt, squat, and brutish. “Cunt.” Yuck. No word for any true lover of the language.”

    I think that’s exactly why it’s so popular. The form mirrors the meaning.

  85. 85
    Philip L

    So, what makes one offensive comment bad and another okay?

    Are you really that stupid that you need to be told?

    I smell troll.

  86. 86
    John Morales

    [meta]

    What Philip Legge wrote.

    Yes, you, BL1Y.

    You’ve put yourself in the position where either you’re exceedingly obtuse, or you’re trolling.

    (Does this offend you?)

  87. 87
    Josh Slocum

    Keep on hogglin’.

  88. 88
    AlphaCentauri

    Just because men sometimes call other men “cunts” doesn’t mean it’s not always misogynistic. If comparing a man to a woman’s genitalia means you think he’s despicable, that doesn’t say good things about your opinion of women.

  89. 89
    BL1Y

    Alpha: It was perfectly fine on the recent Roy Moore thread to use a comparison to male genitalia (“dickhead”) to mean someone is despicable.

    Do you think anyone took that as a reflection of the commenter’s opinion of men?

  90. 90
    NathanDST

    Ok, since it came up, can I take this chance to ask for some education from the Brits? “Bollocks” and “bloody”: what do they mean? I just have this awful feeling that I’ve been using words I shouldn’t use (well, ‘bollocks’ hardly ever, but ‘bloody’ frequently).

  91. 91
    BL1Y

    I’ve understood “bollocks” to be a reference to testicles.

    And speaking of, anyone here watch Craig Ferguson? Are they offended when Geoff Peterson (the homosexual robot skeleton) says “Balls!” ?

    Really, how much do you have to hate men to use a piece of male anatomy as an exclamation of disappointment?

  92. 92
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    And… keep on hogglin’.

  93. 93
    Smock Puppet, 10 Dan Snark Master

    >>> I, on the other hand, am a democrat, and would not entertain for a second the idea of shutting anyone up, let alone you.

    I’d need to see proof of this, being as it’s not even vaguely typical behavior of self-described “Democrats” in my experience. Usually, trying to shut you up is move #1 after they figure out you’re a lot more rational than they are and can fisk their comments within an inch of their lives.

    The claim that “cunt” is not pejorative in the extreme shows how little actual interaction with women this bozo has had. I won’t say I’ve never used it, but it’s certainly a word that is a last resort and assumed to be exceptionally rude in general. It’s likely to lose you ANY argument you apply it in, and generally going to set people who might otherwise be predisposed to agree with you against you from that point on. If you’re talking to a woman, and you apply it to her, your chances of getting your face slapped go up phenomenally — hence my own observation above that this pinhead yutz hasn’t had much interaction with women.

  94. 94
    Aratina Cage

    Really, how much do you have to hate men to use a piece of male anatomy as an exclamation of disappointment?

    Oh baloney (BL1Y), it’s like you were just born yesterday.

  95. 95
    NathanDST

    BL1Y, I’m not sure I should trust an obvious troll to give me proper education on words, but assuming others agree with you on “bollocks,” then I probably should quit using it for the same reasons I avoid dick or prick. Too bad, it has a rather fun sound to it.

  96. 96
    Musical Atheist

    @91 I can’t speak for all Brits, but in my experience, in Britain, ‘bollocks’ means testicles, and can also be used as an expression of exasperation: ‘oh bollocks’, or of contempt for a mistake: ‘he’s talking total bollocks’; ‘they really bollocksed it up’. It’s crude rather than deeply offensive, but in some company crudeness is itself offensive, so you should still be a bit careful. It’s totally synonymous with ‘balls’ but is a bit more offensive: more likely to be used as a swearword, less likely to be used to actually refer to testicles. ‘Balls’ is an unexceptionable word for testicles.

    ‘Bloody’ is now rather old-fashioned. ‘I can’t find the bloody thing’ is a typical usage. It’s been overtaken in popularity by ‘fucking’ and the fact that it’s less common seems to make it more offensive – it’s a bit startling to hear it.

  97. 97
    Musical Atheist

    Small piece of British trivia: in my experience, ‘twat’ comes over as more offensive and demeaning when you use it to refer to someone’s vagina than when you use it as a general insult. If someone I knew called me a twat, I might feel offended, depending on the context and how well I knew them, but if someone, especially a man, referred to my vagina as a twat I’d probably never want to talk to them again. I can’t think of a situation in which that would be appropriate. With ‘cunt’, since there’s been some feminist work to reclaim it as a strong, proud word for vagina, it’s the other way round.

    I currently have weekly classes with an opera director (Dutch, not English) who uses ‘cunt’ as an insult several times a session in his description of people (in a class of five women, French, English, American and Canadian, though NOT directed at us). He clearly has no idea we might have mixed feelings about it, and I don’t think he realizes we could experience it as sexist. I don’t think any of us are deeply offended by it, but it’s rather wearing. None of us ever quite manage to say anything because of his influence on our future careers, position of authority, fear of rocking the boat etc…

  98. 98
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Oh fuck, not this again. Hello, I’m Australian.

    Cunt is a VERY rude word here. You can’t say it on Australian TV (though it’s usually allowable in drama shows past the official kiddies’ bedtime watershed.) Even when you can say fuck and shit, you can’t say cunt.

    It means female genitalia. That’s meaning one in the Macquarie Dictionary. (See here since Macquarie isn’t free online – http://stilgherrian.com/cunt-macquarie/) There are alternative meanings noted in the dictionary because we are all multidialectual here. We usually understand and are influenced by various UK dialects, several US dialects, NZ dialect, and maybe even a bit of Canadian eh? It’s also marked in the dictionary as STRONGLY taboo.

    Also, on the “we use joking insults all the time with our friends!” line, there are two key points to note.
    1. FRIENDS. Random internet strangers are not your friends.
    2. INSULT. There’s no point jokingly insulting your friends unless you’re using, you know, an INSULT. Duh.

  99. 99
    Dave

    Well, in my part of England, saying ‘cunt’ out loud would be about the rudest thing you could imagine doing short of actually punching someone. Certain sections of the Scottish working class have acquired a historical reputation for using it frequently, but this is generally viewed as a sign of their disconnection from norms of reasonable public behaviour. It is a term which associates the target with being utterly contemptible BECAUSE of its primary meaning; it is misogynistic to the core, just as ‘gay = crap’ is homophobic to the core. Arguing otherwise, even if you do it until you’re blue in the face, doesn’t change that.

    Certain other groups have decided that it is ‘edgy’ to utter such obscenities casually, but they are moral cretins doing their pathetic best to render public discourse down to the lowest conceivable level, at which point their ramblings will at last appear to rise a few millimetres above the cultural swamp of total insignificance they have helped to create – this, presumably, is their aim, as their behaviour betokens no higher goal.

    I have a large and florid vocabulary of obscenity; I can also punch really quite hard. I use neither facility in public, because I am civilised. Sometimes, it makes me feel very old.

  100. 100
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    [Slightly OT]

    While we’re on the subject of “cunt”, does anyone know what the origin of the word is? Or should I just hit Google?

  101. 101
    Pteryxx

    Wow. My bet up at #21 is paying off at 14-1 and still rising.

