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How to drive a Brit crazy

It turns out to be really easy. All it takes is five little words.

“‘Cunt’ is a sexist slur.”

Ophelia is discovering this.

Maki Naro posted this little comment on twitter.

I retweeted it, and then the replies came flooding in. The defenses are hilarious, irrational, and indignant. It’s incredibly common to see people protest that it’s a perfectly acceptable word; everyone says it in England; it doesn’t have any sexual connotations at all, because apparently, people in the UK are so stupid that they don’t remember that it’s a word that refers to the female genitalia. The Argument from Regional Ubiquity simply doesn’t work — would we accept that Southerners get a free pass on calling people “nigger” because everyone down there is rednecked cracker, so it’s OK?

Other common arguments: it can’t be sexist, because we mostly call men “cunts” to insult them. Yeah, there’s nothing misogynist at all about thinking the most degrading thing you can call a man is to refer to him as a woman’s private parts.

Another one: So then is calling someone a “dick” sexist, too? Yes. We shouldn’t do that. And since when does “you said a bad word!” mean you get a free pass to use a different bad word?

Maki has been making his replies to these idiots in cartoon form.

There have been silly attempts to redefine “cunt” to strip it of all sexual connotations. Sorry, it’s still got them.

Another common excuse: “well, I don’t mean to be sexist, so it’s OK.”

I’ve also been amused by the condescending criticisms: we Americans don’t know how to swear properly, or it’s supposed to be insulting, that’s why it’s a bad word.

Right. Because the best way to hurt an individuals feelings is to demean half the population of the planet.

I’ve also been impressed by how damned insistent some people have become over this — they’re practically frothing in their insistence that it’s not sexist at all in their demand that it’s perfectly legitimate to use women’s vulvae as the most disgusting and contemptible thing in the world. They do go on and on. So I won’t. It’s still a prohibited usage here. Swear all you want, but racist/sexist smears are examples of bigotry and will not be tolerated.

Comments

  1. aziraphale says

    I’m a Brit and I have never, in my whole life, called anyone a cunt. Possibly because if I did, my female friends (mostly also Brits) would never speak to me again.

  2. Al Dente says

    But Ricky Gervais gets his panties in a knot if anyone objects to his use of a misogynist slur which means it’s totally okay for everyone to use the slur. Perhaps the Argumentum ad Gervaisium has a flaw in it but it’s the best Ricky can come up with.

  3. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    OP, PZ

    Swear all you want, but racist/sexist smears are examples of bigotry and will not be tolerated.

    Thank you.

    And, going from experience here, you include ableist and LGBTQI slurs in that prohibition.

  4. blf says

    How to drive a Brit crazy

    Another good way to expose the loon within the sensible people in the UK is to call them “English”.

  5. manocheese says

    Etymologically, it’s a swear word because it’s taboo to mention anyone’s private parts, just like dick, arse or arsehole; it’s not a swear word that has a history of oppression, it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism. Words like bastard were originally meant as insult, but they’re so old now that nobody really cares. Saying someone is a shit head isn’t derogatory to people who can or can’t shit.

  6. manocheese says

    I am. Rather than stoop to your level of just calling everyone who disagrees stupid, why not discuss the points I made? All I’ve seen so far is “Well other people agree, so I’m right”.

  7. says

    Other common arguments: it can’t be sexist, because we mostly call men “cunts” to insult them.

    Yep, “you do X like a girl” is totally not sexist, because it’s about 100% directed at men. If anything it’s sexist against men!!! Misandry!!!

  8. chrislawson says

    Manocheese: I don’t know why the obvious has to be stated, but apparently it does. Some of those words that refer to private parts belong to one gender or the other and have particular connotations beyond just “this is an insult.” Arse and arsehole, while still being insulting, are at least gender-neutral and a generally used to refer solely to the target’s perceived unlikability. And did you really argue that a swearword with a long history can’t be sexist?

  9. Louis says

    Is there a meaningful discussion to be had about etymology and the evolution of word meanings usages? Yes.

    Is “cunt” a good choice of word to have that discussion about? No, as I learned the hard way years ago! (Thanks, Pharyngulites!)

    Extant, extensive cultural misogyny exists and persists (even here in the UK {gasp}). The context matters, something I failed to understand before but do now.

    Is it possible to bowdlerise language and misuse etymology to shout people down? Sure. Happens all the time. Is that bowdlerisation and misuse more common than the extent and expression of misogyny/whatever bigotry you care to name? Not in my experience, no.

    Guess what THAT means: be a bit more careful and thoughtful about what insults you’re using and consider the context. I really don’t understand why I found it so hard. Ha! “Found”. I still do on occasion. No one’s perfect, I even have a hole in my arse. Honest!

    Louis

  10. sw says

    OK, just for curiosity’s sake I searched Pharyngula to see the last time PZ used the word “dick”.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/16/christian-bookstore-boycotts-action-comics-because-superman-said-%E2%80%9Cgd%E2%80%9D-lousy-canuck/

    If you agree they’re both bad words, why call one a sexist slur and use the other?

    With all words, I don’t really think there are any inherently bad words, and it’s all to do with how they’re used. Some are much, much easier to misuse than others though.

    (I will pre-emptively point out that I’m not in any way an MRA, consider myself a feminist by most definitions, and agree with 99% of what PZ says most of the time)

  11. Al Dente says

    manocheese @ 4 & 6

    Cunt refers to female genitalia. Using it as an insult, which is common even in Britain, means one finds female genitalia to be insulting. That makes it misogynist. Does this make sense to you or do you need further explanation? (I hope you do because that gives you three comments.)

  12. carlie says

    Interestingly, manocheese, all of the others you use as examples are gender-neutral.

    As for the gendered ones, there’s really only “dick” to refer to male reproductive anatomy, while there are all sorts that refer to female reproductive anatomy. And the male ones are less of an insult, judging by the contexts and tone in which they are used and their relative placements on listings of “what you can’t say on tv and in kids’ books and such”. It’s still more of an insult to call someone by female parts than male.

    For a quick “so you don’t believe me” test of how we use gender in insults, which is the insult – telling a girl that she threw a ball like a boy, or telling a boy that he threw a ball like a girl?

  13. Roquetin says

    I once saw the word “dudebro” thrown around here a lot. Isn’t that demeaning and sexist?

  14. carlie says

    I don’t really think there are any inherently bad words

    STAHP, for the love of god. Nobody is saying anything about “bad” words, or even “offensive” words. The descriptor you’re going for is “terms that perpetuate the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another”.

  15. HolyPinkUnicorn says

    @ Manocheese #6

    He’s not saying everyone who disagrees is stupid, just making fun of the “everyone says it in England” defenses from Twitter. Of course this still doesn’t actually make it inoffensive to women, and neither does its etymology.

  16. nohellbelowus says

    With all words, I don’t really think there are any inherently bad words, and it’s all to do with how they’re used. Some are much, much easier to misuse than others though.

    Agreed, intent matters.

  17. manocheese says

    I’m saying that just because that particular genital insult only belongs to half the population, doesn’t make it sexist by default. If the idea behind ‘cunt’ was to infer that a man was womanly and that womanliness was the insulting part, then it would be sexist. But that is not the inference, just like we realise that having an arse isn’t actually a bad thing. If your argument was valid, then calling someone an arse would be insulting to everyone, not to nobody.

  18. Al Dente says

    I wrote a reply to manocheese which hit the filter because I used the c word. Short version: the c word is misogynist. Also I really hope manocheese ask for an explanation because that would be three comments by hir.

  19. nohellbelowus says

    (I will pre-emptively point out that I’m not in any way an MRA, consider myself a feminist by most definitions, and agree with 99% of what PZ says most of the time)

    Double points for the disclaimer! (It won’t help you. Only God can save you from the horde now, and unfortunately He doesn’t exist.)

  20. says

    Manocheese
    Please, explain to us the insult in “c*nt”. If you say somebody is a c*nt, what do you mean? Why is being a c*nt undesireable? We can all see why being an asshole is not desireable, so, please, make your argument for c*nt.

    sw
    Wow, you get your most recent example from 2011? How about you look at the rules and find the passus that “gendered insults” are not OK”. Then you can look for that phrase and find that it’s being told to people who use “dick” as well.

  21. hefaestos says

    “Dick” is sexist the way “cracker” is racist – either “not at all” (if we’re using the “systemic oppression” qualification) or, even setting that aside, of such different character as to make the description facile. It’s definitely not nice to denigrate people based on their sex or race, whatever they might be, and not something that should be excused or encouraged, but there’s a big difference between name-calling and name-calling backed up by pervasive and widespread discrimination.

  22. tsig says

    ” manocheese

    10 May 2014 at 7:47 am (UTC -5)

    Etymologically, it’s a swear word because it’s taboo to mention anyone’s private parts, just like dick, arse or arsehole; it’s not a swear word that has a history of oppression, it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism. Words like bastard were originally meant as insult, but they’re so old now that nobody really cares. Saying someone is a shit head isn’t derogatory to people who can or can’t shit”

    OK, you’re a shithead..

  23. says

    @ Roquetin

    I once saw the word “dudebro” thrown around here a lot. Isn’t that demeaning and sexist?

    “Dude” and “bro” are both self chosen descriptors. Also, consider that such people are punching down, not up: Levelling the field is not oppression.And thereby not offensive. It is what any empathic, sociable, ape does.

  24. sw says

    @Carlie

    I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “terms that perpetuate the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another”, because what a term perpetuates depends entirely on how it is being used.
    PZ used the term “cunt” in this post. Yet this post did not perpetuate the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another. That’s because context matters. That includes cultural context.

    Calling someone a cunt can be sexist. But not every use of the word “cunt” is necessarily inherently sexist.

    It’s not uncommon for men in New Zealand to refer to each other as “good cunts” as essentially a term of endearment. I just don’t see how that “perpetuates the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another”.

  25. thetalkingstove says

    I’m British and I can’t remember the last time I actually heard someone say the word.

    Perhaps I have a sheltered existence, and I’m positive that there *are* people and groups where it’s thrown around all the time, but this idea that everyone in the UK is going around saying it in every other sentence is ludicrous.

  26. manocheese says

    > Please, explain to us the insult in “c*nt”. If you say somebody is a c*nt, what do you mean? Why is being a c*nt undesireable? We can all see why being an asshole is not desireable, so, please, make your argument for c*nt.

    As I said before, it’s because using a word related to a taboo subject is a swear word. Just like how we say fuck yet everyone actually likes fucking. We have other words that are use as “you are womanly” intent as an insult and I am saying that this is not one of those words.

  27. says

    Having grown up in Australia, I’d have to say that the word is usually used there without sexist connotations. Kids pick up that usage before they know anything about it having an anatomical referent. I assume that British usage is similar.

  28. manocheese says

    > We can all see why being an asshole is not desireable

    Why is being an asshole not desirable? Vaginas don’t exactly give out candy and my arse is very useful.

  29. carlie says

    Agreed, intent matters.

    The next question is “matters to whom?” Intent only matters with regard to the two people involved. If you are more concerned with the overall societal effect of gendered/racist/classist/ableist slurs being a thing that is ok to do, then intent doesn’t really matter.

    And then the next question is “matters” in what sense? In the sense that the person doesn’t get told that it is wrong? That it doesn’t get called out as an uncool thing do to? In the sense that the worst thing ever is to make somebody feel bad that they said something racist/sexist/etc? In the sense that the person isn’t labeled forever with a brand on their forehead that says “I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON”? Because that last thing never happens, but the reaction that always happens when it’s pointed out is exactly that.

    Exchange from a reasonable person who has no INTENT to use a slur in its sexist/racist/etc way:

    Person 1: *slur*
    Person 2: Hey, that’s a *** slur that is really demeaning towards *** people. Don’t do that.
    Person 1:
    Option A) Oh no, I had no idea! I certainly did not mean to do that. I won’t use that word in the future, then!
    Option B) Oh, I didn’t realize that group interpreted that word in that way. I certainly did not mean to do that. I won’t use that word in the future, then!

    Unreasonable person exchange:

    Person 1: *slur*
    Person 2: Hey, that’s a *** slur that is really demeaning towards *** people. Don’t do that.
    Person 1: But I didn’t mean it that way!
    Person 2: I’m sure you didn’t, which is why I’m letting you know. I know that you wouldn’t want to be seen as a bigoted person when you aren’t, so I’m giving you the advice that using that word makes you look that way.
    Person 1: You can’t tell me what to do! I’ll use it if I want! Everyone should magically understand that I don’t mean it that way so it’s ok if I say it! Because people in Borneo don’t mean it that way when they say it! I’m not a bad person! You’re the bad person!

  30. thetalkingstove says

    I suspect what people mean when they insist everyone here says the word is ‘me and my friends down the pub say it all the time’.

  31. sw says

    @Carlie

    I don’t think there’s really such a thing as “terms that perpetuate the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another”, because what a term perpetuates depends entirely on how it is being used.
    PZ used the term “c**t” in this post. Yet this post did not perpetuate the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another. That’s because context matters. That includes cultural context.

    Calling someone a cunt can be sexist. But not every use of the word “c**t” is necessarily inherently sexist.

    It’s not uncommon for men in New Zealand to refer to each other as “good c**Ts” as essentially a term of endearment. I just don’t see how that “perpetuates the majority cultural belief that one group of people is inherently inferior to another”.

  32. thetalkingstove says

    I’d have to say that the word is usually used there without sexist connotations.

    Just because the word is generally not thought to have sexist connotations, it doesn’t mean there are none.

    Take the word bitch as a comparison – it’s used as an insult against both men and women. But when used against men, it’s indicating that they are weak or submissive, *like a woman is*.

    If it’s a terrible thing to be a cunt, then what does that say about people who have one?

  33. Al Dente says

    We have other words that are use as “you are womanly” intent as an insult and I am saying that this is not one of those words.

    Who the fuck elected you Lord High Arbitrator of Misogynist Insults?

  34. Gregory Greenwood says

    As a Brit, I would just like to say that PZ is right on the money here. The oblivious misogynist idiot contingent within the UK knows full well that the term is misogynist – they are relying on the likely unfamiliarity of a majority US audience with UK cultural norms to try to get away with it, that’s all.

    We have our share of priviliged, oblivious and outright bigoted arsehats over here, just as you colonials Americans do over there. It is the curse of the human condition. Their moaning may amuse you, but it amuses me rather less given that I have to live among people like this every day.

    If you think trying to impress upopn them that the term ‘cunt’ is misogynistic is difficult, just try to convey the notion that ‘fag’ is homophobic. They will stubbornly claim it is just slang for cigarette, and ignore all popints to the contrary about its connotations in other cultures.

  35. manocheese says

    Oh well, that settles it then. Because you say so.

    And because you say otherwise, I should just accept it?

  36. sw says

    @Carlie

    Here’s my hypothetical discussion:

    Person 1: *slur*
    Person 2: Hey, that’s a *** slur that is really demeaning towards *** people. Don’t do that.
    Person 1: Oh, that’s a slur you find demeaning in your culture? In my culture that word has an entirely different meaning. It means ###.
    Person 2: Oh, that’s weird. Where I’m from it means ***, but where you’re from it’s used to mean ###? Maybe from now on I won’t automatically presume anyone I hear using that word is a bigot who means ***, when they could just mean ###.

  37. thetalkingstove says

    OK, just for curiosity’s sake I searched Pharyngula to see the last time PZ used the word “dick”.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/16/christian-bookstore-boycotts-action-comics-because-superman-said-%E2%80%9Cgd%E2%80%9D-lousy-canuck/

    If you agree they’re both bad words, why call one a sexist slur and use the other?

    Did you miss the bit in this very post where PZ says we shouldn’t use dick either?

    That the last instance you can find is from 2.5 years ago just shows that PZ’s opinion has changed on the matter. It’s not a ‘gotcha’.

  38. nohellbelowus says

    Intent only matters with regard to the two people involved. If you are more concerned with the overall societal effect of gendered/racist/classist/ableist slurs being a thing that is ok to do, then intent doesn’t really matter.

    And then the next question is…

    – There could be more than two people involved.

    – So if I’m concerned about “societal effects” — then my intent doesn’t matter. Uh-huh.

    My intent always matters. And I’ll use whatever damn word I please to express myself, and I’ll fully accept the consequences for doing so.

    Later gang!

  39. manocheese says

    Who the fuck elected you Lord High Arbitrator of Misogynist Insults?

    Oh, the irony. Fuck is a swear word simply because of it’s taboo nature, just like cunt, dick or arsehole.

    and while we’re on the subject of not saying things because they offend certain people who take them out of context, didn’t PZ desecrate a host? Why is that ok but this isn’t? Those who are against me are arguing that the meanings and usage of the word in the UK are all moot because some people are offended by it. Hypocrites.