    Highlights:

    BL1Y says:
    March 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm
    Is “cunt” not allowed because it is sexist, or because it is vulgar?

    BL1Y says:
    March 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm
    If there were a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific, and about 40 or so people survived, and they all happened to be like Michael was, ignorant of the origin of the word “twat” and just used it as a rather generic insult, what would the word then mean?

    BL1Y says:
    March 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm
    You see, Moses, America has global dominance on cultural issues, and so whatever we take a word to mean is the final say on what its true meaning is. Australia isn’t allowed to have its own culture, or its own words that mean their own things.

    BL1Y says:
    March 20, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Awesome that “towelhead” is okay, since turban wearing isn’t an inherent characteristic.

    BL1Y says:
    March 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm
    John, I’m just trying to figure out how it’s determined which offensive words are okay and which are not.

    So far in my experience of almost a year, EVERY single commenter who oh-so-innocently asks what’s the big deal about “cunt” has shown themselves to be one of these dishonest, straw-baiting jerkwads. I can recall three or four instances where a commenter actually asked about gendered insults in good faith, and those were about “dick”, “wuss” and “grow a pair”. It’s a sure thing, folks.

  102. 102
    Rudi

    Ophelia – this Neil guy is a gomer, but I do have to point out that “cunt” in the UK is a gender-neutral epithet, and people don’t use it or think of it in the way you insist must be true for EVERYONE because it’s how YOU percieve it. It frustrates me how you have elevated your dislike of the word
    to the level of dogma, your opinion is now The Truth and dissenters can be dismissed as wrong, even though ultimately who is “right” or “wrong” depends on cultural factors. My wife and sister frequently use the word “cunt”, because it does not carry the same meaning or cultural baggage you attach to it. You are not ‘wrong’ to attach that baggage; you are wrong to insist that everyone else must.

  103. 103
    Stacy

    While we’re on the subject of “cunt”, does anyone know what the origin of the word is? Or should I just hit Google?

    It’s a fairly old word, origins obscure.

    I know that it goes back at least to Middle English and there are cognates in other Germanic languages. Chaucer used it; doesn’t seem to have been considered obscene then. I recall hearing in college that it’s etymologically related to the word queen, but a quick Google double check tells me that this is little more than speculation.

  104. 104
    Bernard Bumner

    If there are two distinct senses of the word cunt in UK English (and I think there are), even in that gender-neutral insult sense, not only is it the most offensive word in the language but it also carries incredibly aggressive overtones. As an insult to a stranger it conveys the most serious threat of violence; if you earnestly call someone a cunt you are certainly looking for a fight. That implicit sense of hatred and the wish for harm should place it beyond casual use.

    Twat is interesting in UK English, again because there are two almost complete unrelated senses of the word; one meaning vagina, and other meaning a bullish idiot. The distance between those two senses is possibly illustrated by the very commonly held misconception that twat is the name for a pregnant goldfish. This well known fact is, of course, nothing of the sort; goldfish are incapable of pregnancy, and the term has never been used seriously. This piece of schoolboy trivia is probably one of the reasons that the insult is often held not to be sexist.

  105. 105
    Francis Boyle

    WMDKitty: If you’re interested you could try this page: http://www.matthewhunt.com/cunt/etymology.html It could well fall into the category of too much information (in either sense) and I make no claims for its veracity (nor endorse any views contained therein) but it’s certainly interesting if for no other reason than it’s sheer attention to detail (and the number of cognate words it lists).

  106. 106
    Torquil Macneil

    “As an insult to a stranger it conveys the most serious threat of violence;”

    That can be true, but words are funny and there are definitely places in the UK where ‘friend’ would be about the most threatening thing someone could call you if it were said in a certain way in a certain context. I am pretty sure this is true in the states as well having watched a few episodes of Justified.

    I do enjoy these cross-Atlantic differences, though. I am very surprised to learn that in the US ‘twat’ is pronounced something like ‘twot’, although it should be said that ‘twot’ can be used in the UK too. Also, ‘tawt’ can be used to mean ‘hit’ in the UK, that is quite common actually. I am pretty sure that ‘twit’ derives from ‘twat’.

    And my favourite anecdote to illustrate the contextual importance in obscenity is the one where the angry Australian cricket captain turned to his team after a complaint from an English player and demanded to know: ‘all right, which one of you cunts called this cunt a cunt?’

  107. 107
    latsot

    “Twat” is an odd one, not because there are several origins (we all pretty much agree on what it means now), but because it can also mean to physically assault: “I’m going to twat the cunt” meaning “I’m going to assault that unpleasant person.”

    It seems a particularly unpleasant and horrific use of a fairly overt reference to female genitals: suddenly they are an act of violence?

  108. 108
    Dave

    Dear me, Rudi, what an extremely vulgar family you come from, or are they perhasp the kind of bohemians so distanced from reality as to have never actually felt the insulting force of a curse earnestly meant?

    Meanwhile I really do feel sorry for you if you actually believe that the word is meaningfully ‘gender-neutral’; that is a deeply shallow thing to say.

  109. 109
    Torquil Macneil

    “Meanwhile I really do feel sorry for you if you actually believe that the word is meaningfully ‘gender-neutral’; that is a deeply shallow thing to say.”

    Well it is close to it in the UK, although it would sound very odd hearing it used against a woman, but that is true of most obscenities. It makes more sense to think of ‘cunt’ as gendered male when it is used as an insult.

  110. 110
    Theo Bromine

    ‘Bloody’ is now rather old-fashioned. ‘I can’t find the bloody thing’ is a typical usage. It’s been overtaken in popularity by ‘fucking’ and the fact that it’s less common seems to make it more offensive – it’s a bit startling to hear it.

    “Bloody” is considered more offensive than “fucking”? Bloody ‘ell, that makes me feel old.

  111. 111
    James

    Twat is interesting in UK English, again because there are two almost complete unrelated senses of the word; one meaning vagina, and other meaning a bullish idiot.

    There’s also the third meaning of to hit or beat, often with great force.

    An entirely credible example might be “Why did I twat him? Because he called me a ‘cunt’.”

    In the context of NMcC’s and BL1Y’s plaintive wailing that they don’t mean any offense, it’s worth noting that the same person who might credibly respond with violence to being called a “cunt” might also, in a different context, respond with a smile and a verbal retort of similar nature.

    The principle difference would be the relationship between the user and target of the word. Two close friends might trade such insults playfully, and although they are nonetheless still insults, violence will almost certainly not result. I know many people who would engage in such behaviour with mates and it may involve no ill-feeling at all on either side.

    However none of those people would accept the same terms of address from a stranger. Offense, insult and a great deal of ill-feeling are almost guaranteed and in a face-to-face setting, violence is not unlikely. So while I can accept that someone may argue “Me and my mates call each other cunts and nobody minds”, I can’t for the life of me imagine anyone thinking it is not in any way an offensive term.

    Everybody, even those who may say they use it “playfully” or “affectionately”, knows it is one of the most offensive words you can use of another person.

    NMcC knows this and is therefore a hypocrite.

    BL1Y knows this and is therefore a troll.