  40. manocheese says

    @Carlie

    Here’s my hypothetical discussion:

    Person 1: *slur*
    Person 2: Hey, that’s a *** slur that is really demeaning towards *** people. Don’t do that.
    Person 1: Oh, that’s a slur you find demeaning in your culture? In my culture that word has an entirely different meaning. It means ###.
    Person 2: Oh, that’s weird. Where I’m from it means ***, but where you’re from it’s used to mean ###? Maybe from now on I won’t automatically presume anyone I hear using that word is a bigot who means ***, when they could just mean ###.

    Exactly.

  41. sw says

    How this discussion feels sometimes:
    Person 1: ***
    Person 2: *** means X! That’s a bad thing to say!
    Person 1: No, *** means Y! It’s OK to say!
    Person 2: Well when you say ***, I interpret it as X, so don’t say it.
    Person 1: But when I say *** I mean it as Y, so stop interpreting it incorrectly.
    Person 2: If you don’t want me to interpret it as X, stop saying ***!
    Person 1: But when I say *** I mean Y, so stop misinterpreting me!
    Person 2: BUT I’VE ALREADY TOLD YOU WHAT I INTERPRET *** AS!
    Person 1: BUT I’VE ALREADY TOLD YOU WHAT I MEAN *** AS!

  42. sciamannata says

    As a non-native (but quite fluent) speaker mainly of Irish English, who also happens to be a linguist and fascinated by language, I would say that the people to ask would be feminist women from Glasgow. If any of them have made their opinion clear on the Internets, I would certainly be interested. (Until then, my academic feeling is that PZ is actually wrong — the word may well be a sign of a sexist society, but it is not used in a sexist way in the British areas where it is common. I say academic because it’s not a word I use — or even hear often offline.)

    It is definitely used in a sexist way by US people on the ‘net, so I would certainly advise anybody to avoid it in international/public communication. And certainly if PZ says he doesn’t want it in the comments on his blog, that’s that, whether I agree with him on points of linguistics or not.

    (Sooner or later I’ll have to blog about the fascinating world of sex-organ insults in Italy, by region… not now though. I’ll just say that most often the male organ is negative and the female is positive. Which clearly doesn’t mean women are more respected in Italy…)

  43. manocheese says

    @43 sw

    Good point, let’s try this. How is this any different to PZ desecrating a host? Should he have not done that because it offended a whole lot of people? Is it really not possible that it’s ok to say to someone “You are wrong to be offended by that”?

  44. says

    Vaginas don’t exactly give out candy

    Speak for your own vagina, buddy-boy!

    Orgasms are better than candy. And vaginas also deliver brand new people into the world, does that count for nothing?

    It almost seems like manocheese actually has a problem with vaginas.

  45. manocheese says

    (Sooner or later I’ll have to blog about the fascinating world of sex-organ insults in Italy, by region… not now though. I’ll just say that most often the male organ is negative and the female is positive. Which clearly doesn’t mean women are more respected in Italy…)

    This has a lot to do with my point that these swear words come from their taboo nature, rather than a gender bias. If everyone had the same genitals, we’d still use them the same way, just like how we use arse.

  46. kieran says

    In Ireland, it was always on the mild end of the swear spectrum, picked it up as a kid and didn’t think about it until I met someone who said it was a gender based slur and explained why (later in life had a similar conversation with an intelligent guy and it took three of us in the car to explain why it wasn’t an okay swear word). Because it was picked up as a kid it took a small bit of effort to pick other fun phrases to substitute for it, muppet, amadán, thundering gobshite etc. Won’t lie and say it never passes my lips but I have tried to purge it from my common usage as much as possible, may still slip out when hammer meets thumb or big toe meets sharp corner.

  47. says

    Manocheese thinks taboos are mutually exclusive with sexism. Genital taboos can’t coexist with societal attitudes about the worth of the people possessing different genitalia, manocheese? Is that really where you want to take this? Because it seems simplistically easy to demolish that line of thinking.

  48. manocheese says

    Orgasms are better than candy. And vaginas also deliver brand new people into the world, does that count for nothing?

    It almost seems like manocheese actually has a problem with vaginas.

    Cherry picking. Anal sex, Vaginas pee (obviously not exactly, but we’re talking ‘area’ rather than medical). The point is that the are both capable of being awesome and insulting.

    Women exist. God does not. QED, you sexist fuckwit.

    Christians exist, that argument is stupid.

  49. says

    Manocheese, are you really going to tell us that there’s no difference between genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the target of discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence, and whose worth has been historically defined exclusively by the functioning of their genitalia, and genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the default, the property-owning class, the class that gets access to political power, whose genitalia are sources of pride and competition?

    If you’re saying that there is no difference between genitalia taboos for men and women, then we can surmise that the above is indeed what you believe.

  50. manocheese says

    Manocheese thinks taboos are mutually exclusive with sexism. Genital taboos can’t coexist with societal attitudes about the worth of the people possessing different genitalia, manocheese? Is that really where you want to take this? Because it seems simplistically easy to demolish that line of thinking.

    Of course they can. For the millionth time, if your point was accurate, arse would not be an insult.

  51. Al Dente says

    manocheese thinks it’s perfectly good to use a word which other people consider misogynist because manocheese is the self-selected arbitrator as to which words are misogynist and which aren’t. How dare we low-life, ignorant plebs disagree with manocheese whose judgements are final, sacrosanct and immune to disagreement.

    Have I got your argument right, manocheese?

  52. manocheese says

    Vaginas pee, but not exactly? Oh my lord.

    Do need me to draw you a picture? I’m replacing the vulgar word with a less vulgar word that happens to be more medically specific and made the statement technically incorrect; but you really should be able to understand what I mean given the context and short explanation.

  53. says

    Which manocheese is the real manocheese? The one who said

    This has a lot to do with my point that these swear words come from their taboo nature, rather than a gender bias.

    or the one who denied thinking that taboos are mutually exclusive with sexism?

    Me: Manocheese thinks taboos are mutually exclusive with sexism. Genital taboos can’t coexist with societal attitudes about the worth of the people possessing different genitalia, manocheese? Is that really where you want to take this? Because it seems simplistically easy to demolish that line of thinking.

    Manocheese: Of course they can. For the millionth time, if your point was accurate, arse would not be an insult.

    Which is it, buddy? You know, when you slip so quickly into self-contradiction, it’s a good sign that you’re not arguing a well-thought-out position.

  54. says

    Do need me to draw you a picture? I’m replacing the vulgar word with a less vulgar word that happens to be more medically specific and made the statement technically incorrect; but you really should be able to understand what I mean given the context and short explanation.

    Sweetie, I know that my urethra is fairly close to my vagina. I just don’t see what this has to do with why it’s okay to insult people as being the lowest of the low by comparing them to my vagina.

  55. alexanderz says

    All Orkney residents are English.
    This may not be factually true, and may be considered offensive by those people, but my intent (which nohellbelowus, sw and manocheese consider to be precious) is not to offend them. It’s just that where I live we call all residents of UK English. Therefore it’s OK, and if someone is bothered by that they must be mean racists who hate the queen’s corgis.

  56. manocheese says

    Christians have been subject to millennia of oppression?

    Ah, so only the oppressed are protected from insult? Christians aren’t allowed to be offended because they happen to have been born in to one of the more popular religions?

  57. manocheese says

    manocheese thinks it’s perfectly good to use a word which other people consider misogynist because manocheese is the self-selected arbitrator as to which words are misogynist and which aren’t. How dare we low-life, ignorant plebs disagree with manocheese whose judgements are final, sacrosanct and immune to disagreement.

    Al Dente thinks it’s always wrong to use a word which other don’t people consider misogynist because Al Dente is the self-selected arbitrator as to which words are misogynist and which aren’t. How dare we low-life, ignorant plebs disagree with Al Dente whose judgements are final, sacrosanct and immune to disagreement.

  58. says

    Respond to #53 first, please, Manocheese. In case it’s too challenging for you to scroll up, here it is again:

    Manocheese, are you really going to tell us that there’s no difference between genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the target of discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence, and whose worth has been historically defined exclusively by the functioning of their genitalia, and genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the default, the property-owning class, the class that gets access to political power, whose genitalia are sources of pride and competition?

    Go ahead.

  59. consciousness razor says

    sw, #12:

    With all words, I don’t really think there are any inherently bad words, and it’s all to do with how they’re used. Some are much, much easier to misuse than others though.

    No one said anything about a word being “inherently” anything. Words don’t have inherent meaning. You have to think about what the word is referring to, what others think the word is referring to, and that relationship is the meaning. It is not about “misuse.” If anything, you’re the one alleging there are “inherent” properties of words by talking about their “misuse” in terms of its very meaning. This is about social misconduct. It is not about the properties of words, in and of themselves, and the “ease” with which those properties vary for different words so they may be put to an incorrect “usage.”

    As soon as you pull this kind of bullshit, you have left human beings, and the evaluation of their conduct in terms of what impact that can have on other human beings, out of the discussion. Maybe it’s not intentional. But it’s as if you’re not even reading the words people type. This is not a dispute about etymology or the metaphysics of language or whatever the fuck you apparently think it’s about. It is a moral issue.

    (I will pre-emptively point out that I’m not in any way an MRA, consider myself a feminist by most definitions, and agree with 99% of what PZ says most of the time)

    I’d like to point out a few things. It doesn’t matter to me if you “agree with PZ,” especially if it has nothing to do with this. Even if the two of us agree about some things (and we’re both right), you do not get bonus points because you are right about unrelated issues.

    Also, if it happens “most of the time,” that means something like at least 50%+1. If you mean to say 99%, then you don’t need to further qualify that with yet another probabilistic word like “most,” unless you actually do mean less than 99% (possibly much less). But using the word “most” makes it sound like more than what it is. So the meaning of this is at best confusing.

    Also, what are “most definitions” of feminism? Have you counted them? Which ones exactly do you have in mind? If you actually wanted to say something concrete that gives us some useful information, as pointing this out (whatever it is) is apparently meant to do, then what would that look like if you actually did it? To claim unambiguously that you’re “not in any way” an MRA is a good start, even if that turns out not to be the case. It is something to work with. What the hell would be stopping you from making the same kind of unambiguous statement about your relationship to feminism?

    manocheese:

    Good point, let’s try this. How is this any different to PZ desecrating a host? Should he have not done that because it offended a whole lot of people? Is it really not possible that it’s ok to say to someone “You are wrong to be offended by that”?

    No fucking crackers were harmed. Do you want to know how I know that? They’re crackers.

    It’s interesting* that you conflate a moral issue with “offense.” Let the nihilism begin.

    *By that, I mean not even remotely interesting.

  60. manocheese says

    Sweetie, I know that my urethra is fairly close to my vagina. I just don’t see what this has to do with why it’s okay to insult people as being the lowest of the low by comparing them to my vagina.

    For the same reason it’s ok to call someone an arse, a dick or even an arm pit. You can’t claim special privilege just because sexism exists, you don’t get to automatically claim everything that involves genitals is automatically sexist.

  61. says

    Person 2: Oh, that’s weird. Where I’m from it means ***, but where you’re from it’s used to mean ###? Maybe from now on I won’t automatically presume anyone I hear using that word is a bigot who means ***, when they could just mean ###.

    Oh, really? So in Great Britain, “c*nt” used to mean “a moldy piece of cheese”, and never referred to women at all, and it never became common because accusing men of womanliness was a gross insult? Do tell.

    This is totally dishonest etymology. Even in Enlightened Britannia you know it was a crude insult that relied on its association with women to have its potency. That it has become such a common slur that everyone takes it for granted, and that people fling it around casually, only means that you don’t give a damn any more what people think. As in the example I used: you will find racists who claim that “n*gger” is just a common term for a black person, and “pickaninny” is just an adorable cute name for a black child. They don’t mean nothin’ by it.

    What’s most appalling, though, is how you find the word so important to you that you will make many comments defending it — it is apparently very, very important that you be allowed to toss around misogynistic slurs without get tarred with any accusation that you might be propagating bad ideas.

    You know what civilized people do when told that their common phrases are offensive to a lot of people they don’t actually intend to insult? They stop using them.

    Unless, of course, your intent is actually to regard women as the dirty, contemptible, stupid creatures they are.

  62. Ysanne says

    SallyStrange,
    if someone called you a dick, that’d be an insult, right? Even though dicks a mark of being “the default, the property-owning class, the class that gets access to political power, whose genitalia are sources of pride and competition”, i.e. something absolutely delightful to have… but for some reason, being one is still an insult.
    A great part of the insult-causing taboo has to do with “dirty forbidden body part”, and it’s really sad to see usually thoughtful regulars pretending not to understand manocheese’s point about that.

  63. ludicrous says

    Also and too. Can we give some consideration to the still common insults of the young? Childish, puerile, adolescent, infantile, and many other terms, used as pejoratives?

    There is some evidence that children are people too, with feelings and everything. The main difference is they don’t have much of a lobby to speak for them, and if they sometimes do speak up they are shushed because, you know, they don’t know their place.

  64. manocheese says

    Manocheese, are you really going to tell us that there’s no difference between genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the target of discrimination, harassment, and sexual violence, and whose worth has been historically defined exclusively by the functioning of their genitalia, and genitalia taboos for a population whose genitalia mark them as the default, the property-owning class, the class that gets access to political power, whose genitalia are sources of pride and competition?

    I’m not saying there is no difference, I’m saying that just because they do exist it doesn’t automatically follow that everything that follows is automatically sexist. I’m saying that calling someone who is seen as weak a ‘pussy’ is a sexist insult but some insults are different.

    For example: If someone says something I think isn’t true, I’ll call it ‘bollocks’. The word is in no way directly linked to ‘untruth’ in any other way than it became a popular word to use in that way. It can also be used to mean good, as in “the dog’s bollocks”. These things didn’t happen because men were superior, they happened because genital words are taboo. The only reason we have male and female genital insults like this one is because we have males and females. If we all had vaginas, we’d still be using them in the same way.

  65. woozy says

    Oh, for the love of….

    It’s a completely separate issue whether (and/or when) sexist slurs are acceptable. That “cunt” is a sexist slur is utterly indisputable. That “it’s a perfectly acceptable word or everyone says it in England” merely means the brits don’t find it as shocking as we do (although it’s not that acceptable in England; you don’t want children saying it and you don’t say it on polite television) which has nothing at all to do with whether it’s sexist or a slur. The acceptability of a vulgar sexist slur is debatable (although it’s a real uphill battle if you choose the acceptable camp) but to try to avoid the debate altogether by denying that this is sexist is simply delusional.

  66. says

    I think it’s rather missing the point to insist on — for lack of a better phrase coming to mind at this moment — ‘political correctness’ in verbal swearing, especially in extremis swearing triggered by acute physical pain or emotional distress; on the other hand, if one emits a sexist swear word in extremis, there’s no point in denying its sexism, and no reason to not apologise for the sexism at some point when called on it.

    Saying that, I think typing is generally divorced enough from one’s automatic verbal reactions to make typing such words in blog entries, comments, twitters and the like inexcusable. Around t’internet, I’ve been experimenting with ‘non-gendered procreative organ’, but it’s a bit unwieldy. Maybe I should stick to ‘arsehole’.

    BTW, am I the only one whose imp of the perverse will be supplying them with sexist swears for the most trivial of annoyances all day after reading this entry?

  67. says

    What drives me crazy is calling me a ‘Brit’
    Would you call a Japanese a ‘Jap’ or a German a ‘Germ’?
    If you are trying not to offend groups please don’t be so selective in the groups you choose not to offend.

    BTW Not that it has much bearing on current usage (which puts it as probably the worst deprection in UK English) but the word occurs in quite a few mediæval and early modern place names, for example “Gropecunt Lane” often for the …um… less salubrious parts of town.
    Also calling someone a ‘berk’ is merely using rhyming slang (Berkley Hunt) for the word.

  68. manocheese says

    This is totally dishonest etymology. Even in Enlightened Britannia you know it was a crude insult that relied on its association with women to have its potency.

    It has a slight edge of other genital insults due to sexism, yes. But it that is different to the etymology of the N word as it wasn’t made more popular due the words sexist connotations. It is more offensive because it was used less because men thought that women couldn’t handle being called names. The word isn’t used as a word of oppression itself, sexism just had an indirect affect on its use.

    I also say that the common use and lack of sexism can remove the sexist connotations of the word. Just like it’s ok to dress as a Roman but not a Nazi for a party.

    What’s most appalling, though, is how you find the word so important to you that you will make many comments defending it — it is apparently very, very important that you be allowed to toss around misogynistic slurs without get tarred with any accusation that you might be propagating bad ideas.