  112. 112
    Torquil Macneil

    James, I don’t think the quarrel is over whether the word is offensive or not but whether its offensiveness can reasonably be construed as misogynistic. To my mind that is an interesting question but it has quite a simple basic answer: in the US (and Canada?), yes, in the UK/Australia/NZ, no

  113. 113
    James

    Torquil,

    My comment was mainly aimed at BL1Y who *claims* he is just trying to understand which words are offensive and which ones aren’t (or are less so).

  114. 114
    EmilyBites

    Re the ‘bloody’ and ‘bollocks’ issue:
    I’m assuming there’s variation geographically, but in my experience (Londoner with northern roots) ‘bloody’ is much less offensive than ‘fuck’, but I can see how because it’s an archaism it might strike people more than the constant ‘fucking’ that goes on (as it were). ‘Bloody hell!’ is a common usage, too.

    ‘Bollocks’ means rubbish (but technically testicles), as in, ‘Stop talking such bollocks, BL1Y.’ It’s rude, but no more than saying ‘shit’, and it has a comical/belittling edge to it that makes it more acceptable, I think.

  115. 115
    Torquil Macneil

    Agree with Emily. Bloody really isn’t very strong, you can use it in front of children and strangers, although it is still rudish.

  116. 116
    Svlad Cjelli

    That last one is the most amusing use of “cunt” I’ve seen in a while.

    “Humbly greetamagogs, Your Excelsiority, and may I if I may hoity-toit-toit, et.c.

    Be well, dear cunt.”

  117. 117
    Bernard Bumner

    Meanwhile I really do feel sorry for you if you actually believe that the word is meaningfully ‘gender-neutral’; that is a deeply shallow thing to say.

    It is perniciously sexist, and it should be avoided, but there seems to be a difference in the way the word is used in th UK. I don’t believe the term really is gender-neutral, but it isn’t necessarily extraordinary compared to other gendered insults, like insulting someone as a tit or pussy. It doesn’t carry the very overt anti-female, anti-sex meaning that it seems to in US English.

    ‘Bollocks’ means rubbish (but technically testicles)…

    Although it can also mean fantastic, as in ‘The dog’s bollocks’, or ‘The bollocks’. I suppose that usage is propably less heard now than a few years ago.

  118. 118
    James

    I’ll second Emily and Torquil: “bloody” is rather mild.

    Bollocks is also fairly tame, and generally refers to speech but even then can be interpreted in two ways. “You’re talking bollocks” might be translated as either “I believe you may be mistaken in your argument,” or “I suspect you are less than fully earnest in your pronouncements.”

    Interestingly, when prefaced with “dog’s” (as in “Ophelia Benson’s blog is the dog’s bollocks!”), it connotes glowing approval. Strangely enough it seems we Brits are only in favour of canine reproductive organs…well, the male ones at least.

  119. 119
    BL1Y

    Emily, it sounds like what you’re saying is that bollocks is in fact a sexist term, but since the term doesn’t really carry much punch to it, it’s okay to use. Cunt on the other hand is sexist and a very strong word, so it’s off limits.

    So, would “Sarah Palin is a strumpet” be okay? Sure, it’s sexist, but it’s hardly rude, certainly less rude than “shit” and it has a comical/belittling edge to it. It also has some nice alliteration with a S and P sounds which goes well with the trochaic tetrameter.

  120. 120
    Torquil Macneil

    “Interestingly, when prefaced with “dog’s” (as in “Ophelia Benson’s blog is the dog’s bollocks!”), it connotes glowing approval. ”

    It’s just a comic-obscene rebooting of the ‘bees knees’ or ‘cat’s pajamas’ joke, isn’t it?

  121. 121
    Theo Bromine

    Re “dog’s bollocks” as a term of approbation:

    1) I had a co-worker who used “cat’s ass” in a similar context.

    2) I overheard a conversation from a bunch of guys (from Michigan, IIRC) in which they talked about how some object was “prettier than shit”. My (unvoiced) response: *Most* things are prettier than shit.

  122. 122
    Torquil Macneil

    “So, would “Sarah Palin is a strumpet” be okay? Sure, it’s sexist, but it’s hardly rude”

    In what sense is it not rude to call someone a prostitute? Very odd.

  123. 123
    Ophelia Benson

    Funny how Torquil managed to ignore all the UKnians and Australians saying that yes of course “cunt” is misogynist, including in the UK and Australia. I suppose he just didn’t bother reading them, but gave us his fresh insight unimpeded by information.

  124. 124
    Philip L

    BL1Y,

    here are some previous discussions for you to consider (in chronological order, if you wish to skip older threads).

    Ophelia’s position has been remarkably clear and consistent, and you are derailing to continue arguing as you do.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/the-epithet-question/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/knowing-what-words-mean/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/here-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2009/empty-signs/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2010/epithets/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/what-was-that-we-were-saying-about-sexist-epithets-five-years-ago/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/crazy-american-bitches/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/invitation-to-a-dialogue/
    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2011/the-nuanced-discussion/
    freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2011/09/what-misogynists-call-outspoken-women/
    freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/01/misogyny-what-misogyny/
    freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/02/that-would-come-in-handy/
    freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/03/man-boobz-v-reddit/

    There are probably a few threads I’ve missed, though.

  125. 125
    Ophelia Benson

    Philip’s comment actually came in about 12 hours ago but the links caused it to be held up, so I changed the time stamp.

  126. 126
    Torquil Macneil

    I didn’t notice them Ophelia, or may not have known where they were writing from. But they are wrong as the other UK-ers on here will attest. In these Islands ‘cunt’ doesn’t carry any misogynistic charge. It may be that that is changing among the young, there does seem to be a tendency for UK slang to converge with US usage, but generally speaking you just can’t use cunt in a way that is disparaging to women.

    For any Uk-ers here who disagree, try this thought experiment: If I said my evening was ruined by two stupid cunts talking bollocks at dinner would you have any doubt about the sex of the babblers, and which would it be? And US-ers?

  127. 127
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh and one more thing – “towelhead” is not ok. I’ve used it several times as an illustration of other not-ok-ness, for people who use “cunt” freely but (in my prediction) wouldn’t use “nigger” or “towelhead.”

  128. 128
    Ophelia Benson

    “But they are wrong as the other UK-ers on here will attest.”

    Really. Even though Dave, for instance, is one of the “they” you declare to be “wrong” and is one of “the other UK-ers on here.”

    I read the first thread that Philip linked, and there you are as John Meredith, pontificating away. You’re not a very quick learner.

  129. 129
    James

    Emily, it sounds like what you’re saying is that bollocks is in fact a sexist term, but since the term doesn’t really carry much punch to it, it’s okay to use. Cunt on the other hand is sexist and a very strong word, so it’s off limits.

    So, would “Sarah Palin is a strumpet” be okay? Sure, it’s sexist, but it’s hardly rude, certainly less rude than “shit” and it has a comical/belittling edge to it. It also has some nice alliteration with a S and P sounds which goes well with the trochaic tetrameter.

    More wilful misunderstanding? Aren’t you bored of feigning ignorance/stupidity yet? OK, here it is in little words to make it easier…

    1. Bollocks describes a thing or an act (normally speech). So “You’re talking bollocks” compares fact or point of view you are propounding to testicles. It in no way compares you to anything.

    2. I have never seen or heard cunt used in this way. “You are a cunt” does not question any fact, opinion or action you have taken. It explicitly compares you, in your entirety, to a woman’s genitals.

    3. You were doing much better with dick or dickhead, where the distinction is much more on the lines of how offensive those words are perceived to be. If you don’t think “cunt” is more offensive than “dick”, try scrolling up and reading this thread. If you still don’t learn anything, at least it might keep you busy for an hour or two.

  130. 130
    Torquil Macneil

    “Really. Even though Dave, for instance, is one of the “they” you declare to be “wrong” and is one of “the other UK-ers on here.””

    Really, even if Dave is from the UK and holds those views, he is wrong. If he bothers with my thought experiment I am confident he will find that out.

    “You’re not a very quick learner.”

    Well that’s true enough. But I have learned one thing: people who resort to abuse unbidden are usually throwing in the intellectual towel. I wonder if anyone will ever manage to teach you as much.

  131. 131
    Bernard Bumner

    In these Islands ‘cunt’ doesn’t carry any misogynistic charge… try this thought experiment…

    It doesn’t necessarily, but it is clearly also employed by misogynists to refer to women simply because it violates the taboo about the the taboo, namely that the word is so offensive that it is considered even so for the delicate ears of all but the women most deserving of insult. The inherent misogyny is clear in that case, but that sort of usage is much less common, and requires that the user and listener understands both senses of the word.

    It really isn’t difficult, even if UK born and bred, to see that the term could reasonably be considered sexist and possibly misogynistic. I think that there is a common usage in the UK which doesn’t require misogynistic motivation, but it is very difficult to argue that the two are entirely disconnected. At best, it is casual and normalised sexism, and the connection between that and misogyny is quite clear.

  132. 132
    James

    Torquil,

    generally speaking you just can’t use cunt in a way that is disparaging to women.

    Are you serious?

    If I said my evening was ruined by two stupid cunts talking bollocks at dinner would you have any doubt about the sex of the babblers, and which would it be?

    Well I for one wouldn’t have a clue what gender they might be. Try this thought experiment:

    Imagine that while talking to a friend about a third party (unknown to you) he tells you “She’s a real cunt.” What do you think he means by this? What behaviour or characteristics would you think he was ascribing to her?

    Now imagine the same situation, but your friend says “He’s a real cunt.” what do you think he means by this? Is it the same as he meant when he was talking about a woman?

  133. 133
    Ophelia Benson

    Torquil – it’s not completely unbidden. You are, after all, being a sockpuppet, and you’re being it in discussing a form of abuse to which you are immune and I am not. It’s an unpleasant game to play, and I’m deeply tired of people who play it. You did the lofty disdain thing as John Meredith in 2009 and you’re still doing it now. Saying you don’t learn very quickly isn’t really abuse or really unbidden.

  134. 134
    Torquil Macneil

    “Are you serious?”

    I am. Are you from the UK? Have you honestly ever heard a woman described as a cunt? I have and it really isn’t because I move in especially genteel circles.

  135. 135
    Torquil Macneil

    James, ‘I have’ should read ‘I haven’t’, obviously.

  136. 136
    Torquil Macneil

    “You are, after all, being a sockpuppet”

    No, I am not. I used to go by one name but I changed it for reasons I have explained to you before and then consistently went by another name, always one name at a time. A sockpuppet is quite a different thing.

    “and you’re being it in discussing a form of abuse to which you are immune and I am not.”

    I expect that I have been abused as a cunt at least as often as you have!

    “You did the lofty disdain thing as John Meredith in 2009 and you’re still doing it now.”

    Balls. Being polite to people you disagree with doesn’t count as ‘lofty disdain’ where I come from.

    “Saying you don’t learn very quickly isn’t really abuse or really unbidden.”

    Unbidden it certainly was, and I am pretty confident that it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

  137. 137
    Aratina Cage

    @MusicalAtheist 98

    Small piece of British trivia: in my experience, ‘twat’ comes over as more offensive and demeaning when you use it to refer to someone’s vagina than when you use it as a general insult. If someone I knew called me a twat, I might feel offended, depending on the context and how well I knew them, but if someone, especially a man, referred to my vagina as a twat I’d probably never want to talk to them again.

    That is funny because to some people I’ve talked to in the USA, twat is a more polite, indirect way of saying vagina (well, particularly one belonging to someone who is not part of the conversation, and it is not said in a demeaning context), and at the same time you probably wouldn’t call a person that without exposing massive misogyny on your part (calling someone a vagina is not generally an insult in the USA).

  138. 138
    Godless Heathen

    The gender of the person to whom the insult is directed is irrelevant when determining whether or not the insult is sexist.

  139. 139
    Dunc

    I think a lot of people seem to be overlooking one very salient fact here: vernacular usage varies enormously across the UK, according to geography, (sub-)culture, and context. Language: it’s complicated. Especially on this little island, doubly-especially when it comes to swearing.

    Try listing all the possible uses of the word “shit” across the British Isles. You’ll be at it a very long time.

  140. 140
    Ophelia Benson

    Torquil -

    “I expect that I have been abused as a cunt at least as often as you have!”

    It is not the same.

    Your not getting that is what makes this kind of thing so irritating.

  141. 141
    Torquil Macneil

    Ophelia, my whole point is that it is the same where I come from. I realise that it is different where you come from and have said so over and again. It may even be changing where I come from, but I can’t see much evidence of that. If someone said ‘she is a cunt’ over here, I think that the vast majority would understand that in exactly the same way as ‘he is a cunt’, that is both he and she are deeply unpleasant, probably vicious and maybe aggressive people. It wouldn’t have anything specific to say about their sex. I am not offering that as an especially impressive insight, or as an observation of enormous significance, it is just the case and I personally find it a bit interesting.

  142. 142
    Bernard Bumner

    …vernacular usage varies enormously across the UK…

    Very true, but there are general trends which can be observed when discussing the word usually held to be the most offensive in the language.

    The gender of the person to whom the insult is directed is irrelevant when determining whether or not the insult is sexist.

    This is an important point in a discussion that has gone off down the track of discussing how such an insult is used. If anyone thinks that gendered insults aren’t sexist, then they have missed the point. Whatever the niceties of the UK versus US usage of the word, the inherent sexism (implicit or explicit by your point of view) is undeniable and damaging.

  143. 143
    James

    Torquil,

    Are you from the UK? Yes.

    Have you honestly ever heard a woman described as a cunt? Yes. I’ll give you it’s less common than hearing a man described, or directly addressed, as a cunt, but I have heard it.

    I haven’t and it really isn’t because I move in especially genteel circles. I find it remarkable that you can be so definite. Perhaps you actually have been present when it was used, but took no conscious notice? Is that worth considering?

  144. 144
    Ophelia Benson

    Torquil, well then it would have helped if you had read the early comments (or, maybe, if you had just thought a little bit). All that has been said, here and elsewhere, a billion times, and it’s not what this post was about.

    And I think it’s just obnoxious and trollish at best to insist on inserting musings on what is “a bit interesting” in a discussion of something that is a lot closer to the bone than that.

    I don’t know how to make this any clearer than I already have a few million times. This isn’t some mildly interesting discussion of comparative swearing and its geographic distribution. This is about raw misogynist rage getting shoved at women who have the gall to speak up in public. I’m not interested in your detached observations on comparative swearing and its geographic distribution in this context. I’m not just not interested: I take them as provocations.