    I’m defending myself from the accusation of sexism, not because I really want to use a sexist word.

    The mistake you are making is that you can’t handle context. In the context I use it, it isn’t propagating the idea that women are lesser beings because nobody uses it that way. You have no more right to demand that we change the meaning of the word than we do to say that you shouldn’t be offended by sexists who use the same word in a derogatory way.

  69. says

    I’m defending myself from the accusation of sexism, not because I really want to use a sexist word.

    If you really gave a fuck about sexism, you wouldn’t be upset about being told not to use a sexist word.

    If you understood a goddamn thing about feminism, you’d know that someone telling you “hey that’s a sexist thing to say” is a compliment; it means they think you care and are capable of and willing to change your behavior.

    Clearly Manocheese does not care and is either incapable or unwilling to change his behavior. So why complain about being called a sexist? It’s not like it’s going to stop you getting ahead in the world, they way, say, having a vagina can.

  70. says

    What drives me crazy is calling me a ‘Brit’
    Would you call a Japanese a ‘Jap’ or a German a ‘Germ’?
    If you are trying not to offend groups please don’t be so selective in the groups you choose not to offend.

    BTW Not that it has much bearing on current usage (which puts it as probably the worst deprection in UK English) but the word occurs in quite a few mediæval and early modern place names, for example “Gropecu
    *nt Lane” often for the …um… less salubrious parts of town.
    Also calling someone a ‘berk’ is merely using rhyming slang (Berkley Hunt) for the word.

  71. manocheese says

    You know what civilized people do when told that their common phrases are offensive to a lot of people they don’t actually intend to insult? They stop using them.

    So now you’re admitting that I might not be sexist for having used the word? Because that would be the proper argument. All I’ve heard so far is that the word is inherently sexist just because that’s how you use it. If you want to admit that I’m not sexist in the way I’ve used it and then recommend that I don’t say it because other people do find it offensive, that’s something else we can discuss.

  72. manocheese says

    Clearly Manocheese does not care and is either incapable or unwilling to change his behavior. So why complain about being called a sexist? It’s not like it’s going to stop you getting ahead in the world, they way, say, having a vagina can.

    As above, I have not said that I was unwilling to change my behaviour. Nobody asked me about that. I was simply saying that it is possible for me to have used that word until this point in my life without being sexist. If I continue to use it, you could accuse me of being insensitive to it’s use and propagating sexist ideas but that does not make me a sexist.

  73. says

    It’s possible to not be deliberately sexist in using the word cunt. Reinforcing sexism by accident is still reinforcing sexism, though.

    Once you’ve been informed that the word is sexist, and you immediately jump to explaining why it’s really not, well, that’s sexist.

  74. fatpie42 says

    Um… I’m from the UK and I’m happy to be called English. That’s because I’m from England. The reason why people might get annoyed (and examples in media come from “In The Loop” and “Torchwood”) is if they have an obvious Welsh or Scottish accent which should be a big clue.

    I’m happy to be called British. Calling me a ‘Brit’ sort of makes sense, but we don’t tend to refer to ourselves that way, so it feels a bit weird.

    As for the c-word, yes there are people in the UK who use it. Mostly tossers.

  75. says

    The mistake you are making is that you can’t handle context. In the context I use it, it isn’t propagating the idea that women are lesser beings because nobody uses it that way.

    Oh, bullshit.

    We understand the context. We see how it’s part of a long tradition of treating women as inferior. You’re the one refusing to recognize history, context, and meaning to pretend it’s just a one-syllable expletive, a meaning-free insult. That is such total nonsense — and of course everyone uses it a strong insult, because it has such patent connections to female sexuality.

    When random women explain to you that it is a shotgun insult — that it causes a lot of splash damage when you use it — and yet you persist in claiming your noble calling as an Englishman to continue to use it whenever you damn well want to, then your claim that you aren’t really sexist is pretty well demolished.

  76. Louis says

    Is there a meaningful discussion to be had about etymology and the evolution of word meanings usages? Yes.

    Is “c**t”* a good choice of word to have that discussion about? No, as I learned the hard way years ago! (Thanks, Pharyngulites!)

    Extant, extensive cultural misogyny exists and persists (even here in the UK {gasp}). The context matters, something I failed to understand before but do now.

    Is it possible to bowdlerise language and misuse etymology to shout people down? Sure. Happens all the time. Is that bowdlerisation and misuse more common than the extent and expression of misogyny/whatever bigotry you care to name? Not in my experience, no.

    Guess what THAT means: be a bit more careful and thoughtful about what insults you’re using and consider the context. I really don’t understand why I found it so hard. Ha! “Found”. I still do on occasion. No one’s perfect, I even have a hole in my arse. Honest!

    Louis

    **Previous attempt died at the filter. Hopefully this is suitably censored.

  77. says

    Person 2: Oh, that’s weird. Where I’m from it means ***, but where you’re from it’s used to mean ###? Maybe from now on I won’t automatically presume anyone I hear using that word is a bigot who means ***, when they could just mean ###.

    Person 1: Christ, what an asshole. Look, the far more rational thing to do is stop using the word, since actual bigots frequently do employ it to degrade and denigrate [group X]. If I call you a bigot when you weren’t intending to be, the worst outcome is that your feelings are slightly hurt. If you say this word to mean ***, and someone around understands it to mean ###, then the worst outcome is that you perpetuate oppression and expose marginalized person to yet another microaggression, thereby reminding them that they are second-class citizens in this society. If you do this AFTER having been informed that plenty of people perceive the word to mean ###, then we can safely conclude that you are a fucking asshole who doesn’t give a fuck about the welfare and quality of life of marginalized, oppressed people. In other words, a fucking bigot. So quit with your word games.

  78. says

    I only discovered a few years back that twat was considered equally bad as as cunt and there is a dividing line in here in Manchester below which it is considered to be on the same level as damn or hell and is said all the time. I hardly ever hear cunt being said. Being Scottish of course cunt was used frequently along with fuck when I was growing up, so people would say things like “any of you cunts going to the fucking chippy” etc. Don’t make it right of course as any of you dicks will know.

  79. says

    Just to put a little perspective on all this. “Con” is used in French to mean “stupid”. It’s considered less offensive than “merde” (shit) and barely even has “swear word” status, it’s just informal language. I learned in graduate studies of medieval French that “con” is a short form of “conil” that in the middle ages was used for “rabbit” (the word used for rabbit these days in French is “lapin”). And, in the middle ages, “conil” was also very common slang for a woman’s genitals, in the same way “beaver” once was (or still is? I really don’t know) in English, or “pussy”. In any case, “con” and “conil” are very common in French fabliaux (an extremely irreverent pre-rennaissance literary form). Wikipedia however says that the etymology I am giving here is “poetic” and that the real origin of “con” is the Latin “cunus” and goes on to give exemples from Horace and Martial. The truth is, the origins of “con”, can be both “cunus” and “conil” because they sound alike and people often confuse words that sound alike and confuse their meanings and there is a particular linguistic term for this mish-mash kind of semantic evolution that slips my mind right now. In any case, “con” is related in sound, meaning and history to a lot of words in other European languages and that includes the word “cunt”.

    I don’t know what percentage of the French population realizes that “con” can also be used to refer to female genitals. But I can confirm that I have never, in 30 years here, heard anyone use it to refer to actual genitals. I am more familiar with medieval French literature than I am with modern pornography or erotica in any language, so my word on this is subject to caution, but I’ve never encountered “con” to mean someone’s genitals in pornography or erotica either.

    As for the word “cunt” in English, I am really sorry that this word has become pejorative due to its use as an insult because it is, in itself, a really great one-syllable word for a body part just like “hand”, “head”, “foot”, “leg”, “mouth”, “lung”, etc. The words “vagina” and “vulva” are inkhorn words, not originally part of common people’s vocabularies, contrived by specialists not only for purposes of precision but also so as not to have to use the common terms for body parts, because common terms are vulgar and are even more so when they mean things that are considered vulgar and unspeakable like genitals.

    I am not in a position to say that the French use “con” like the British use “cunt”, I’ve never lived in Britain, but I can say that “con” is not at all used like “cunt” in American English. I can also say that to deny that a word’s meaning is equivalent to its usage, and that’s just a principal of linguistics 101, makes you sound like Medic05 whatever. Usage trumps etymology every time.

    As for what insult terms are acceptable in general or specifically here on Pharyngula, I would like to point out that all insult terms have to do with designating things that are reviled, and that these things usually have something to do with sex, excrement, decomposition, disadvantaged groups of people like women, ethnic and cultural minorities, sicknesses and disabilities. Here on Pharyngula, racist, sexist and ableist slurs are prohibited but “fuck” and “asshole” and all combinations thereof are permitted and used with glee. I fully understand and agree with this prohibition but would also like to point out that it is somewhat arbitrary.

    When I was 12, I said “fuck” in front of my aunt who answered, “As long as you keep using that word in that way you are jeopardizing your sex life.” There’s some truth in that. What’s wrong with fucking? It is not always but can be so glorious and we wouldn’t even be here without it. And “fuck” is also a great one-syllable common word for an everyday activity like “eat”, “walk”, “run”, “work”, and so on. It could be argued that to use “fuck” as a pejorative in any of its various combinations like “fuckwittery” and so on, is to concede to religious prejudice against sex and that’s a rather contradictory thing for an atheist to do. To use “fuck” as a pejorative doesn’t cause splash damage against any group in particular, as all humans (except for Jesus, random other incarnated deities and in-vitro fertilized babies) got here through fucking, but it does cast a pall on sex. But, on second thought, it could be argued that “fuck” as a pejorative causes splash damage to women to the extent that Christianity in particular identifies women with sex, nature, emotion, the illogical, animality and more generally, evil. As atheists and scientists, shouldn’t we oppose the diabolization of women, nature, sex and animals?

    Similarly, arguments could be made against using “old” or “sick” to denounce people or things, i.e. splash damage to the elderly and the chronically ill.

    As for shit, the stuff, not the word, it’s true that most people are repulsed by it most of the time, but shitting is very useful, if you can’t shit you die and it certainly feels good to get it all out. Ditto assholes, they are not only useful, they provide a lot of pleasure (wasn’t there a thread here not long ago in which a lot of people spoke up for the pleasures of anal sex?). Our revulsion of shit may be in part hard-wired (the way the smell of it triggers the burying gesture in house-cats) and the fact of our revulsion a boon to hygiene and thus, survival, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with shit and assholes. They are every bit as noble as eyes, ears and mouth.

    The point I’m trying to make is that all insults are derived from value systems that are also part of a power structure. If you are for social justice, then insults that harm people oppressed by that power structure are rightfully prohibited, but where you draw the line is somewhat arbitrary.

  80. woozy says

    Oh, wait. We have word filters now? Could have warned us. Especially as in discussing the word we might actually spell out the word.

    And an error message allowing us to clean up our act rather than having our post completely disappear would be nice.

    Anyway… second attempt without actually spelling out the c-word:

    It’s one thing to debate whether sexist slurs are ever acceptable or how offensive they are, but it’s delusionally insane to claim the word isn’t a sexist slur. The brits might not find it as shocking but that has nothing whatsoever to do with whether it’s sexist or a slur.
    ===
    @11 Louis. A tangent but I think etymological discussions can be interesting. We just can’t use the clinically of such as an attempt to disarm, avoid, and numbify the misogynistic blunt horribleness of the word. I think its role in creation of the word “bunny” (as opposed to “coney”) is interesting. Still doesn’t mean the word isn’t horrible though.
    ===
    @12. sw. Well, if that was the *last* time PZ used “d-ck” it was three years ago. And in *this* article he specifically says both are sexist and we shouldn’t use either. So… he changed his mind. Being able to change one’s mind is a *good* thing.

    I personally think “d-ck” although vulgar and sexist doesn’t have the misogynistic bite of “c-nt’ and even though it might be more common in england, I don’t think the proponents are being honest in denying that misogynistic cut. It’s there. I’ve been to england and I’ve known english. The bite is there. It might not be censorable but the bite is there.

    And for the record, I’m probably in disagreement with the general consensus of most here in that I don’t think usage of offensive sexist degrading language is as universally unacceptable as others here do. But that’s a debatable point. And I will not deny that language is offensive sexist and degrading when it is. And it’s always vulgar and hurtful.
    ====
    desecrating a host:

    Okay, I thought he shouldn’t have done it. (And then I rolled over and went back to sleep.)

    But PZ believes religion is not something worthy of respect and fair treatment. One can debate whether that is a “right” or “wrong” attitude to have. A sexist can argue that gender and women are not worthy of respect and fair treatment and we can argue whether that is right or wrong. (It’s *wrong*! VERY very very wrong). PZ doesn’t deny that desecrating the host was anti-religious. “c-nt” supporters *do* deny that it is sexist. And it is sexist.

  81. twas brillig (stevem) says

    My only contribution to this thread is how shocked I was by the use of “cunt” in the Howard movie “Rush”, where the rival racers first meet and the [other guy] calls Hunt a Cunt, and Hunt replies, that his name should be “easy to remember cuz Hunt rhymes with Cunt”. I had to keep telling myself that it’s only shocking for me being a “colonial” while cunt is just common derogatory amongst the British, like calling somebody a “scum” or a “douche”, or a “jerk”, etc. … [but wait a minute, isn't calling someone a "douche" just as misogynistic as "cunt"?]
    But swear words are swear words, bad, whatever the source of the word.
    .
    To get sidetracked about etymology once more; is it truly a myth that #### is For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?

  82. woozy says

    **Previous attempt died at the filter. Hopefully this is suitably censored.

    …but it didn’t… It’s right there at @11.

    Now, I’m very confused as my first comment *didn’t* make it through the filter.

  83. manocheese says

    and yet you persist in claiming your noble calling as an Englishman to continue to use it whenever you damn well want to.

    I did no such thing. You are resorting to insults and putting words in my mouth. You’re twisting my comments to extremes and making ridiculous assumptions. I made it perfectly clear that I wasn’t opposed to changing given this new information, I was simply pointing out that in my context I have never used that word because I thought women are inferior; despite that, I have been continually called sexist. You’re still calling me a sexist for things I outright said I wasn’t doing, like refusing to change.

    If you can’t discuss this properly, I see no point in continuing.

  84. says

    Oh my. I just spent an hour writing a comment and it was a discussion of words used for insult. When I hit “submit comment” it didn’t appear. I think it was so full of c**t and f**k and sh*t and so on that it got caught in the trap.

  85. says

    I once saw the word “dudebro” thrown around here a lot. Isn’t that demeaning and sexist?

    Wahhhhhhhh, lets make it about men, right? Fuck off.

  86. ChasCPeterson says

    “Dick” is sexist the way “cracker” is racist – either “not at all” (if we’re using the “systemic oppression” qualification) or, even setting that aside, of such different character as to make the description facile.

    This is, I think, entirely correct. The idea that anything ‘gendered’ is ‘sexist’ is just lazy, sloppy thinking. Most–nearly all–people are gendered, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sexism is another story.

    Can we give some consideration to the still common insults of the young? Childish, puerile, adolescent, infantile, and many other terms, used as pejoratives?

    This, on the other hand, is ludicrous*.

    *no etymological insult intended against thespians.

  87. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If you can’t discuss this properly, I see no point in continuing.

    Translation, if I can’t bully you into agreeing with me WAH, I don’t know what to do, as my points are indefensible.

  88. says

    Trying to submit again after *-ing expletives.

    Just to put a little perspective on all this. “Con” is used in French to mean “stupid”. It’s considered less offensive than “merde” (sh*t) and barely even has “swear word” status, it’s just informal language. I learned in graduate studies of medieval French that “con” is a short form of “conil” that in the middle ages was used for “rabbit” (the word used for rabbit these days in French is “lapin”). And, in the middle ages, “conil” was also very common slang for a woman’s genitals, in the same way “beaver” once was (or still is? I really don’t know) in English, or “p*ssy”. In any case, “con” and “conil” are very common in French fabliaux (an extremely irreverent pre-rennaissance literary form). Wikipedia however says that the etymology I am giving here is “poetic” and that the real origin of “con” is the Latin “cunus” and goes on to give exemples from Horace and Martial. The truth is, the origins of “con”, can be both “cunus” and “conil” because they sound alike and people often confuse words that sound alike and confuse their meanings and there is a particular linguistic term for this mish-mash kind of semantic evolution that slips my mind right now. In any case, “con” is related in sound, meaning and history to a lot of words in other European languages and that includes the word “c*nt”.

    I don’t know what percentage of the French population realizes that “con” can also be used to refer to female genitals. But I can confirm that I have never, in 30 years here, heard anyone use it to refer to actual genitals. I am more familiar with medieval French literature than I am with modern pornography or erotica in any language, so my word on this is subject to caution, but I’ve never encountered “con” to mean someone’s genitals in pornography or erotica either.

    As for the word “c*nt” in English, I am really sorry that this word has become pejorative due to its use as an insult because it is, in itself, a really great one-syllable word for a body part just like “hand”, “head”, “foot”, “leg”, “mouth”, “lung”, etc. The words “vagina” and “vulva” are inkhorn words, not originally part of common people’s vocabularies, contrived by specialists not only for purposes of precision but also so as not to have to use the common terms for body parts, because common terms are vulgar and are even more so when they mean things that are considered vulgar and unspeakable like genitals.

    I am not in a position to say that the French use “con” like the British use “cunt”, I’ve never lived in Britain, but I can say that “con” is not at all used like “c*nt” in American English. I can also say that to deny that a word’s meaning is equivalent to its usage, and that’s just a principal of linguistics 101, makes you sound like Medic05 whatever. Usage trumps etymology every time.

    As for what insult terms are acceptable in general or specifically here on Pharyngula, I would like to point out that all insult terms have to do with designating things that are reviled, and that these things usually have something to do with sex, excrement, decomposition, disadvantaged groups of people like women, ethnic and cultural minorities, sicknesses and disabilities. Here on Pharyngula, racist, sexist and ableist slurs are prohibited but “f*ck” and “a*shole” and all combinations thereof are permitted and used with glee. I fully understand and agree with this prohibition but would also like to point out that it is somewhat arbitrary.

    When I was 12, I said “f*ck” in front of my aunt who answered, “As long as you keep using that word in that way you are jeopardizing your sex life.” There’s some truth in that. What’s wrong with f*cking? It is not always but can be so glorious and we wouldn’t even be here without it. And “f*ck” is also a great one-syllable common word for an everyday activity like “eat”, “walk”, “run”, “work”, and so on. It could be argued that to use “fuck” as a pejorative in any of its various combinations like “fuckwittery” and so on, is to concede to religious prejudice against sex and that’s a rather contradictory thing for an atheist to do. To use “f*ck” as a pejorative doesn’t cause splash damage against any group in particular, as all humans (except for Jesus, random other incarnated deities and in-vitro fertilized babies) got here through fucking, but it does cast a pall on sex. But, on second thought, it could be argued that “f*ck” as a pejorative causes splash damage to women to the extent that Christianity in particular identifies women with sex, nature, emotion, the illogical, animality and more generally, evil. As atheists and scientists, shouldn’t we oppose the diabolization of women, nature, sex and animals?

    Similarly, arguments could be made against using “old” or “sick” to denounce people or things, i.e. splash damage to the elderly and the chronically ill.

    As for sh*t, the stuff, not the word, it’s true that most people are repulsed by it most of the time, but shitting is very useful, if you can’t sh*t you die and it certainly feels good to get it all out. Ditto a*sholes, they are not only useful, they provide a lot of pleasure (wasn’t there a thread here not long ago in which a lot of people spoke up for the pleasures of anal sex?). Our revulsion of shit may be in part hard-wired (the way the smell of it triggers the burying gesture in house-cats) and the fact of our revulsion a boon to hygiene and thus, survival, but there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with shit and assholes. They are every bit as noble as eyes, ears and mouth.

    The point I’m trying to make is that all insults are derived from value systems that are also part of a power structure. If you are for social justice, then insults that harm people oppressed by that power structure are rightfully prohibited, but where you draw the line is somewhat arbitrary.

  89. manocheese says

    PZ doesn’t deny that desecrating the host was anti-religious. “c-nt” supporters *do* deny that it is sexist. And it is sexist.

    First, context: This was in direct reply to the argument that “People find X offensive, even if you don’t, so don’t X”. It was a weak argument.

    Second, just because in one place it is sexist, doesn’t mean that it is everywhere. While I think that saying the word can be seen as sexist by some and therefore shouldn’t be said is worth discussing; all I’m getting is that people say I am sexist for having used the word in a place where nobody thinks of it as a gender biased insult.

  90. says

    #80, richardelguru:

    What drives me crazy is calling me a ‘Brit’

    You mean I may have insulted a large group of people outside the sexist asshats who insist that “c*nt” is a perfectly non-sexist word?

    But I didn’t mean to.

    But all us Americans call you guys “Brits”.

    But you guys call us “Yanks.”

    But “Brit” just means someone from Great Britain.

    But it’s just a word, it has lost all its nationalistic connotations.

    But I love Brits!

  91. manocheese says

    Translation, if I can’t bully you into agreeing with me WAH, I don’t know what to do, as my points are indefensible.

    Seriously? What bullying? What whining? I am being accused of saying things that I didn’t and you’re all acting like victims. It’s pathetic. I’ve been polite all the way through this, despite others resorting to petty insults. You’re acting like I’m not engaging you in the topic and I am, I’m making points and responding to questions.

  92. manocheese says

    You mean I may have insulted a large group of people outside the sexist asshats who insist that “c*nt” is a perfectly non-sexist word?

    CAN BE, not IS. How hard is that to comprehend?

  93. mikeyb says

    The c word is obviously a slur word in almost every public context it is currently used. However words can and do evolve and change over time. Take the words fuck and suck. The former obviously refers to the sexual act, but is also just a generic swear word for emphasizing what you are angry about. The latter had originally a specific sexual connotation as well, but now refers to not doing something well. I doubt that the c word will evolve this way, any more that the n word will. I can however see in private where certain word uses would be OK. For example, in sexual play between two consenting adults repartee might involve slur words to enhance the experience if it is OK between both partners.

  94. says

    Acting like victims? How so? How do you imagine non-victims would act? Just shrug and pretend like things they think are harmful aren’t harmful?

  95. Rey Fox says

    You can be as un-sexist as you like, if you wish to be perceived as such, then don’t use the language of sexists. This isn’t hard.

  96. twas brillig (stevem) says

    manocheese, being the expert about slurs derived from sexist words not being sexist slurs, I have a question.
    Cunt and Dick are both slurs based on sexist anatomicals, but while a man being called “cunt” is an insult (regardless of the source of the c word), are women EVER called “dick” as an insult? Why the distinction between insulting men vs. women? Why is calling a man a woman bodypart an insult (but not sexist) while women are never insulted by calling her a male bodypart?

  97. says

    Just a warning: we are discussing a word that is on the prohibited list here. If you slip up and use it unmodified, your comment will be thrown into the spam queue and have to wait for my approval. I’ve had to approve about 20 comments already, and this is not going to last: I’m about to take off for a commencement ceremony, I plan to top myself off with narcotics to get through it, and when I get home, I’ll probably pass out. So either take care with what you write, or resign yourself to not seeing it appear for four or five hours.

  98. manocheese says

    Acting like victims? How so?

    By accusing me of bullying. I even quoted it.

    You can be as un-sexist as you like, if you wish to be perceived as such, then don’t use the language of sexists. This isn’t hard.

    I understand that. My only point is that words that are sexist in some places can be used in non-sexist ways. I have not yet once defended the idea that I should continue to use, everyone just assumed that, even after I have said several times that it is not the case.

  99. says

    manocheese: IS. How hard is it for you to comprehend that the effect of swear words is on the listener? Apparently, very hard…I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re an obstinate idiot.

    And before you can whine, “But I’ve been polite…”, I say, fuck politeness.

  100. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    chimera @ 99:

    The truth is, the origins of “con”, can be both “cunus” and “conil” because they sound alike and people often confuse words that sound alike and confuse their meanings and there is a particular linguistic term for this mish-mash kind of semantic evolution that slips my mind right now.

    I think the term you’re looking for is “Folk Etymology”.

  101. twas brillig (stevem) says

    shoot… just lost two posts to the censor-filter cuz this thread is all about slur words and I kept using them, to talk about them, not to actually use them as slurs. when will they invent a context filter and not just the simplistic word filter? I was just reading about the neuromorphic chips they’re starting to work with now, that will actually be able to READ these posts and not just scan for particular words. still waiting for these to be distributed more widely … [...whistling...]

  102. says

    No one said anything about a word being “inherently” anything. Words don’t have inherent meaning. You have to think about what the word is referring to, what others think the word is referring to, and that relationship is the meaning. It is not about “misuse.” If anything, you’re the one alleging there are “inherent” properties of words by talking about their “misuse” in terms of its very meaning. This is about social misconduct. It is not about the properties of words, in and of themselves, and the “ease” with which those properties vary for different words so they may be put to an incorrect “usage.”

    As soon as you pull this kind of bullshit, you have left human beings, and the evaluation of their conduct in terms of what impact that can have on other human beings, out of the discussion. Maybe it’s not intentional. But it’s as if you’re not even reading the words people type. This is not a dispute about etymology or the metaphysics of language or whatever the fuck you apparently think it’s about. It is a moral issue.

    Reiterated for eloquently stating the point. This is what makes slurs fundamentally different than the other ‘naughty words’ that can be dismissed as irrational taboo. So often, it seems like apologists think speakers exist in a vacuum. While they pay lip service to the notion that words have no inherent nature, they seem oblivious that words have meaning because of context and consensus that involves other people. They’re asking everyone else to change how they interpret language to allow them to use a word with their allegedly benign intent, rather than go through the inconvenience of changing their vocabulary to convey their intent.

    One analogy that comes to mind is good programming practice. If you’re the only one who’s going to look at or use your code, it’s okay to name your variables, methods, and objects whatever silly words you like. But if someone else is going to look at your code, it’s better to give them easily understood names so that those people can quickly decipher what your code does without having to consult you on every little thing. They’d rather the rest of the world learn their individual theme naming conventions and presume we’re stupid for not psychically extracting the “obvious” intention in their proprietary code. Or they call us lazy for assuming that they were referring to an ubiquitous open source object from an industry standard library just because their object had an identical label and seems to fill the same role without producing a syntax error.

  103. Andy Groves says

    Another British person chiming in here with another data point: The c-word is the vilest single word any British person can say to another. If Ricky Gervais really thinks it isn’t terribly sexist and offensive, he should try saying it on UK TV and seeing what happens to his career.

    Yes, some British people might claim to use it as a term of endearment to acquaintances in the same way that a generation or three ago, they might have referred to a friend as a “daft old bugger”. But it’s still incredibly offensive. Maybe manocheese can tell us in exactly which contexts he uses the word. Talking to his mother? His friend’s mother? His doctor? His boss? A policewoman? A nurse? His daughter?

  104. Pen says

    Wouldn’t you like to drive the French crazy for a change? Just skip over the channel and explain to them that they must stop using the ubiquitous ‘con’, ‘connard’, and ‘connerie’. It may take a while to explain even if your French is rxcellent. I think the horse is thoroughly bolted from that stable.

  105. mnb0 says

    @14 Carlie: “As for the gendered ones, there’s really only “dick” to refer to male reproductive anatomy, while there are all sorts that refer to female reproductive anatomy.”
    Dutch has more words to describe male genitalia than to describe female ones: pik, lul, klootzak, piemel, tampeloeris, fluit, jongeheer, paal, snikkel, eikel. Most of them are at least as insulting as “kut” (Dutch for c**t), basically the only (and by far not in all contexts) negative way to address female reproductive anatomy (“trut” may also count).
    Now what do you conclude from this?
    (I’m curious about Sally’s answer as well).

    Note: I do not call people these terms, because I think it’s banal and in general think overuse of these terms diminishes their power. I rather save them (same for words like “shit” and “damned” for moments I badly need them. Indeed people are invariably shocked when I actually do, exactly because it happens so rarely.
    Internet doesn’t qualify by definition as it’s emotionally by far not important enough.

  106. manocheese says

    manocheese: IS. How hard is it for you to comprehend that the effect of swear words is on the listener? Apparently, very hard…I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re an obstinate idiot.

    It’s supposed to be insulting, that’s the point. I’m saying that it’s possible that I can say the word in a culture where nobody takes it as a sexist comment. So far you’re best argument has been “it is” and I’m the idiot? Even there was someone there who was from a place where it was used as a derogatory term, the idea that they could realise it was meant in a different way is at least worth discussing. You’re the one who’s being obstinate.

    And before you can whine, “But I’ve been polite…”, I say, fuck politeness.

    That’s fine, you’re welcome to. Again, my point was that you’re all arguing against things I haven’t said in order to make me in to the enemy instead of someone trying to discuss things. You’re no better than christian apologists if you’re not even willing to entertain other ideas. It has been possible all along for you to convince me that I should stop using that word, but you’ve chosen to be dicks about it instead.

  107. Al Dente says

    so manocheese is annoyed just because his defense of a sexist word makes people think he’s a misogynist. After all, being the SUPREME ARBITRATOR OF MISOGYNIST WORDS means he can absolve himself of his unabashed, outspoken misogyny. How dare us lowlife, ignorant plebs think that manocheese is a misogynist just because he uses misogynist words and pretends they’re not misogynists.

    manocheese, on behalf of the Pharyngulite Horde™ I apologize for not recognizing your blatant misogyny as not being misogynist.

  108. jenny6833a says

    PZ uses the term “private parts.” That leads me to ask: What are “private parts”? What’s more private about “private parts” than non-private parts? Are there “public parts”?

    Do “parts” have degrees of “privacy”? That is, are some “parts” classified as “can’t be mentioned” while others are “can be mentioned but not seen” whereas still others “can be mentioned and seen but not touched”?

    Whatever your answers, WHY?

  109. Louis says

    Shite! Previous attempt went through @ #11. Apologies.

    Woozy, #89,

    Yeah etymology etc is a bit of a tangent. Oblique at least! ;-)

    We just can’t use the clinically of such as an attempt to disarm, avoid, and numbify the misogynistic blunt horribleness of the word.

    Agreed entirely.

    As Sally and others are illustrating, there is splash damage with “C**t”. That splash damage has greater cultural/social relevance and significance in a social context where misogyny is extant and extensive than other sexual insults that don’t have that degree of resonance.

    If I can speak as a formerly Confused Person (or “sexist”) on this issue, where I went wrong was in the ordering of certain priorities. Intent: Not Magic. That I had to learn. So what my intent does is change whether I did a Cluelessly Sexist Fuckwit Thing or a Deliberately Unrepentantly Sexist Fuckwit Thing. It doesn’t change whether or not I did a sexist thing. What **DOES** modify the sexist nature of a thing is the wider, relevant social context in which it is done.

    So, yes, on Pure Unadulterated Context Free Super Special Vacuum Logic™ (which we all know is the best sort of logic) “dick” etc are as sexist as “c**t” etc. That’s the end of that. However, humans don’t live in, nor were raised in, vacuums. So Pure Unadulterated Context Free Super Special Vacuum Logic™ only gets you do far. It’s the equivalent of the physicist’s much lampooned approach to biology “first consider a spherical cow in a vacuum…”. Nothing wrong with that sort of logic. It’s appropriate in the relevant context. When dealing with social phenomena, more complex, more complicated human phenomena it only gets you so far. That was partly my mistake, it’s not hard for me to see why others would make it too. This model is too simple for the system under study and leaves too much room for error.

    My implicit point here is that there is nothing wrong with using Pure Unadulterated Context Free Super Special Vacuum Logic™ , it’s a scientific stock in trade. The problem is STOPPING there. No decent scientist should or would do that. The pretence of “scienceyness” of some of the defenders of naked misogyny appeals to this logic. They’re not wrong to appeal to it, they’re wrong to think it’s the end of the process and the only thing relevant. There’s far more evidence, far more data, that’s incredibly relevant to filling out a model of this phenomenon beyond the initial logic of word choice and meaning. It reminds me a bit of a quote from Buddha:

    “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth…not going all the way, and not starting.”

    Louis

  110. Pen says

    Hey, i wonder if I beat the censoring filter by talking all foreign? I think I did!

  111. nohellbelowus says

    This place never fails to deliver. The Pharyngula horde expounding on the correct ways to insult people. Irony meter display out-of-range error!

    And then the site’s vituperative host starts calling people uncivilized. Priceless!

  112. says

    If us Brits can’t take good king Cnut’s name* in occasional mispelled vain, how about those Aussies? It’s practically a form of punctuation down there.

    *This is me mocking both contrived explanations for why the word isn’t sexist, and this forum’s censorware.

  113. Derek Vandivere says

    @92 / Twas Brillig:

    To get sidetracked about etymology once more; is it truly a myth that #### is For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?

    Absolute myth. It’s a really old word, in fact – in Dutch, fokken is to raise livestock, for example. There’s a moldy oldy Dutch joke: the US President comes to Holland to visit, meets a farmer, and asks what he does for a living. “I fok horses” is the proud answer…

  114. Al Dente says

    jenny6833a @124

    “Private parts” is a euphemism for genitalia. As for why, it’s because English, like many other languages, doesn’t have rules but rather has habits, customs and traditions. Private parts is one of the customs.