  145. 145
    Dave

    Whatever else we might say, I think we can mostly agree that Torquil is a knob.

  146. 146
    Torquil MacNeil

    And, Dave I doubt I am the first to point out that you are a wanker.

    Can we be done with that high flown stuff now or do you have more Wildean dazzlers up your sleev?

  147. 147
    Torquil MacNeil

    Ophelia, I was commenting in response to other commenters on here in a reasonable and polite way and as far as i can see on topic. If it was off topic then i dont see why you confine your irritation to personal attacks on me because i didnt take it off topic. Frankly, to see that as trollish or provocative is a bit mad. Disagree, or be bored or whatever, fine, but provocative? Come off it.

  148. 148
    Bernard Bumner

    Ophelia,
    I’m sorry for partaking in this diversion from the OT. On reflection, academic discussion of the relative usages of the word could be considered quite rude in this context. There have been too many examples of the misogynistic use of such epithets recently for anyone to argue in such a way that the term might be seen to be even slightly mitigated. Nigel was very clear in what he meant, despite his attempts to muddy the waters.

  149. 149
    Dunc

    Very true, but there are general trends which can be observed when discussing the word usually held to be the most offensive in the language.

    You mean “Tory”? Or perhaps “sassenach”? ;)

    You see, I come from precisely that Scottish working-class milieu which Dave was so thorough in denigrating up-thread. Yes, we swear a lot, and we use swearing in ways which people from other backgrounds might find odd, to say the least. However, I must say that I find his description of my culture highly offensive, despite its being couched in perfectly mild language.

    Please note that I am not in anyway denying that “cunt” is, in almost all other contexts, extremely offensive and misogynist. I’m just remarking that anybody who wants to lay down any hard-and-fast rules about what words mean and how they can be used really needs to be aware that there is a great deal of variation.

  150. 150
    Ophelia Benson

    Torquil – it’s partly because you’ve been doing it for such a long time (and such a lot). It’s partly because I was reminded that you were doing it as early as the very first link in Philip’s list, three years ago, and doing it under a different name. It’s partly because you were so dogmatic about it. All that combined with the lofty pseudo-academic “interest” is more than reason enough.

    Bernard is right. It is possible to have a dispassionate discussion of this subject, and that’s exactly why I set up such a discussion last summer. But a thread about an actual, calculated, intrusive misogynist outburst is not the place to have that discussion.

  151. 151
    Goober

    Nigel;

    It occurs to me that if I were to stumble into a foreign, English-speaking land (or the domicile of some foreign, english-seaking person) and I found that the use of the term “bright” was horribly offensive to them, even though it had no negative or offensive conotations in my land of origin, that I would stop using that term out of courtesy to the good folks who’s home I was visiting.

    And I sure as hell wouldn’t go about demanding that the owner of the domicile allow me to argue with them why the word isn’t offensive and accusing them of censorship when they wouldn’t – I would politely explain that where I come from, it is not offensive, tell them that Imeant no offense by using it, apologize for the misunderstanding, and then stop using the fucking word.

    Even IF I concede that in the area where you’re from, the word “cunt” is totally non-offensive and carries no mysogynistic meaning (which I think is dubious at best, but whatever), you are still an asshat for using it here, where it IS offensive and DOES carry a mysogynist meaning, and you’re even MORe of an asshat for insisting that it shouldn’t be offensive because it isn’t offensive where you’re from – that sort of regional superiority is the sort of thing that you tend to accuse us Americans of exhibiting without even noticing that you are doing it yourself right here and right now!

  152. 152
    Aratina Cage

    OT: Thinking back to the bit about throwing prawns on the barbie, the way one person from that part of the world pronounced “pawn” sounded indistinguishable from “porn” in the context of him talking about “pawn shops”. It was all very confusing to the audience of mostly prudish USA Christians who were there to hear the speaker give a keynote address to their graduating children. The gasps were audible.

  153. 153
    Brigadista

    Goober @ 152

    Agree entirely. I had exactly the same thought while reading through this thread. I personally hate both the words ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ and never use them. Even writing them here in the context of this discussion makes me feel slimy. Nevertheless, if I were to use these or any other words and someone then told me they felt insulted, I would stop immediately.

    As regards the suggested derivation of ‘twit’ from ‘twat’, I would have thought it much more likely that it was a contraction of ‘nitwit’, or someone of no wit. Feel free to create your own punchlines …

  154. 154
    Greg Laden

    inre 18/19: It isn’t just sexist; It has become a dog whistle. (A not very subtle one.)

  155. 155
    Ophelia Benson

    Very, very true. I’ve been having that thought all along (“all of a sudden it’s everywhere!”) without putting it quite that way. It is indeed a dog whistle, for misogynists to summon each other across vast spaces. It works, too.

    The discussion at Popehat is hilarious.

    http://www.popehat.com/2012/03/20/there-are-no-brief-apologies-for-being-an-asshat/

  156. 156
    NathanDST

    Thanks to all for the education on “bollocks” and “bloody.” I have gathered the following re: bollocks: If I’m trying to avoid gendered insults, that might be a word to avoid, though it seems that it’s attacking ideas or actions rather than the person. So, if I slip up, I probably won’t get my head bit off. Re: bloody: still not sure what it technically means, but is apparently on par or worse than “fucking,” depending on generation. So, watch my mouth in Britain, but otherwise not horrible.

    Did I get that right?

  157. 157
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, no, “bloody” isn’t like that now – but it was, until a few decades ago. Nobody I ever asked could explain exactly why; it just was.

    It’s supposed to be a shock when Eliza says it in “Pygmalion.”

  158. 158
    Torquil MacNeil

    I’m not going to keep banging on about it Ophelia (you will be glad to hear) but I wish you would get over this idea that any non-academic with interests in academicish stuff is a pseud. We can’t all plant our arse in the academy.

    Nathan, you can relax about ‘bollocks’ and ‘bloody’, you won’t offend anyone with either unless you are incredibly blunt. The only danger is making someone smile. Foreigners just seem to use these words in slightly the wrong place, that is all.

  159. 159
    NMcC

    Well, regardless of whether I am wrong about using the word cunt, I was certainly spot on about Benson’s manners.

    Is it not a matter of common decency to ask permission from the sender to post the contents of private emails? I certainly thought so. Obviously Benson does not. She might have a policy stated on her blog that she reserves this right to publish emails without the permission of the writer and I may have just missed it. But again, I would have thought that this should apply only if there were threats of violence made and is, in fact, a policy I support.

    But obviously Benson thinks she has the right to publish private emails that merely annoy her. So be it. I wouldn’t have expected anything else from a ‘new’ atheist hypocrite.

    I’ve read most of the comments above and I certainly agree with a few of them. If Benson had merely deleted the offending line, and had said why, I would have had no problem with that. If I think it worthwhile commenting on her blog, I would most certainly have stuck to her rules. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance.

    There are a few insults above that are based simply on ignorance and I’m not overly concerned to point them out. Suffice to say that I can hardly be accused of idiocy for publishing my name on the internet when that was done by Benson without my permission. And ’tis himself’ or ‘herself’ or whatever that commenter’s proper name is, suffers from a bad memory, as it was me who pointed out to him/her that I was not the person they thought I was and it was certainly not anyone else eager to disassociate themselves FROM me. All in all, the general level of basic honesty and neglect of fact is atrocious.

    As to the use of the word cunt: Let’s get this straight, I have not suggested that this word is appropriate to use in EVERY and ANY circumstances. I would not use it in conversation with Benson, for example. Nor would I use it in numerous other situations. My point, however, (which I still maintain, despite the obviously educational nature of some of the comments above), is that there are also numerous circumstances in which it is not considered offensive simply because it has taken on a life of its own and is so far removed from having any reference whatever with female genitalia in those contexts. That is a simple fact. It may be different where others live but, like the example of Scotland, that’s how it is in Northern Ireland – or, at least, the parts that I am familiar with.

    Anyway, Benson, it has been an education of a kind in ‘corresponding’ with you. It’s a pity that the lesson was of an entirely different nature than, perhaps, you might have desired if your real aim is to educate people like me into coming around to your views on the use of the word cunt.

    Though I suspect that your real motivation was more to do with the last part of my email. Remember that little point about you sucking up to the state-sponsored thugs whose actions might just be infinitely more detrimental to women’s interests and rights than any kind of usage of the word cunt.

    Did you forget about that? I certainly didn’t.

  160. 160
    anne

    “Bloody” is blasphemy = “by Our Lady”.(Did someone already say that?)
    Honestly, if someone doesn’t back off when people object to the tone of language, then they are Browningesque nun’s headgear.

  161. 161
    Ophelia Benson

    Mr McCullough –

    Is it not a matter of common decency to ask permission from the sender to post the contents of private emails?

    Other things being equal, yes of course it is. But your email was unsolicited, and in it you called me a cunt. For that reason, I felt no need to ask your permission. If you hadn’t called me a cunt, I wouldn’t have published your email. You did, so I did.

    Or to put it another way, you have a nerve talking about common decency.

    As to the use of the word cunt: Let’s get this straight, I have not suggested that this word is appropriate to use in EVERY and ANY circumstances. I would not use it in conversation with Benson, for example.

    But you did exactly that, you imbecile.

    No, my real aim is not to educate people like you. I know a hopeless task when I see one.

  162. 162
    NMcC

    Thank you for posting my comment and for your reply.

    Your excuse for your abuse of my email is pathetic and your comments are worthless in my opinion. Furthermore, as it is our aim – is it not? – not to employ offensive language, your use of the word imbecile is highly questionable, and not, if I may be so bold to say, merely because you are using it in reference to my good self. It might get you booted off Dawkins’s website or Greta’s blog, at the very least. And that would be tragic.

    Any how, will you be addressing that little issue I raised again in my most recent comment? No? But why not? Surely it’s easy enough to recognise the insidiousness of a position that tells you that it’s a mighty offense against women to use the word cunt, but worth applauding the actions of ‘freethinkers’ who have been told by a virtual stranger – a religious nut, no less – to travel thousands of miles to drop bombs on their heads, and to murder their children and husbands.

    Well, this imbecile thinks it’s an easy enough task, at any rate.

  163. 163
    Aratina Cage

    @NMcC #160

    And ’tis himself’ or ‘herself’ or whatever that commenter’s proper name is, suffers from a bad memory, as it was me who pointed out to him/her that I was not the person they thought I was and it was certainly not anyone else eager to disassociate themselves FROM me.

    That was me, not ‘Tis. I’m a man. And it seems that it is you who has the bad memory:

    Here is the “I get email” thread (notice a pattern anyone?) on Pharyngula where some people thought you were a different person with the same initials named Nancy. By the way, we even got paid a visit by our dear Christian prosyletizer, Smoggy, because of you on that thread. Thank you very much for that. Such a grand trolling! ;) However, note that on that thread, you do not correct others about them mistaking you for someone named Nancy.

    Here is the real Nancy’s blog post wondering what the hell is going on at Pharyngula where people are talking about her. I left a note there letting her know it was a coincidence (she had gone to battle with a bunch of people at Pharyngula years before NMcC–Nigel–showed up). Looks like Nancy is the one who cleared up the confusion over what N-Mc-C stood for, not you.

  164. 164
    Ophelia Benson

    It’s not an excuse, you stupid man. It’s my reason. I don’t need an excuse. You had no business sending me that email in the first place. I did nothing the least bit wrong in publishing it. You sent it to me: it’s mine: I published it.

    Yes of course usually, between friends and/or people behaving like civil adults, one does ask permission before publishing an email exchange. You’re not a friend and you were not behaving like a civil adult. You called me a cunt – quite unprovoked, I might add; at that point I hadn’t even called you stupid. You called me a cunt. I don’t need an excuse to publish your unsolicited unprovoked verbal abuse.

  165. 165
    Aratina Cage

    It might get you booted off Dawkins’s website or Greta’s blog, at the very least. And that would be tragic. –Nigel McCoolOff

    Wow. You really are quite the little shit, aren’t you?

  166. 166
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh, goodness, he’s been doing this for more than two years – that thread that Aratina links to is from March 2010 (and he says there he’s been dropping comments at RDF for several years before that). He’s consistently hostile and yammery. I won’t bother letting any more of his comments through; he’s not worth anyone’s time.

  167. 167
    'Tis Himself

    Is Nigel all upset because mean Ol’ Ophelia showed the world what an asinine arsehole Nigel is? What I got from your post #160 is you’re a whiner.

    Yeah, asinine arsehole, I once mistook you for someone with the same initials. You got a problem with that?

  168. 168
    sbh

    In regard to the words “cunt” and “twat”, referring to female genitalia–neither are particularly recent in origin. Both were kicking around in the 1600s IIRC. Shakespeare’s Malvolio, for example, while examining the penmanship of a letter he believes comes from a lady whose favor he is seeking, accidentally spells out the word “cunt” to the amusement of bystanders. More recently, during the nineteenth century, Robert Browning used the word “twat” in a poem, under the mistaken impression that it referred to some part of a nun’s habit. Apparently he’d read an earlier satirical poem that rhymed “cardinal’s hat” with “old nun’s twat” and jumped to an incorrect conclusion. (Ah, the perils of picking up meanings from context.)

    I live in the United States (Pacific Northwest) and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “twat” used at all. (I’ve been around a long time and I could easily be wrong about that, but at any rate it doesn’t seem to be in common use here, at least in my rather limited circles.) I have frequently heard the word “cunt” used, both to refer to female genitalia and as a clearly derogatory term for a woman. The only times I’ve personally heard it applied to a man was with the clear implication that he was engaging in supposedly unmanly behavior.

    John Lennon of course (and this I suppose would be an example of UK usage) famously referred to the Maharishi as a “cunt” in the original lyrics to “Sexy Sadie”. Good thing you changed it then, McCartney is supposed to have said.

  169. 169
    sceptinurse

    @WMD Kitty,

    According to “The Vagina Monolouges” the word cunt derived from the goddess Kuntali hence the movement to take the word back.*

    *I have no idea how accurate this is.

    I was under the impression that bloody was originally God’s blood sworn as an oath. (Which is what made so terrible to say) Again I could be quite wrong.

  170. 170
    Ken

    If you think that, when you send an email to someone berating them and calling them a cunt, the recipient is under some social obligation to keep the email confidential, then you are a great fool.