  115. manocheese says

    @125 Louis

    Look, a person disagreeing with me but also actually making a fucking point! It’s a miracle. Thank you for not just being a dick about it. You’ve addressed points I’ve made and provided an argument against them and it only took 125 comments. Some people made the splash damage argument before, but that wasn’t really addressing my point.

    So, to address what you’ve said. I’ll keep it short and aim for a back and forth, rather than walls of text.

    I would say that using a word that is seen as sexist outside this vacuum does not make you sexist if you live inside this vacuum where it exists without sexist connotations. Agree?

  116. Derek Vandivere says

    @121 / Mnb0:

    My wife loves all the cutesy Dutch slang terms for the penis. One thing I’ve never understood here is the insult people by naming a disease that they’re supposed to have…

  117. Louis says

    Manocheese, #122,

    I’m saying that it’s possible that I can say the word in a culture where nobody takes it as a sexist comment.

    Prepare to be inundated with lots of people, myself included, telling you that they DO take it as a sexist comment in UK culture. The meaning (and sadly use) of the word is not completely divorced from either its other meanings or the extant cultural misogyny very much present in the UK.

    Do we (typically) see the word as horrendously sexist as the Americans do (where it seems to be directed at women far more than it is here)? No, perhaps not. But that’s a difference of degree, not of nature. Its use is a sexist act, regardless of the user’s intent and regardless of the use of other words. Does that make its user a Global Forever And Ever Super Sexist? Nope. But it does mean that, when considering all the relevant context, its use is sexist and thus it should be used (or rather not used) judiciously.

    For a better illustration of context, let’s just say you have a conflict of someone who is of “black” African heredity, or Pakistani or Indian heredity, do you call them an “n-word” or a “p-word” (we all know the words I mean)? I’m betting you don’t. The most relevant difference, if indeed you don’t, is that you have a greater awareness of the moral…”dubiousness” (generous term!)…of racism than you do misogyny. The social consequences of naked racism are more apparent to you than the social consequences of naked misogyny.

    Louis

  118. says

    Speaking as a ‘Brit’ I’m bemused whenever someone claims the C-word is in common usage here. It isn’t, it really isn’t.

    While I get the impression there might not be quite the same level of disgust at hearing it as there might be in the US, it is still definitely not acceptable and definitely one of the most socially unacceptable words someone might use.

    It isn’t the most unacceptable language, there is even more disapproval of racist terms which seem to be in a different category – not saying that’s right, but it is the case – but no-one is using it who doesn’t understand it to mean exactly what we all know it means.

    ‘More tea, you c**t?’ is not a phrase you’re likely to hear over here.

    And yes, the Smack the Pony clip is funny, as is everything else on that show!

  119. smhll says

    I’ve been polite all the way through this…

    I personally find it very rude that you are advocating lavish use of the word “c-nt” which is a gross insult where I live. You know (if you’ve been reading here long) that PZ is American and can be presumed to have many Yank readers, many of whom have female genitalia and are sick of being insulted for it.

    How about you calm down and I get to stay cranky. I have cause.

  120. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    @manocheese

    I’m saying that it’s possible that I can say the word in a culture where nobody takes it as a sexist comment.

    You can’t build a sound argument from a false premise. “nobody takes it as a sexist comment” is patently untrue as evidenced by British people in this very thread contradicting the claim.

  121. Louis says

    Manocheese, #135,

    I think you’ve misunderstood what I meant by “a vacuum”.

    I would say that using a word that is seen as sexist outside this vacuum does not make you sexist if you live inside this vacuum where it exists without sexist connotations. Agree?

    You were raised by wolves away from all human contact and yet you speak English so well I can understand it? It’s a MIRACLE!

    You (and I, and everyone else) don’t live in any kind of (social) vacuum. Fish don’t live out of water, humans don’t live outside of cultural and social context.

    Doing something sexist does not automagically render one some Evil Super Global Forever And Ever Super Sexist. It means one has fucked up (whether or not one knows it). What one does NEXT might render one a sexist. Doubling down is a pretty good sign that cluelessness is not the only thing going on.

    Louis

  122. manocheese says

    Prepare to be inundated with lots of people, myself included, telling you that they DO take it as a sexist comment in UK culture. The meaning (and sadly use) of the word is not completely divorced from either its other meanings or the extant cultural misogyny very much present in the UK.

    Ok, that’s fine. But can you understand that it is possible that I simply wasn’t aware of that, despite being pro-feminist, given that it is widely used in a non-sexist way in my local area? I pretty much live in the vacuum where nobody uses it in a sexist manner, nobody has ever complained about it being sexist. People don’t use and do say they don’t like it here, but they never refer to it as sexist, they always just call it vulgar.

  123. mikeyb says

    A very commonly used political slur word in the US is communist, socialist or Marxist . You want to crush any progressive politician or progressive idea, just call it any of these. 90% of people don’t know that there are different kinds of Marxists, communists and socialists, many don’t have much or anything to do with each other. But Americans are so stupid, first because they don’t know a thing about any of these distinctions or even what they are historically and they hear such and such is communist and dismiss it out of hand without hearing the substance of the idea. Its one very powerful easy way to protect the oligarchy. To Americans, the socialism of Sweden or Denmark is no different that the socialism of Uncle Joe.

  124. Louis says

    Tom Slatter, #139,

    ‘More tea, you c**t?’ is not a phrase you’re likely to hear over here.

    Play more rugby. ;-)

    Okay, I’m kidding.

    Louis

  125. manocheese says

    Doubling down is a pretty good sign that cluelessness is not the only thing going on.

    Despite everyone acting like I’m ‘doubling down’, I’m not. I’m simply trying to discuss whether or not that mistake actually makes me deserving of the insults that have been thrown at me.

    Hindsight is always 20/20, it must be good to be so perfect that you’ve never made a mistake (not you, Louis, the others who just fling insults).

  126. manocheese says

    You were raised by wolves away from all human contact and yet you speak English so well I can understand it? It’s a MIRACLE!

    You (and I, and everyone else) don’t live in any kind of (social) vacuum. Fish don’t live out of water, humans don’t live outside of cultural and social context.

    That’s not what I said, it was a thought experiment to start a point, but never mind…

  127. twas brillig (stevem) says

    defn 1: words are used to communicate with others
    rule 1: if the listener doesn’t understand what was in your mind when you used that word, use a different word.
    don’t try to justify your usage with, “I didn’t use it like you accuse me of”
    eg: if the word you used was considered sexist by all the listeners, use a different word that they don’t consider sexist. Don’t tell them they’re wrong to think you are sexist for using that word. Don’t blame Them, just use a different word.
    NEVER consider yourself more knowledgeable and therefore everything you say is just words used correctly. The meaning of words are given by the listener, not the speaker. Speaking is to convey information from one mind to another; direct transfer doesn’t exist, soundwaves are the only option. Use the word that the listeners understand the meaning of, the speaker’s knowledge is irrelevant. Speaker to the listener using words the listener understands and in the way the listener uses them. Consideration is not just a euphemism for politeness; but more about how to effectively communicate without offense and obstruction…. ^_^

  128. carlie says

    I would say that using a word that is seen as sexist outside this vacuum does not make you sexist if you live inside this vacuum where it exists without sexist connotations. Agree?

    1. Nobody is saying someone is sexist. They are saying that thing that was said is sexist. There is a real difference. The only time someone would then get called sexist is if they are told that it’s viewed as a sexist thing to say and then spend hours enthusiastically defending their right to say it.

    2. There is almost nowhere in the world any more where the things you say stay inside a vacuum. The internet, in particular, is pretty much the opposite of that vacuum.

  129. says

    Louis #145

    Rugby players offer each other tea? :-)

    That’s the thing, it is a bit more complicated isn’t it? You will hear the word, but I don’t buy the argument that people use it without knowing it is disparaging towards women. That’s the whole point of using it.

    One of my favourite stand-ups, Stewart Lee, used it once in the last series of his TV show, and he’s been described as ‘tediously politically correct’. It was used in a way that was perfectly justified. He was parodying racists in a long routine that culminated in the racist telling the first amphibious creature that crawled out of the ocean to ‘get back into the sea you finned c***’. The whole point was to mock the absurdity of the racist thuggery of certain far right politicians over here, and the audience understood that. So yeah, context and all that.

    British English is different to American English, but don’t tell me people don’t know what the word means, or that it’s part of polite every day conversation. It isn’t.

  130. twas brillig (stevem) says

    A very commonly used political slur word in the US is communist, socialist or Marxist

    And rising quickly as the newest insult is “liberal”. And already there is “muzlim”. I keep trying hard (futilely) is to make “conservopod” an insult, but it ain’t catching on. No matter how hard I intend it to insulting nobody else is using it as insult. ;-(

  131. manocheese says

    if the word you used was considered sexist by all the listeners, use a different word that they don’t consider sexist. Don’t tell them they’re wrong to think you are sexist for using that word. Don’t blame Them, just use a different word.

    That’s utter nonsense. If my intent is not sexist and I am not aware of any sexist connotations it is logically impossible for me to be a sexist just for using that word. That would require knowledge of the future and create a paradox. If I genuinely didn’t know that the N word was racist because I had only ever heard it in rap music, where it acceptable, I would not be racist for using it. The fact that I can stop using that word after I have knowledge of it’s history does not change who I was in the past.

  132. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    manocheese @ 143

    I pretty much live in the vacuum where nobody uses it in a sexist manner, nobody has ever complained about it being sexist. People don’t use and do say they don’t like it here, but they never refer to it as sexist, they always just call it vulgar.

    Five un-evidenced claims of things you cannot possibly know in the space of two sentences. What you (presumably) mean to say is nobody has used it in a manner you recognize as sexist. Nobody has ever complained to you that it’s sexist. You’ve never known anyone to refer to it as sexist; you’ve only ever heard people call it vulgar.

    Riddle me this. Is it possible that people anticipate that you’d have the exact reaction you’re having here if they did complain about it and simply decide to spare themselves the frustration?

  133. carlie says

    OH MY FUCKING GOD.

    Don’t tell them they’re wrong to think you are sexist for using that word.

    it is logically impossible for me to be a sexist just for using that word

    LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE THERE IN THOSE TWO SENTENCES. SEE IF YOU CAN FIGURE IT OUT.

    The first does not say that you ARE a sexist, it says that you APPEAR TO BE ONE and that no one can be faulted for making that interpretation based on what you have said. I am not an ax murderer, but if I went around saying “I love blood” and “I love axes” and “I love the smell of fresh blood in the morning when I’m chopping things” people could well think that I am one, and I would not be able to fault them for thinking so.

  134. Louis says

    Manocheese, #143,

    But can you understand that it is possible that I simply wasn’t aware of that, despite being pro-feminist, given that it is widely used in a non-sexist way in my local area?

    Absolutely. I was unaware of it. I’m not now, so I have had to change my behaviour.

    I pretty much live in the vacuum where nobody uses it in a sexist manner, nobody has ever complained about it being sexist. People don’t use and do say they don’t like it here, but they never refer to it as sexist, they always just call it vulgar.

    Okay, one thing, you’re wrong about this vacuum thing. You’ve really misunderstood. Perhaps that’s my fault. Allow me to elaborate:

    What I mean by vacuum is this: you grew up in a cultural context, whatever that context is. You didn’t grow up in a vacuum with no parents, friends, schoolmates, other humans around you. You didn’t grow up in a country with no history, no politics, no legacy of bigotry or social inequality. You DID grow up somewhere with all of these things. This is why the simple logic of whether or not a word has a sexist meaning or use is not enough to describe the phenomena under discussion. It’s A part of them, it’s not ALL parts of them.

    Louis

    P.S. I can be, and certainly am, an insulting fucker (or whatever!) of the first water when the mood strikes. Here’s a piece of context for you, a partial explanation of why you might get a really short shrift here rather than elsewhere. For about 3 or 4 years Pharyngula has been inundated with trolls, sexists, outright misogynists, bad faith arguers all essentially debating the rights of women in some fashion and some degree. Don’t praise me for being relatively polite, I’m not. I just thank my lucky stars I got my education largely before the recent blow up!

  135. manocheese says

    1. Nobody is saying someone is sexist. They are saying that thing that was said is sexist. There is a real difference. The only time someone would then get called sexist is if they are told that it’s viewed as a sexist thing to say and then spend hours enthusiastically defending their right to say it.

    That’s not true. I am being accused of being sexist, despite having so far not defended my right to keep saying it. I have spent hours defending my right to not be called a sexist for having used the word in a non-sexist way.

    2. There is almost nowhere in the world any more where the things you say stay inside a vacuum. The internet, in particular, is pretty much the opposite of that vacuum.

    I am not lying. As I have tried to explain before, it gets used in a different context and it literally never occurred to me that it would be anything other that a taboo word, just like dick or arse. I’ve never used that word on the internet, I don’t swear much when I’m writing. It’s not like I don’t spend most of life worrying about things like this already. That’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation of why I’m so adamant in defending myself. I spend all my time watching what I say, confronting others for saying the wrong thing and thinking about how I use language. Coincidentally, I’d spent a few hours this week thinking about the word “pussy” and how I wish there was a swear word that wasn’t sexist for people who were cowardly. I was thinking about other sexist words and this one just didn’t come up.

    If I had said at any point that I didn’t care about how other people saw the word or anything like that, I could understand the insults. But all I’ve done is try to explain why I don’t consider myself sexist. I was ignorant of the idea that the word was considered sexist, but I don’t consider that something I deserve any blame for.

  136. Louis says

    Tom Slatter, #150,

    Oh I agree with you (as should be obvious from comments passim).

    Rugby players exclusively drink tea. Honest. No. Really. Never touched anything else. And that’s the story I’m sticking to. {cough}

    Louis

  137. manocheese says

    Riddle me this. Is it possible that people anticipate that you’d have the exact reaction you’re having here if they did complain about it and simply decide to spare themselves the frustration?

    Read what I said carefully. I did not say that nobody took it as a sexist insult, I said that I could not have known if they did because nobody ever said anything.

    The reason I know it isn’t used as sexist insult is because of the context in which it is used. If someone is afraid of spiders nobody ever calls them a c*nt, they get called a pussy. In this context, the aim of the insult is that the person is womanly and that that is bad, which makes the term sexist. If you can replace the word c*nt in the insult with any other swear word, the meaning is clearly not sexist as it is not implying that any one gender is ‘worse’.

  138. thetalkingstove says

    If you can replace the word c*nt in the insult with any other swear word, the meaning is clearly not sexist as it is not implying that any one gender is ‘worse’.

    Right. Why do you think c*nt is generally seen as the most awful of all insults, the nuclear option, much worse than dick or prick? It just happens to be that way?

  139. manocheese says

    Absolutely. I was unaware of it. I’m not now, so I have had to change my behaviour.

    So without paradox inducing pre-cognition, how could I have been sexist? Calling me sexist mean that I think that women are somehow ‘worse’ (not the best way to describe sexism, but I’m trying to work at the same time and now I’m tired) than men. As far as I’m concerned, that’s clearly not the case.

  140. tonyinbatavia says

    manocheese @146:

    Christ man, jump off that cross. We aren’t claiming we haven’t made mistakes. In fact, it is just this type of back-and-forth that helps us understand that: (1) they were mistakes to begin with, (2) why, (3) what the possible consequences or splash damage can be of continuing to make the mistakes, and (4) how to avoid making them in the future.

    If you are savvy, you will ignore that your feelings might be hurt for a moment now just because others pointed out the mistake. Instead, why not try to actually understand why others might be hurt by a lifetime of hearing flippant, unnecessary denigration?

    There are plenty of awesome, kick ass insults you can hurl at others without needlessly insulting innocents who had nothing to do with the real target of your derision. Truly. If you tried, I bet you could spend an hour brainstorming a great list of new and creative ways to insult a person without simultaneously and pointlessly insulting whole other classes of other people. If you are unwilling to do even that little bit, I have to wonder if you are being honest with yourself when you say you are not sexist.

  141. says

    That’s utter nonsense. If my intent is not sexist and I am not aware of any sexist connotations it is logically impossible for me to be a sexist just for using that word.

    You’re back to acting a bit thick again. The idea is that once it is reasonably explained to you, you don’t keep saying it and finding new ways to defend using it. (About half your posts seem to seek a better understanding, but mostly only after you’ve sidetracked yourself from the reasonable answers already given.) Such as:

    Ah, so only the oppressed are protected from insult?

    Which is a twofer. It clearly shows you simply don’t get the entire premise while also essentially derailing yourself from a pursuit of understanding back into acting sexist (by refusing to acknowledge how the word is sexist regardless of your personal intent). And the answer is, it has nothing to do with insult per se, it’s about the oppression. You’re sustaining the background casual oppression by using it, regardless of your ignorance or intent.

    I doubt you’re a sexist asshat, but you are helping sexist asshats by continuing to use, and rehash the old and endless arguments for, using quenta as an insult.

    Insult any person of a culturally oppressed class all you want, assuming they deserve a (verbal) insult, but don’t insult them via their own oppression or a reference to something which devalues another oppressed group.

  142. nohellbelowus says

    Ok here’s a compromise. I will travel the world shouting the C-word from the top of my lungs in every town square, and given the statistical abundance of feminists, there is no doubt I will draw at least one of them — resulting in a lesson on proper diction, which everybody present can listen to and learn from. In this way I’ll be helping to educate the world on the proper use of this nasty puff of modulated air. Somebody has to do the dirty work!

    Call me Johnny Applecart. (I said Applecart, not.. well, you know.)

  143. woozy says

    but wait a minute, isn’t calling someone a “douche” just as misogynistic as “cunt”?

    Well, yeah? Isn’t that obvious and wasn’t that always the intent?

    To get sidetracked about etymology once more; is it truly a myth that #### is For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?

    Of course it’s a myth. Tips isn’t from “to insure prompt service”, news isn’t from “north east west south” and posh isn’t from “port out, starboard home”. It’s been my experience that except for technical terminology (such as scuba and laser) and brand name, acronyms are almost *never* actually responsible for etymology.
    ====
    weird thing about the swear filter. It seems words without “c-nt” in them are posted immediately. Words with “c-nt” in them are posted in their original order but there is a half hour or so delay. Really weird.

  144. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    manocheese @ 158

    I did not say that nobody took it as a sexist insult…

    I didn’t say you said that either. You even quoted me not saying it.

    I said that I could not have known if they did because nobody ever said anything.

    And I asked you to consider whether the reason nobody ever said anything to you is because they anticipated that you would deny that it has any sexist connotations as you’ve been doing here and they wished to spare themselves the frustration of trying to argue with you. I mean, it’s taken 150-ish comments just to get you to consider the possibility that the word may have connotations you were unaware of.

  145. manocheese says

    Right. Why do you think c*nt is generally seen as the most awful of all insults, the nuclear option, much worse than dick or prick? It just happens to be that way?

    It isn’t where I’m from; it’s slightly worse, but not by much. I’m suggesting that its strength as an insult comes from its lower commonality than other insult, which may or may not be tied to its relationship to sexism. That does not detract from the fact that it can be used as an insult without being directly sexist and that it isn’t that far-fetched for there to be a context when it’s rarely seen as sexist.

  146. Andy Groves says

    But can you understand that it is possible that I simply wasn’t aware of that, despite being pro-feminist, given that it is widely used in a non-sexist way in my local area?

    Speaking as a British person, no I cannot understand that. Where is your “local area”? And don’t try and be funny and come back with “Scunthorpe”…..

    You still haven’t answered my question about with which people you habitually use the c-word in everyday discourse.

  147. manocheese says

    You’re back to acting a bit thick again. The idea is that once it is reasonably explained to you, you don’t keep saying it and finding new ways to defend using it.

    I’m defending the idea that having used it doesn’t make me a sexist. I have at no point defended my right to keep using it or even implied that I would.

  148. thetalkingstove says

    It isn’t where I’m from; it’s slightly worse, but not by much.

    So it’s worse to be compared to a woman’s genitals than a man’s, but there’s nothing sexist about that because…intent.

    Sigh. Yep, if you don’t mean something to be sexist then it magically isn’t. That’s how words work, alright.

  149. mikeyb says

    Steven Pinker has a good chapter on the history, nuances and uses of swearing in his book The Stuff of Thought. I know some of y’all aren’t crazy about Pinker but he does as thorough an overview on the topic in his book as I have come across, but anyway here is a very short you tube video (there are also links to his lectures on the topic as well that you can look into).

  150. Louis says

    Manocheese, #156,

    I have spent hours defending my right to not be called a sexist for having used the word in a non-sexist way.

    Okay, first and foremost (and this might sound a bit harsh) your FeeFees™ about being called a sexist are irrelevant. Just as irrelevant as anyone’s offence or FeeFees™ about the use of the word “c**t”. Offence and FeeFees™ are simply a red herring here.

    Second, I think it’s better (and more accurate) to tell someone “Act X you just did is sexist, i.e. it plays into extant sexist inequalities/sexist references” than to say “You’re a sexist”. I think if you read back that’s the general interaction you’ve been getting. Occasional (understandable) asperity aside.

    Third, you can’t use that word in a non-sexist way as an insult. You can use it with non-sexist intent, but not use it in a non-sexist, insulting way. There’s a BIG FUCKING DIFFERENCE! ;-)

    If you stamp on my toe, my toe hurts regardless of whether it was an accidental stamp or an on purpose stamp. All the accident/on purpose uncertainty determines is whether or not you get a punch up the bracket or not! Your intent is irrelevant to the pain in my toe, it is relevant to how I treat you after my toe already hurts. The act was painful, it was causative of pain, my toe hurts, it had certain specific consequences regardless of whether or not you intended to hurt it.

    The same principle applies to whether or not a thing you did is sexist. Your intent is irrelevant. Your lack of awareness about the social ramifications and relevant context surrounding a particular word is irrelevant. Its use is a sexist/racist/homophobic act etc (or not) independently of these variables. How you are treated after using whatever word it is IS dependent (to some degree, individual results may vary) on your intent. Or rather, what can be determined about your intent. On the web, that’s generally precious little.

    Louis

  151. says

    I highly recommend reading Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, by Jack Holland (who was Irish). C*nt is covered in the introduction.

  152. manocheese says

    And I asked you to consider whether the reason nobody ever said anything to you is because they anticipated that you would deny that it has any sexist connotations as you’ve been doing here and they wished to spare themselves the frustration of trying to argue with you. I mean, it’s taken 150-ish comments just to get you to consider the possibility that the word may have connotations you were unaware of.

    No it hasn’t. I have said repeatedly that I am not defending the right to keep saying it or denied that it is used as a sexist word. What is happening is that everyone calling me sexist for having used in the past and assumed that because I deny that, I’m defending the idea that I can keep using it. Jumping to conclusions is not a good way to discuss things.

  153. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I wrote:

    if the word you used was considered sexist by all the listeners, use a different word that they don’t consider sexist.

    That’s utter nonsense. If my intent is not sexist and I am not aware of any sexist connotations it is logically impossible for me to be a sexist just for using that word.

    I did NOT say you were sexist for using that word. I said that if the listeners consider the use of the word to be sexist (not you personally), then use a different word. And I did not say ANYTHING about you needing to be prescient about the reception of the words you are about to use. Just advice about what to do AFTER the listeners misunderstand your word usage. I am NOT calling you a sexist for using a word people thought was sexist, I’m just telling you to recognize that as a possible consequence and how to respond to that event.

  154. Louis says

    Inaji, #171,

    May I just second your recommendation having taken it myself and bought and read the book in question.

    Louis

  155. Al Dente says

    It’s one thing to claim not be be sexist for innocently using a sexist word. It’s something else entirely when, after being informed that a word is sexist to loudly proclaim that using that word isn’t sexist and then to pretend that one was raised by wolves in a non-English speaking part of Mars and that all your Martian packmates thing the sexist word is just the thing to say during idle conversation.

    manocheese, you keep claiming you’re not sexist or misogynist but damn, you do an excellent imitation of a sexist asshole.

  156. says

    This is still moving quickly. Eh.

    manocheese, yes, you were called sexist accused of sexism. I don’t know why anyone would say otherwise, it’s right up there in the comments. I’m not certain (and not going back) to see if anyone called you a sexist, which is somewhat a different ball of wax (some would say entirely different), and something many of us are careful about, especially since the Crommunist produced an essay on the adjective/adverb – noun distinction.

    The other half of this equation is where you persisted in defending use of a sexist term in a sexist manner, before you started to (apparently sincerely, but with some regression) started asking questions, some of which sound an awful lot like Just Asking Questions™. Some of this can easily be identified as sexist. You were in one instance called a sexist idiot (sexist being the modifier for idiot) because you were ignoring the salient points and responding to less consequential bits of the discussion ["idiot"] while apparently arguing that using c+++ is OK for several different reasons ["sexist'].

  157. Maureen Brian says

    manocheese,

    If you were quite confident that there is not a whit of truth in what people have said or implied to/about you then you would not still be here shouting the odds over 4 hours after you made your first ex cathedra statement.

    I remind you of part of what you said then, “it’s not a swear word that has a history of oppression, it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism.”

    Are you still of that opinion? Then fuck off, man, you’re boring.

  158. says

    I’m defending the idea that having used it doesn’t make me a sexist. I have at no point defended my right to keep using it or even implied that I would.

    Defending your right to use a sexist slur without being called sexist is defending your right to use a sexist slur.

  159. Andy Groves says

    But can you understand that it is possible that I simply wasn’t aware of that, despite being pro-feminist, given that it is widely used in a non-sexist way in my local area?

    Speaking as a British person, no I cannot understand that. Where is your “local area”? And don’t try and be funny and come back with “Sc*nthorpe”…..

    You still haven’t answered my question about with which people you habitually use the c-word in everyday discourse.

  160. says

    I called manocheese a sexist fuckwit, because it seemed to me that equating the hurt feelings of a fictional character (god) with the ongoing oppression of half the human race (women) was pretty fucking sexist, and sometimes I don’t feel like going through the whole “that thing you said was sexist’ rigamarole because most of the time, my listener interprets “you said a sexist thing” as “you are a sexist anyway.

  161. rpjohnston says

    As I recall, “moron”, “idiot” and “imbecile” were originally terms for grades of mental handicaps (I sincerely apologize, I don’t know what the proper term is. And if this is just what I heard on the Internet and I’m totally wrong I apologize and everything else I say is null.) Yet it seems to be accepted that using these terms is not ableist.

    I did a search for these terms before typing this and didn’t see anything, so apologies if this has been answered, but I would like an explanation of why they are not considered ableist, and perfectly fine to use here and elsewhere. I’m interested in the answer for two reasons: 1) because this is something I’ve seen pointed out before, and I had no response, so I would like an idea how to respond and 2) I am mildly autistic, and while these terms don’t bother me inandofthemselves, it does FEEL as though I’m being marginalized when they are excused in this context, as a relatively common insult like “c***” is misogynist but also-common insults “idiot”, “imbecile” and “moron” are somehow not ableist.

    And before I get ripped to shreds, yes, I’m being sincere, I do not understand why one but not the other. I apologize for asking you to educate an idiot.

  162. doubtthat says

    Never going to use the word “cunt” because the opinion of the folks who object is more important to me than the limited expression it offers. I place it in the same category as the debate over the name “Redskins”: The benefit to keeping the name is about zero, and people express offense, therefore drop the name.

    By comparison, there is actual value to challenging religious notions (drawing pictures of Mohammed, desecrating crackers…). That value is significant enough to accept the offense it causes.

    Nevertheless, I think the language debate is kind of interesting. The context has to be considered. Take, for example, the word “boy.” That is most definitely a racial slur when a white person in the United States calls a black adult male a “boy.” The etymology of the insult is fairly obvious–treating adults as children, dismissing their intellect, asserting dominance…etc.

    That does not mean that in every instance of its use is similar. “You’re such a boy,” is a phrase that also has meaning in a given context. It can range from amusingly naughty activity to a proper charge of emotional immaturity, but it isn’t a slur.

    Maybe one way to distinguish the two is that “boy” had meaning and use prior to the slur use, but that’s true of “faggot.”

  163. manocheese says

    Okay, first and foremost (and this might sound a bit harsh) your FeeFees™ about being called a sexist are irrelevant. Just as irrelevant as anyone’s offence or FeeFees™ about the use of the word “c**t”. Offence and FeeFees™ are simply a red herring here.

    Then (just to play devil’s advocate, yet I’m sure people ignore this and treat it as serious), why should I give a shit about people who are hurt when they think I’m being sexist?

    If you stamp on my toe, my toe hurts regardless of whether it was an accidental stamp or an on purpose stamp. All the accident/on purpose uncertainty determines is whether or not you get a punch up the bracket or not! Your intent is irrelevant to the pain in my toe, it is relevant to how I treat you after my toe already hurts. The act was painful, it was causative of pain, my toe hurts, it had certain specific consequences regardless of whether or not you intended to hurt it.

    I don’t see how that’s on your side of the argument. If I accidentally step on a woman’s toe, I’m not going to get called a sexist (outside of here), am I? If that happened, I would defend myself, just like I am now. It’s not going to make her toe feel better, but that’s not the point. This situation here is like I’ve stepped on a woman’s toe, been accused of sexist violence and then when I say “Sorry. I didn’t mean to, I didn’t see her there” being called a misogynist, an idiot etc. I’m not defending the idea that it’s ok to step on womens’ toes; I’m saying that in the context of the situation, at worst, I’m guilty of minor carelessness.

  164. Louis says

    On a small tangent, Manocheese, again, if I have by some miracle been relatively polite to you, it’s not to my credit. It’s because some of the people you are dealing with are affected by misogyny in a way, and to a degree, I’m not.

    Their reaction to you is theirs to police, not yours (if you’re a bloke), not mine. They’re the ones on the business end of misogyny, not you (presumably) or me. Don’t give me any credit, instead consider why you are getting a higher degree of pushback from other people.

    Louis

  165. says

    Let me be clear – what you were doing is considered to be sexist, irrespective of your intent or ignorance. Get that. Grokk it. Move past this “I was accused of being (a) sexist” thing, and see what happens. Past history predicts you could be a welcome member of the Horde, should you decide to stick around. No one is going to beat you with a stick if you climb out of that hole, but if you keep digging and occasionally pop your head up and ask them to beat you with a stick, they will happily oblige until they grow tired and ignore you..

    That’s my observation, anyway. But I’m just a peripheral lurker and hermit.

  166. mikeyb says

    To me moron or idiot as insults are more nuanced and contextual. Of course if used to refer to someone with Down’s syndrome it is a vicious slur, but referring to someone like Ben Stein, not so much. Here we are referring to his lack of intelligence in someone in an otherwise functioning brain. Yes it is still an insult, but not the same as the c word or it’s use directed at someone with a mental disability.

  167. says

    PZ
    To me (others may vary) ‘Brit’ is associated with writings on walls “mainly in the plural and … almost always associated with the word ‘out’. …. a term that owes its origin to the fact that people who didn’t want us to be in various locations around the world, and possibly would have been happier if we’d been kicked out of Britain too, were in so much of a hurry and valued paint so highly that they abbreviated us.” See requisite silly essay.

  168. manocheese says

    Or consider why you perceive Louis as more worth responding to in the first place.

    Oh, it must be because he’s a man and I’m in denial about my sexism. Yeah? It couldn’t be because you misunderstood my answer to your dumb comment and he actually engaged me properly with an explanation. Or do I only think that your comments are dumb because you’re a woman?

  169. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    Manocheese:

    You’re in a hole. Why do you keep digging?

    In particular, why are you asking us questions that you are labeling as “devil’s advocate” and insisting that you don’t really mean? Even if your intent is otherwise, the effect is going to be to either upset people or waste their time.

    Nobody needs a devil’s advocate here: any obnoxious or rhetorical question you can ask that way and then go “ha, ha, I didn’t mean it, why are you upset?” is one that some of us have had to deal with in real life, from people who at least acted as though they meant it. You don’t get points for upsetting people.

  170. Louis says

    Manocheese, #185,

    Hmmm. Okay, you have not understood again. Notice I said that ANYONE’S feelings/offence etc on this issue are irrelevant. Not just yours. So your response, devil’s advocacy or not, is not merely stupendously irrelevant but doesn’t even begin to address what I said. Please read for a modicum of comprehension.

    Second, stepping on a toe is not an act of sexism, it’s not a sexist act. Even stepping on a woman’s toe isn’t.* Both men and women have toes. Toes are not a sexually distinguishing feature of one sex or another. The analogy I made is not about the nature of the act but about the irrelevance of intent to consequences of an act. Whether or not you meant to hurt my (or anyone’s) toe, it hurts. Whether or not you meant to use “c**t” in a sexist way or not, it is a sexist act.

    Last chance from me, Manocheese. It wasn’t a hard point to understand. I’ve been polite and careful thus far, I fucking hate having my time wasted.

    Louis

    *With the obvious, and supremely irrelevant to the rather simple and obvious point I was making, caveat that if someone has a stated intent of going around stepping on specifically and only women’s toes because women should have pain caused to them, then yes, that’s a sexist act. Specifically causing violence to women as a deliberate act dependent on their sex is sexist, obviously.