  171. 171
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Whoa. The things I miss when I’m off reading!

    @Francis Boyle — Thank you, I rather enjoyed that page — haven’t finished, yet.

  172. 172
    Stacy

    In regard to the words “cunt” and “twat”, referring to female genitalia–neither are particularly recent in origin. Both were kicking around in the 1600s IIRC.

    As I pointed out in an earlier post, “cunt” goes back to Middle English at least. Chaucer used it (14th century).

    (Not that I blame anyone for not reading every post when a thread gets this long.)

    /lit geek

  173. 173
    Philip L

    As is obvious from the Pharyngula thread, I was the initial person there to misidentify “NMcC” as Nancy McClernan by name and linking to her blog, and then went on to say (comment #183) “I will be happy to be corrected if it isn’t her […]”.

    Several hours later (comment #236) I had to eat my words: “you’re quite right; this isn’t Nancy. I offer my humble apologies!” (In fact, it seems the referral of traffic via my link to Nancy’s blog probably assisted matters, since she soon afterwards posted a comment on her blog to say the “NMcC” posting on Pharyngula was not her.)

    Honest people who make mistakes offer retractions. Check the Pharyngula thread if you want a demonstration.

    Anyway, I am now rather happy now to have a name of “Nigel McCullough” to attach to this disingenuous, misanthropic troll, who presumably posted under his initials to mischievously avoid having his hateful views publicly and directly attached to his actual name. This is long overdue.

    It is particularly perverse for Nigel to start a letter with “Dear Ms Benson”, to finish with a declaration of “You despicable cunt” ahead of his standard parting flourish, and then have the temerity to dress Ophelia down for not following the standard etiquette that treats private communication as confidential. I’m sorry, who was it that threw the etiquette book out the window Nigel?

    Looking at this thread, I also see Torquil asserting that in Australia “cunt” is not a misogynistic term. Bullshit. As an Australian-born resident of four decades I’d like to re-iterate (seeing as I’ve made similar comments numerous threads before) that “cunt” can be applied to both men and women: check out my good friend Alethea’s comment at #99. This doesn’t alter the primary meaning which is why it has such vitriol: everyone knows it refers to female genitalia, and that the usage is sexist.

    The fact an insult like “cunt” can be used between friends as jokily insulting banter underlines the fact that directed to anyone who is not a friend, it is an extremely offensive insult. This is the clear reading of the Macquarie Dictionary as outlined by Stilgherrian. Let’s see if Torquil is going to pretend that not only are the Australians on this thread are wrong and the Macquarie is unauthoritative, or whether he’ll pony up with a retraction of that claim. I fancy not. Prove me wrong, John/Torquil/whatever your name is.

    Regarding the links to old threads: I took the http:// out of all of them, but WordPress inserted it back for all of the ones pointing to ur-B&W. Thanks Ophelia from this side of the Pacific to yours, for retrieving it from moderation perdition and changing the time stamp.

  174. 174
    sbh

    As I pointed out in an earlier post, “cunt” goes back to Middle English at least. Chaucer used it (14th century).

    Sorry, Stacy, I didn’t mean to slight you. (I thought Chaucer’s word was something like “queynte”, however.) I was writing off the top of my head about things that I remember from my past reading; and while I’ve read quite a bit of 17th century English, my knowledge of 14th century English is largely confined to a few classics. If that. And that was a long time ago in my life.

  175. 175
    AlphaCentauri

    Alpha: It was perfectly fine on the recent Roy Moore thread to use a comparison to male genitalia (“dickhead”) to mean someone is despicable.

    Do you think anyone took that as a reflection of the commenter’s opinion of men?

    You say that “cunt” is a gender neutral insult, because you use it to refer to both men and women.

    But I’m sure you’ve never called a woman a “dickhead,” because it would never occur to you that implying she has masculine qualities is an insult.

    That’s what’s misogynistic about it.

  176. 176
    Stacy

    I thought Chaucer’s word was something like “queynte”, however

    Yeah, it was–don’t know when the pronunciation changed. Marvell was able to pun on the word “quaint” 300 years later (as I’m sure you know.)

    Sorry, Stacy, I didn’t mean to slight you.

    Respect my authoriteh! ;) Not a slight at all–it’s just so rare that I get to show off a little knowledge in front of this smartypants bunch.

  177. 177
    Josh Slocum

    If anyone sent me an email call me a cocksucking faggot, or referring to anyone as a cunt, nigger, spic, wetback, kike or (insert your disgusting slur of choice) you bet I’d publish their email and their name. You dumb fuck—who told you you had the right to abuse people this way without paying public social consequences?

  178. 178
    Stacy

    But I’m sure you’ve never called a woman a “dickhead,” because it would never occur to you that implying she has masculine qualities is an insult.

    That’s what’s misogynistic about it

    True. The frustrating thing is, though, nuance like this gets lost so easily. If you call someone a dick or dickhead, people will accuse you of having a double standard. So then you say, OK, no gendered insults, period–and then people will complain that you’re ignoring nuance and being all authoritarian and don’t you realize that words mean different things in different cultures/contexts?

    Of course some are dishonestly arguing from both directions. Others, new to the discussion, are no doubt sincerely questioning from one side or the other.

    Bottom line, two points: 1) Some words have misogynist (or other pernicious) social baggage. “Cunt” (as an epithet) is one of them. 2) Ophelia’s blog, Ophelia’s rules.

    It’s not rocket science, people.

  179. 179
    Dave

    What is really tragic is that there appear to be clueless misogynist idiots who have nothing better to do that chase this discussion round an assortment of blogs, endlessly reiterating that everyone who tells them they’re wrong, is wrong. If they had so much as a milligram of decency, they’d curl up and die of shame.

  180. 180
    Ophelia Benson

    But they don’t, so when they email us to call us cunts in person (so to speak), we do it for them.

    Another famous Shakespeare pun on the word: Hamlet:

    H: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

    O: No, my lord.

    H: I mean, my head upon your lap. Did you think I meant country matters?

    Country/cuntry, geddit?

  181. 181
    Kendrick Cadieux

    Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just too wonderful. I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really like what you’re saying and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it wise. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is actually a great site.

  182. 182
    Ophelia Benson

    Nigel is still sending me abusive emails. He wants me to publish the latest one. #hewantsattention

  183. 183
    Aratina Cage

    #hewantsattention

    Aww, the poor baby. Haven’t we given him far too much attention already? All trolls eventually have to stew in their own juices; that is just a fact of life for a troll, Nigel. You’ll just have to deal with it.

  184. 184
    Ken

    Doesn’t Nigel have his own blog where he can publish his thoughts about how women are see you next Tuesdays and how everyone who disagrees with him is a fascist bringing about the doom of freedom?

    By the way, when I read Nigel, I totally imagine Ken Shabby, only less socially adept.

  185. 185
    Ophelia Benson

    Ah yes, dear Ken Shabby! “After five years, they give me a brush” has been one of my taglines for decades.

  186. 186
    screechy monkey

    You know, I would take more seriously the insistent pleas of certain commenters, that a particular word is totally ok in England/Scotland/Ireland/Australia/wherever, if their “explanations” didn’t sound exactly like the ones used to insist that the same word is also totally ok in the U.S. and Canada.