  171. Louis says

    Sally, #187,

    THAT is an absurdly good point.

    Or I suppose it could be because I haven’t called him any Really Mean Things™.

    Yet.

    What tiny patience I have is wearing thin.

    Louis

  172. ludicrous says

    PZ at 86 above: Referring to the C word.

    ” That is such total nonsense — and of course everyone uses it a strong insult, because it has such patent connections to female sexuality. ”

    It seems to me that many of the arguments against calling people the C word would apply also to the D word, douchebag.

    I have complained about ‘douchebag’ for the sames reasons….it’s patent connection to female sexuality..and to women’s genitals.

    Each time I have been rudely attacked. Why is this not at least a legitimate question?

  173. manocheese says

    I no longer feel the need to defend myself against you hypocritical idiots any more. I have enough reason to not value your opinions, so I’m no longer bothered by your insults.

  174. serenegoose says

    So, sort of a side tangent, but I do wonder how much of this backlash from other british people is as much to do with the fact that it’s americans making the fuss? I don’t know if this has been brought up, I read the first hundred or so comments then started skimming (apologies) but I certainly had the twinge of ‘no, you’re wrong’ simply because it felt like americans trying to impose themselves on everything as per usual rather than because I’d actually thought about it. Took a second to acknowledge my own instinctive knee-jerk moment. I do, for what it’s worth, think you’re right. But I also get conflicted because as much as I call bullshit when people say ‘gay’ doesn’t mean what it used to (It does.) I’m also aware that many words have changed their meaning. I don’t think my intelligence is insulted when someone says I’m nice, after all. So it makes me wonder where that line is, and the role that… american privilege and the exertion (and immediate rejection) of it has in distorting the discussion?

  175. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    manocheese @ 175

    No it hasn’t. I have said repeatedly that I am not defending the right to keep saying it or denied that it is used as a sexist word.

    You at comment 5:

    it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism.

    You at comment 19:

    If the idea behind ‘cunt’ was to infer that a man was womanly and that womanliness was the insulting part, then it would be sexist. But that is not the inference,

    You at comment 29:

    We have other words that are use as “you are womanly” intent as an insult and I am saying that this is not one of those words.

    You at comment 51:

    This has a lot to do with my point that these swear words come from their taboo nature, rather than a gender bias.

    Liar.

    —————

    ludicrous @ 195

    “douche” and “douchebag” are generally considered fine as insults because douching is actually harmful to women. The entire existence of douching is borne of misogynist aversion to female genitals. When you call someone a douche or douchebag, you’re not saying they’re like a woman, you’re saying they’re like a thing that is harmful to women.

  176. omnicrom says

    Don’t be bothered by the small echo chamber here.

    My apologies that Pharyngula is generally in agreement that sexism and sexist language is bad. If you’d like I suggest you go to wehuntedthemammoth.com, it’s a showcase of sites there that are full of people who don’t agree with us about the badness of sexism and sexist language.

  177. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @manocheese:

    I was simply saying that it is possible for me to have used that word until this point in my life without being sexist. If I continue to use it, you could accuse me of being insensitive to it’s use and propagating sexist ideas but that does not make me a sexist.

    Words fail.

    No, really: words fail. Sexist, to you, means something other than thinking so little of women that knowing use of a sexist slur with all its attendant splash damage is more valuable than the pain of the women splashed?

    I can see how you might not agree with the categorization of certain things as “sexist” when, in your undoubtedly Regionally Ubiquitous usage, it means only actions equivalent to a long history of raping and murdering women paired with a lack of shame or regret, as testified to by a blog titled: “I’m proud of my career as a serial rapist and murderer of women.”

    Enjoy valuing FREEZEPEACH more than women? Feel free. We don’t have any reason, however, despite your regionally ubiquitous definition of sexism, to see that attitude as anything but loathsome.

  178. Al Dente says

    krishnan @199

    Another shithead heard from. Got any other words of sexist wisdom to drop on us or are you just a drive-by troll?

  179. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @ludicrous, #195:

    It seems to me that many of the arguments against calling people the C word would apply also to the D word, douchebag.

    I have complained about ‘douchebag’ for the sames reasons….it’s patent connection to female sexuality..and to women’s genitals.

    Each time I have been rudely attacked. Why is this not at least a legitimate question?

    It is a legitimate question. I certainly got the feeling growing up that the people using it as an insult in my primary/secondary school days felt it was an insult because, “Eww! Something that touches women’s genitals! Eww!”

    However, douches themselves are contemptible for reasons entirely other than that. They are unnecessary. They are frequently toxic. We’re often told they’re for our own good and yet they make us feel horrible emotionally even when they aren’t, as they often are, making us sick.

    So when we compare sexist jerks to douches or their comments to the emissions therefrom, we aren’t using women’s genitals as insults in any way.

    We are saying that sexist jerks are unnecessary, frequently toxic people who insist that they are here to help when they make us feel horrible emotionally even when they aren’t, as they often are, making us sick.

    It’s entirely apt.

  180. says

    krishnan,
    Did you happen to notice the British people chiming in about the British interpretation of the word? They were not exactly on the side of manocheese.

  181. consciousness razor says

    Then (just to play devil’s advocate, yet I’m sure people ignore this and treat it as serious), why should I give a shit about people who are hurt when they think I’m being sexist?

    Don’t worry. I’ve considered you an insincere asshole, with no serious point to make, ever since your first comment. I’m not sure how you can stomach it, but it’s in every bit of your sophistry and fake outrage.

  182. tonyinbatavia says

    So, manocheese, related to @162…

    With your (apparent) dramatic little flounce at @196, it appears you would rather not find ways to insult someone without throwing entire classes of innocents under the bus. And somehow you are still really, really sore that people have called you sexist. Duly noted.

  183. omnicrom says

    why should I give a shit about people who are hurt when they think I’m being sexist?

    Empathy and understanding are the hallmarks of being a decent human being manocheese.

  184. Al Dente says

    I can assure you they hold a minority view of their compatriots.

    And I can assure you that you’re talking out of your arsehole.

  185. Rey Fox says

    because most of the time, my listener interprets “you said a sexist thing” as “you are a sexist anyway.

    Proven to the umpteenth degree in this thread. Then once that happens their brain just shuts down completely.

  186. Louis says

    Serenegoose, #197,

    Never underestimate our Decent British™ intolerance of fucking Septics!* Okay, enough jokes.

    I think the difference in how the “c-word” is used in this context, and to what degree it is determined to be sexist is heavily influenced by culture. Note: that’s a difference of degree, not type. It’s also not a distinction about whether the use of “c**t” as an insult is or isn’t sexist, just the degree of perception of its insulting use as sexist.

    There is a very American flavour to this blog, unsurprisingly. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it can cause the same sort of culturally blinkered mistakes that any social group can have when comprised largely of one rough group of people. For example, it’s the same problem encountered when largely British and Australian people say things like “c**t isn’t sexist because we use it here all the time and it doesn’t mean anything sexist at all”. It’s a cultural blinker, we’re just not, on average, used to considering it in that fashion. Not an excuse, an explanation. Obviously, as the tale of the thread shows, not a very useful explanation because it only goes so far, but a factor amongst many. Most of the time the Pharyngulistas are pretty widely culturally aware, or at least aware that they should be aware, which is, I think, all that can be asked.

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask that anyone has no unexamined cultural biases, blinkers etc. I think it is reasonable to ask that people consider they might have.

    As I understand it, and please someone correct me if I’m wrong, the average American usage of the “c-word” as insult is largely directed AT women (not merely as a covert reference to something “nasty”, i.e. bits of women), in order to derogate them as a function of their sex overtly. The average British usage of the “c-word” as insult is largely directed at the person who just cut you up in traffic as a more covert reference to something “nast”y (i.e. bits of women). Both uses are sexist, the latter will be perceived as less-sexist/innocent simply because the association is not as overt. Obviously there’s overlap. I think that accounts for much of the difference in perception though.

    Again, note: it doesn’t really speak to whether or not its use as insult is sexist (it is) but how the perception of it might differ. I think you’re right, there definitely exists another perception that our chums across the pond are a bit daft and possibly not Gentlemen. And that too will influence any reaction.

    Louis

    *Septic tank = Yank. Not merely rhyme but also descriptive of something large and typically full of shi…

    …WHAT!? WHAT!? IT IS A TERM OF AFFECTION!!

    Yes, I am not serious about that.

  187. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Sally Strange, you hold my faith in humanity tens of microns out of the gutter.

    Sometimes hundreds!

    This thread would have been much less survivable without you in it.

  188. Callinectes says

    Growing up it took me a very long time to realise that it was used as an insult at all. I was always quite literal about language and didn’t understand or appreciate the use of words to mean things other than what you actually said. So to me it was nothing more than a particularly crude word for female genitalia, and as such had no use for it myself. This lasted all the way to university, where I inadvertently alienated several people when I mentioned the word (as distinct from using it) in conversation, and it took me some time to figure out why.

  189. says

    So, I guess by the reasoning of some of the posters here I can start calling people who stupid things golliwogs. After all virtually nobody in modern Canada knows the word, so my totally intended to be non-racist use of the term won’t be problematic, nor will that of anyone who imitates me. All you British people will just have to stop being so sensitive about Canadians using a word that refers to what many consider a racist caricature of African people, because we’re not being racist in our usage. There won’t be any unfortunate implications of using the term.

  190. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    twas brillig (stevem), 92

    [but wait a minute, isn't calling someone a "douche" just as misogynistic as "c---"?]

    ludicrous, 195

    It seems to me that many of the arguments against calling people the C word would apply also to the D word, douchebag.

    I have complained about ‘douchebag’ for the sames reasons….it’s patent connection to female sexuality..and to women’s genitals.

    Each time I have been rudely attacked. Why is this not at least a legitimate question?

    I was under the impression that it was quite acceptable to use douche, and its variants, to describe someone being a misogynistic tool because the device itself is a misogynistic tool. I tried to create a super-duper sarcastic example quote to show why it is such a fucked up tool of misogyny, but it creeped me the hell out trying to wear the thinking cap required write it.

  191. Andy Groves says

    Hey Krishnan, British person here. Care to enlighten me on the “British stance” to the c-word? Care to tell us about the contexts that you use it in which it is not considered offensive?

  192. says

    Ooops, I got one lost in the filter. Interesting to see the word I used is a no-no as well. Sorry for the further work, PZ.

  193. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    I always find it funny that dudes who do stupid sexist bullshit, and then mewl on and on about how cruel the people who point out that they did stupid sexist bullshit are always claim that they’ve never heard anything about their behaviour before.

    Of fucking course you didn’t! Anyone with the profoundly bad luck to know you in meatspace would know that assuming good faith and the ability to engage in any self-reflection is a terrible waste of hours, with the likely bonus that he’ll be pouting and whiny about it for weeks after! When you are clearly someone who is such a delicate flower that any criticism will result in, well, the little tantrum manocheese threw, of course you’re not going to hear anything!

  194. opposablethumbs says

    manocheese, dear chap*, you are consistently and persistently missing the point.

    You’re not a sexist for inadvertently, in ignorance, using a sexist slur: you inadvertently did a sexist thing.
    You’re not a bully for inadvertently, in ignorance, stepping on someone’s foot: you inadvertently caused that person pain.

    If your response to being made aware of the sexism of the thing is to say, hey I did not know that – but now I know people (even if not the whole of the human race) perceive it as sexist and find it hurtful, you know what, I’ll drop it anyway even if I don’t really “get” that it’s sexist – then, as has already been pointed out, you’re not sexist.

    If you get off that person’s foot, you stop causing them pain.
    * Yes, I’m British. Yes, using cunt as an insult is sexist.

    Inaji, thank you – I’d wanted to do this for a while and now I did: I broke my rule (the rule is – do NOT spend money. that money is for the bills) and bought the Holland book. But I’m pretending it doesn’t count as a rule-break because it’s a second-hand copy and really really cheap.

    PS to anyone wondering about “douche” – it makes a fine insult, because it’s not something inherent to any group getting punched down at; on the contrary, it’s a thing associated primarily (outside of possible medical use?) with making women less healthy (douching is damaging to your health) and with encouraging women to feel their bodies are naturally disgusting and unclean. Imagine calling someone, I dunno, a “dirty footbinder” or a “stinking skinlightener”. A douche is harmful to people, so it’s perfectly appropriate to use it as an insult.

    As for “dick” et al, it’s a very good idea not to use it – just like any other gendered insult. In terms of sexism, it’s obviously less damaging exactly in the same way that “cracker” is less damaging than the n-word.

  195. victorbogado says

    I can’t say anything about the use of cubby in England, for I’m not in England nor a female. But weird can have different meanings in different places.

    One example that comes to my mind whenever this kind if discussion appear is the “n” word. In Brazil all the equality movements prefer to use “negro” than “preto” (black). Also I can’t think of any word that has such power that people freaks out just by hearing it mentioned.

  196. consciousness razor says

    Empathy and understanding are the hallmarks of being a decent human being manocheese.

    That may be so in the US, but teh English nuances™ do not permit people in the UK to speak of such things. They have a stance, and it is something-something. Well, I don’t know what. Suffice to say that it is not even utterable in your American tongue.

  197. Rey Fox says

    There’s just no way that a gender specific term that is deliberately used as a profane insult is sexist. Just no way! Because we said so. We jolly citizens of the Great Empire.

  198. Andy Groves says

    Krishnan: Are you seriously saying that if I call a British woman a “stupid c-nt” that the woman would not consider it sexist as well as considering it horribly offensive?

    Again, what part of Britain are you from, and in what contexts do you use the word?

  199. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @krishnan:

    The dispute is whether in other places it is sexist, which I contend is not the case for most people in the non- American english speaking world.

    So bring some fucking data to the party why don’t you?

    “Is not!” is not a contention. It’s a childish outburst.

  200. nohellbelowus says

    Splash damage????

    Ha ha ha HA HA … cough…cough.

    Damn near blew a laughing gasket when I heard that one, inserted recently as the crux of this entire post.

    But how can one quantify splash damage? I suppose we’ll first need a unit of measure… how about the PeeZee? For instance, calling somebody a dweezil might cause 6.5 PeeZees of splash damage, while using the forbidden C-word could potentially result in 3.2E+06 PeeZees – or 3.2 MegaPeeZees, if you prefer.

    C’mon rationalists, let’s put use of the C-word on a firm, scientific footing!

  201. consciousness razor says

    Again, what part of Britain are you from, and in what contexts do you use the word?

    On the East side of Valles Marineris, next to the gas station….

  202. Andy Groves says

    Well I come from SE England too. Essex boy born and bred. And I think you are either completely clueless about what the word “sexist” means, or you’re full of shit.

  203. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @krishnan, #233:

    So, in addition to your uselessness in this conversation, you also have no idea what “data” is?

    “Fascinating.” [/spock]

  204. Al Dente says

    krishnan comes from the tiny part of Britain where they don’t speak the Queen’s English but rather grunt to each other in monosyllabic utterances, i.e, “beer good”, “fire hot” and “you c*nt”.

  205. jopageri says

    I was trying to think of the last time I heard anyone say it and I think it was on BBC radio 4 as they were discussing a Conservative politician, Jeremy Hunt (the presenter blamed it on Spooner not Freud!) Afterwards people had a good joke about the accidental new bit of rhyming slang. Would this have been treated as funny in the US?

  206. allegro says

    @krishnan

    So you agree that the word is an insult and apparently an egregious one. Now, why do you think that word is insulting?

  207. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @krishnan:

    Unfortunately Gallup haven’t recently polled the matter, so neither of us can post any data.

    We know that Gallup hasn’t polled recently on the matter, or are you just making up snarky shit in an attempt to say, “of course there’s no data, we’re all just as ignorant and anecdote dependent as anyone else in this area”?

    Because I’ve got to tell you. It’s not Gallup I would go to first if I wanted to see the best arguments on this issue.

    But, where precisely could one go? I understand why you would resort to snark when finding even a starting place for your research is so difficult.

    then at 224

    The dispute is whether in other places it is sexist, which I contend is not the case for most people in the non- American english speaking world.

    and @235

    We’ll have to agree to differ, Essex boy.

    So, either you have a contention based on some actual data and reasoning, OR you have some random internet opinion that is no better or worse than that of Andy Groves.

    So, which is it, krishnan? And why is it that as soon as you’re actually asked for data and an argument you run away screaming, “agree to differ”?

    Could it be that in 199 when you told manocheese:

    You are spot on

    and in 202 when you told the rest of us

    manocheese was not being sexist,

    You actually had nothing of substance to contribute at all?

    That would sure be a surprising result.