  187. 187
    Bernard Bumner

    There are discussions to be had on the nature of offensive words, but such discussions are only productive between honest participants. (No-one could reasonably argue that the word is not offensive, or in some sense sexist.) In this case, it was also insensitive to debate usage in the face of someone presenting an obvious example of the word being used in precisely worst manner to attack them.

    The misogynists attempt to hide behind technicalities because they are unable to constrain their hatred to socially acceptable levels; they sense and are wounded by the general disdain and contempt for what they would like to say, but are unable to help themselves from saying it anyway.

  188. 188
    Dustin

    Dang.

    I really love how he’s such a stickler for a polite greeting.

  189. 189
    kev_s

    Then there’s the inoffensive word ‘berk’ (which most would feel describes Niel).
    Short for ‘Berkshire Hunt’ rhyming slang for … :-)

  190. 190
    kev_s

    Sorry… wrote Niel meant Nigel … actually since I’m writing it is slightly amusing to relate how I found out the meaning of ‘berk’. Many years ago playing Scrabble with wife’s family, youngest daughter (then 11) put down ‘berk’ and I challenged it. So I had to look it up in the dictionary and read out the origin of it. Way to go using the ‘c’ word with the wife’s family!

  191. 191
    John Morales

    [OT + meta]

    I wonder if he’s adhering to the terms of service agreement with his ISP.

  192. 192
    Dan L.

    Nigel, BL1Y, you guys are so obviously in the wrong here it blows my mind you can’t just admit it.

    It’s easy. Watch: “You’re right, casual unthinking use of that word contributes to a general atmosphere of hostility towards women. Women have now point-blank informed me that this is the case and now that I know I should stop doing it.”

    Simple. Instead, you guys seem to have taken another route. The “let me write 3000 words to explain why it’s totally different when I use that word, because I’m a special little snowflake” route.

    When I put it that way is it any easier to see that you’re being nincompoops? Doubt it. People have already been very clear about this to you ahem gentlemen. Maybe you guys just need to take a break from the internet.

  193. 193
    Jason

    According to arbiters of etymological etiquette, the only acceptable use of the word “cunt.” is when it is proceeded by “You have the most exquisite.”

  194. 194
    skeptifem

    What a fucking liar. There is a 90% chance that Nigel beats off to porn regularly, and porn uses the word “cunt” all the fucking time. I guess “whore” and “slut” are nice words too. pfft.

  195. 195
    skeptifem

    Well, regardless of whether I am wrong about using the word cunt, I was certainly spot on about Benson’s manners.

    and lard knows that’s what really matters.

    Nigel is narcissistic as fuck. He feels a freakish sense of entitlement and gets angry when anyone fails to give him the proper level of reverence. Gross.

  196. 196
    Raging Bee

    Never mind the civility question — is his email a winning “cunto” card? (I counted at least five hits, but I’m not exactly a regular player, so there may be more I’ve missed.)

  197. 197
    Raging Bee

    …people don’t use it or think of it in the way you insist must be true for EVERYONE because it’s how YOU percieve it.

    The thing is, most Americans perceive the word almost exactly like she does — those who use it regularly as well as those who avoid it. “Cunt” means vagina, and when used as an insult, it’s used against women and less-than-100%-manly men. Just like “pussy,” “twat,” and just about every other slang term for vagina.

    Also, I’ve been to the UK, and from my own limited experience, the word is nowhere near as casually used as you seem to be implying it is, nor is it less insulting than it is here. Of course, YMMV depending on what sort of people you hang with. I think the variation is much wider between groups of friends than between countries.

    Oh, and if you want to complain about how horribly unfair it is that “dick” and “prick” aren’t considered on the same level as the words for “vagina,” all I can say is, tough shit — life isn’t fair, deal with it. The English language isn’t perfectly logical; that’s not an excuse to ignore basic manners.

  198. 198
    Thomas Mautner

    A language without coarse expressions, primarily to be used to offend or insult others, would be seriously lacking. They are an indispensable part of language.

    A person actually using them could be strongly suspected of being an oaf and a boor who had decided to dispense with good manners — if indeed he was ever taught any.

  199. 199
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Nigel, intent isn’t magic. Your terminology is hurtful, misogynistic, sexist, crude, and rude, so please tell your Grade 6 classmates not to use it.

  200. 200
    Demonax

    Just another Hooray Henry from BNP 101.

  201. 201
    Christoph

    I do agree that in many places calling someone a cunt is no bigger than asshole or dick. In fact in terms of size, it falls right between them.

    But that’s not really relevant.

    To be forthright, I’ve always considered it rather strange that women allow a slang word referring to female genitalia to be the hands-down (metaphorically, not doggie) worst word in their existence. It’s a wonderful thing, pun intended. In fact I view cunts .. pussies … vay jay jays … quite positively. YMMV.

    I certainly don’t mean to be be crude … er … than usual, though I suppose that’s unavoidable when expressing appreciation for the genitals of either sex.

    Anyway, I disagree with everything else Nigel said. I like Sarah Palin just fine for a woman whose banal generalities and platitudes grate on my ears. But I (truly) think she’s a decent person, loves her family and her country … is really, really in love with her “flag” — and would probably be great fun at a barbecue, moose hunting expedition, or anywhere really, so long as she does not assume the Presidency. Which I fear she would quit. In favor of a great reality TV show, so that isn’t all bad.

    As for the American military, for all the faults it has had and bad things it has done from time to time — as directed by all too often out of touch with military reality political masters — during the last century, there has been no force that has provided for and sheltered liberty and sometimes fought tooth and nail (literally, along with swimming pools of blood) to regain liberty lost.

    Then after victory, America shelters its former enemies. Enemies whom it lets, even insists, be allowed to choose their own leaders. Tell me, what great power in history has done this?

    A hoplite in the fledgling, flawed democracy of Athens at Marathon defending against the combined armies of the east under Darius while the Spartans (who themselves would later be heroes at Thermopylae) tarried, a legionary guarding the republic of Rome in the reconstituted army after the great annihilation of their army at Cannae, a Minuteman at Lexington and Concord, and (paradoxically enough) a British sailor manning walls of oak at Trafalgar against the tyrant Bonaparte, all deserve great respect for their defense of everything that we have come to hold near and dear in our culture, including our very lives and the freedoms we embrace as our heritage.

    To all the swinging —s and moist —s in the American Armed Forces and Coast Guard; owned by people blessed with such values as courage, sacrifice, and love of your fellow human being and even those from quite different peoples; and, when necessary, exhibiting an amazingly ferocious desire to close with the enemy and kill the bad guys (or decent people sent into the field by bad rulers); I salute you. You are the equals to your ancestors and you fight for a nation that is on the side of “the angels” more than any military in history. You can be proud of your work in wartime and peacetime.

    You provide the freedom and safety that people around the world take for granted, but not always. Sometimes we also count our lucky stars.

    Finally, our host is a “new atheist”?

    Sweet.

  202. 202
    viagra

    Of course, I’m sorry, but this does not suit me.

  1. 203
    There Are No Brief Apologies For Being An Asshat | Popehat

    [...] professed disbelief that anyone would not welcome his trenchant commentary. Hilarity, as they say, ensues. Watch as Nigel works himself into a fury in reaching the conclusion that when people won't publish [...]

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