  208. Al Dente says

    krishan @238

    That means I’m twice as good as you because you’re only half-witty.

  209. Maureen Brian says

    krishnan,

    Please plug in another couple of brain cells if you have them to hand.

    Right! You say “it is merely an offensive insult” so tell us, please, how it came to be an insult and how it came to be offensive.

    Could it possibly be that it has been and is still used to disparage women and to issue put-downs to men by implying that they have all the value – i.e. very little – of the genitalia of a woman? And could such an insult ever have worked without a gender bias and a degree of misogyny?

    And how could it still work as insult if all of that bias is entirely gone?

  210. says

    So I’m watching this thread while at work (which is not helping my productivity people!) And where was I going with this?

    oh yes, the asshats and duchenozzles all seem to have the same refrain, “i dont intend it that way!” Well, as noted abovethread, intent isnt fucking magic .

    Guess what? Charitably, I was a chill-girl up until feminism became a real topic here. I got put in my place a few times, and watched it happen to others. Being shown you are wrong, evaluating it, and implementing the proper response (often, “i’m sorry I’ll not do that again”) is part of learning to be a decent human being.

    TL; DR: the first rule of holes is stop digging

  211. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Al Dente:

    That’s gonna leave a mark!

  212. Bernard Bumner says

    In the UK, the use of the word by men in the presence of women is exceedingly rare – because it is the most offensive word, and not therefore suitable for ladies of delicate disposition. A different manifestation of sexism, then.

    Even if it was truly denuded of any connotations of female genitalia, the attitudes which govern its use are still inherently, damagingly sexist.

  213. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Being neither American nor British, I find this pretense that BE and AE are two completely different, separated in no way related languages where a word that has the same meaning in both languages is somehow sexist in one but definitely not the other, fascinating.

  214. mirrorfield says

    Few comments:

    *Insults are supposed to offend. That’s the whole f*king point.

    *Questioning man’s masculinity and/or sexuality has been historically, and remains today, an extremely powerful way to insult a man. This type of insult is always sexist, homophobic or referring to some sexual deviation. It’s the nature of the beast.

    *Perfect non-sexism is an impossibility for any human. An AI or alien might be able to pull it off. Current movement for Political Correctness has IMHO set the limits so narrowly and individually subjectively that even most fanatical liberal cannot reliably navigate this minefield, making everyone an offender. Thus, charges of sexism can be easily used as a political weapon as needed.

  215. says

    I wonder if we aren’t seeing a bit of the ole “Oh, those Americans, they’re sooooo uptight! Why can’t they be chilled out and open minded like us British/Europeans/your European country of choice here?” nonsense from some of the foreign posters.

  216. gijoel says

    If you wouldn’t say that to the Queen, then why would you say it to a complete stranger?

  217. Rumtopf says

    Grew up in Herts, practically on the Bucks border, and it was the worst insult. My shitty Dad specifically used it for women(myself included). People here know that “cunt” means “womens genitals”; it’s never been removed from that definition and the connotation behind it doesn’t change when it’s used as an insult. Seriously this is like the argument stupid people have about the use of “gay” as an insult and how that’s totally not inherently homophobic because magical intent.

  218. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Louis @ 214:

    As I understand it, and please someone correct me if I’m wrong, the average American usage of the “c-word” as insult is largely directed AT women (not merely as a covert reference to something “nasty”, i.e. bits of women), in order to derogate them as a function of their sex overtly.

    I was going to check out of this thread, because apparently I’m “condescending”, but at the risk of being even more condescending:

    In the US, the c-word is directed only at women, and it’s the worst thing you can call a woman. Directing it at a man, as we are told is done in the Commonwealth, is quite literally incomprehensible. We’d be looking around to see who else you could possibly be referring to, since we thought you were talking to a man.

  219. says

    As I said earlier the c word is widely used in Scotland not necessarily as swearing and yes I’m from Glasgow I live in Manchester and it is not acceptable here quite rightly and the t word is widely used in parts and in others it equates to the c word though really they both refer to the same thing. Berk is not considered swearing at all and yet it is short for Berkshire Hunt, which of course a rhyming slang. Go figure.

  220. A. Noyd says

    @manocheese
    Better to remain silent and be thought a sexist than to speak out and remove all doubt.

  221. macha says

    Same goes for that word describing violent rape …

    fuck

    .. why draw the line?

  222. Al Dente says

    ABBA won the Eurovision song contest many years ago and the contest has been coasting on those laurels ever since. :p

  223. says

    Just to show my age I watched the one ABBA won and have only started watching again in last few years, seems somewhat different now. Not arguing over berk, still a cover for the c word. need more beer.

  224. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Mirrorfield sez:

    *Questioning man’s masculinity and/or sexuality has been historically, and remains today, an extremely powerful way to insult a man. This type of insult is always sexist, homophobic or referring to some sexual deviation. It’s the nature of the beast.

    And why is that? Why is questioning a “man’s maculinity” a powerful insult? Because being a woman or being feminine is seen a being bad/ In order for this insult to have it’s power, women and feminine people have to be seen as being bad, wrong and something that real human does not want to be.

    So is this badness innate or is this something that is taught to all of us.

    So, Mirrorfield, instead of tossing about “Political Corectness” be defend the idea that being woman or being feminine is bad or defend why you feel the need to keep this current system so that this “powerful” insult can continue to be used.

  225. says

    I wasn’t a swearer while growing up in Glasgow, Scotland (yeah, hard to believe, even though I only lived a couple of miles away from where Billy Connolly became a master of the art). At worst, it was the occasional “damn” and “crap” and I remember being educated by my parents that “knackered” wasn’t the type of word you used during a Sunday School picnic.

    I knew all the major swearwords, I just didn’t use them, but somehow, sometime in my first couple of years at University I had picked up the word “twat” without knowing what it meant and thinking it was about as rude as “bloody hell” or “plonker.” It was only when I used it in front of a friend of mine who had never even heard me say “shit” and he went bright red that I had its meaning explained to me. I was 20 at the time, but that was before the advent of the Internet. I doubt such innocence/ignorance is even possible these days.

    I still rarely swear in company (except on the golf course), but when I do, it certainly gains people’s attention. Rarity value has its advantages.

  226. stevebowen says

    O.K… I’ve largely retired from this debate as I tend to fall out with people I really respect. Ophelia for one. But I’ll try again because this is specifically about the “Brit argument for cunt” rather than the “general argument for cunt”. To try and hold the dogpiling off a little I would like to say up front that I understand that there is enough misogynistic baggage associated with the word in some of the places I inhabit to have stopped using it anywhere so what followes is not a defense of “cunt” but a defense of the “brit argument for cunt”.
    If you live in Britain the suggestion that cunt has any relationship to female genitalia when used as an insult is likely to raise eyebrows. This is not because we are stupid, it is because we understand words mean what people mean them to mean. It is also because we do not use this insult towards women and neither do we intend the insult to be feminising. In fact “Don ‘t fuck with me, I’m a cunt” is something that has been said to me by the most violent male person it has been my misfortune to meet.
    When British people say they are not being sexist when they use cunt as an insult they are not naive or disingenuous, they really are not being intentionally sexist and very few people in Britain, even feminists, would immediately make that call.
    However, we all live in a smaller world now. Cunt is used in the US in a specifically sexist way and there is no cognitive separation of the descriptive and perjorative use of the word as there is in the UK.
    So, my suggestion to everyone, including Ricky Gervais is that if you want to be on an international stage where your own cultural assumptions may not apply avoid using words that don’t add to the conversation and don’t defend your own cultural interpretations at the expense of others. If you know you’re using the word specifically to provoke ask youself why you need to do that. You are not arguing within the same cultural contexts and cannot win and more to the point don’t need to. Cunt, Bitch, Cock and while we’re at it Retard or portmanteau constructions thereof are all words we can easily live without.

  227. says

    I had friends from Port Glasgow and every second word was a variant of fuck. I’m not sure what they did if they needed to swear.

  228. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @mirrorfield:

    Current movement for Political Correctness has IMHO set the limits so narrowly and individually subjectively that even most fanatical liberal cannot reliably navigate this minefield, making everyone an offender. Thus, charges of sexism can be easily used as a political weapon as needed.

    What? That’s your contribution? That the use to which something is put is much more relevant to what is “good” and “bad” than the thing itself? :slow clap: Your insight is remarkable. Now I finally understand what Ani DiFranco was getting at with, “Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” Gee, it’s theoretically possible that she thought of that even before you, isn’t it? Well, at least I’m sure that your sparkling revelation would have been noted before, at least by political philosophers. But that can’t be, because otherwise every shmoe whose read Machiavelli would consider your comments entirely banal. And we know that couldn’t be.

    Now, please, give us the benefit of your analysis. In cases like this thread where the accusation is made about language rather than people and the purpose appears to be to prevent accidental or incidental sexism, is the “charge” of this thread good or bad? A political weapon or a useful tool?

  229. applebeverage says

    “Yeah, there’s nothing misogynist at all about thinking the most degrading thing you can call a man is to refer to him as a woman’s private parts.”

    Some men have vaginas and some women do not. Please do not erase trans people.

  230. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    No, this is not my blog. But I know a troll.

    Is there anyone else to you want to tell to “calm down”? And make use of condescending terms.

    Because that is just so productive.

  231. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Is there anyone else to you want to tell to “calm down”? And make use of condescending terms.

    Oh, please tell me to calm to down. My feet in their steel-toed troll stomping boots are itchy….*checks privileges, old, male, bald, educated, middle class, etc.*

  232. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    Could it be that david9 is a recently banned troll who is taking advantage of the fact that PZ is busy at the moment?

    Is your life so empty that you actively work at being a very minor annoyance?

    Such a sad little assclam.

    Don’t know about anybody else but I will now ignore you.

  233. says

    A couple of years ago I used to interact with Marc Maron, “comedian,” on twitter.

    One day he complained about bad service at some place… just a short tweet about some people who delivered his pizza late or took five minutes to find his hotel reservation or something… “those cunts.”

    NOT a joke. Just a quick complaint.

    I tweeted to him my dismay… something mild, like “Wow, disappointing, Marc.”
    He asked me to elaborate, and I explauined that I had respect for him as a comedian but didn’t think it was cool to use that to insult people.

    He went ballistic.

    “It’s a JOKE! Can;t you take a JOKE?!?!?!” etc.

    IT WAS NOT A JOKE.
    It was a simple garden-variety “they left the pickle off my burger” complaint.

    He ranted at me and then left twitter for a couple of days. I also was given hell by a professional comedian friend – same shit “you can’t take a joke” “you’re always so angry” “lighten up”

    I told him he didn’t have to follow me, and of course I was promptly unfollowed.

    The “comedy community” has drawn the battle lines.
    They want their “cunt” insult “joke”, and they are going to fight for it tooth and nail.

    Because it’s easier than being… you know… FUNNY.

  234. says

    In the US, the c-word is directed only at women, and it’s the worst thing you can call a woman. Directing it at a man, as we are told is done in the Commonwealth, is quite literally incomprehensible. We’d be looking around to see who else you could possibly be referring to, since we thought you were talking to a man.

    This is entirely true except insofar as it’s total bullshit.
    It is directed at men and women… women by far more often, but don’t be silly.

    There are other Americans reading, you know. Some of us even hear others say things.

  235. chigau (違う) says

    In my little corner of Canada, cunt, when addressed to a woman, meant something like “überbitch”.
    When addressed to a man it meant something like “you are like a woman”.

  236. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Goodbye Enemy Janine, #274:

    Yeah, I had that exact thought, though I can’t remember the nym. Same words, same tactics, same worthless content.

    Won’t be surprised to see david9 disappear.

    @david9, #279:

    I play by my own [rules]

    yeah, real nice. Show up at someone else’s house, get asked to politely respect the rules of the home, and flip the rules the bird. You’re a peach, you are. Should we respect your rugged individualism for all of about 3.7*10^-14 seconds? Or should we just proceed directly to calling your behavior douchegabbery of the worst sort, no passing rugged individualism, do not collect 1 iota of sympathy?

  237. says

    david9: My profile:

    “Get back on your meds”
    Peter LaBarbera, President, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality, an anti-LGBT organization in the United States that is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    So you’re a bigot too, then, david?
    Or do you mean that “asshole” is some sort of minimum value that I rise above?

    Why thank you.

  238. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Jafafa Hots @ 278:

    I’m not being silly. I’m 62 years old. I’ve heard swearing daily for most of that time. I’ve heard various insults directed at many, many people daily for most of that time. I have heard many women called “c*nts” in that time, unfortunately. I have never, ever, ever, EVER heard a man called a “c*nt”. Not once. Not in person, not in print, not in any film or electronic medium (that wasn’t identified as British or Australian or whatever). Not once in my life.

  239. Paul Brown says

    For what it’s worth …

    The decision to use the c-word has always struck me as being more about class than anything else. Especially in Britain and Australia. Of course the word’s sexist. Everyone understands that. But the relevant context isn’t really the speaker’s intent. There’s a load of bad words to choose from, so why that one in particular?

    My evidence is entirely anecdotal and rugby-centric. You play against clubs from the south and east of England, or a University club in Australia, and you’ll get called all kinds of names. Part of the game. Rarely the c-word, though. In England it was more likely to be another c-word … “colonial bastard”, or in all places one of a hundred variations of “f-X” (head, wad, hole, etc). Then you play a club from the English midlands or Sydney’s inner west and on the field and in the bar afterwards it’s a steady stream of c-this and c-that.

    A bit of education grants some perspective so that if the word was ever on the tip of your tongue you reached for another. Which is precisely why I think it gets used like it does. Spraying a few c-words around tells your listeners where you’re from. It tells them that you know the word’s origins and its connotations. But you’re choosing it because it’s indicative of your class. You (the speaker) are no toff. Not one of ‘em upper class c’s who’s supposes themselves better than the likes of you (the speaker).

    Everyone knows the word. They know it’s sexist, and offensive. Some people eschew it because they’ve had the importance of sexism explained to us. Others use the words precisely *because* the first group don’t. So you get threads like this were different people from the same country report different experiences. For many individuals, class trumps country.

    Of course its sexist and demeaning. Everyone knows that. For one group of people, that’s important. For another group, using it is a marker of their distinction from the first.

  240. thecalmone says

    Usage is a funny thing. As a young white Australian male living in NE Brazil in the 1980′s I was surprised and mystified to be addressed often (by black people) as “neguinho” – a term of affection ultimately derived from “negro”. Then when I returned to Australia after a couple of years and made some Angolan friends I was surprised to hear them call each other “macaco” (monkey).

    Yes, men (and teenage boys) in Australia call each other “c-nt” quite often and it is used both as a strong insult (one level beyond “a-sehole”) and as a term of affection, eg. “Mate, you’re a sick c-nt”. This usage seems to be increasing among the young and I think is used a bit self-consciously and with amusement, as though the user is adding in parentheses “Yes, I know it’s a ridiculous use of the word, but it’s funny, isn’t it?” Some Australian men would not use the word at all, though, because it would sound ugly to them, as a sexist slur.

    Interestingly, the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English, generally regarded as a very authoritative source, doesn’t include the “term of affection” definition among its eight definitions of the word.

    I was not aware of the misogynistic American usage where it is used specifically to denigrate a woman until I started using the internet. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used that way in Australian English. Women use the word a lot less than men here, but they do occasionally use it and always to refer to a man (my highly educated ex once called her male boss a “c-nt” to his face, and she meant it).

  241. allegro says

    @grahamjones

    I found that post interesting as well. It was particularly interesting to read that the author wasn’t bothered by the word at all but if anyone called her a c*nt their comments would be deleted. Quite interesting indeed.

  242. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Krishnan, David9: Sockpuppets. Bye.

    Double grog/swill to those who noticed….

  243. anbheal says

    So many of the dismissive arguments here remind me of privileged trust fund brats who’ve dusted off the old N-word since Obama became president. When they are called on it, they toss up the garden variety defenses: “oh, THEY say it to EACH OTHER, so it’s reverse racism to tell me I can’t say it”, or “I’m saying N**GAH, and only N**GER is verboten”, or “hey, it’s just short for NEGRO, which is simply Latin for black”, or the ever-handy “hey, in this country we have free speech, you commie.” It’s pretty much the same brand of defending unexamined privilege here. There is not a single resident of the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Canada (wherever else English-speakers are found) who have not known for 25 years that the word is unacceptable in America, unacceptable among strangers, unacceptable on TV, and increasingly unacceptable in their own countries. Anyone in these threads over the age of 13 who claims “oh I never realized it degraded women, and how can you blame me for saying something I didn’t realize was offensive” is Just. Plain. Lying. Or freshly out of a monastery
    .

  244. playonwords says

    The only Brits who do not think that word is a sexist slur are the unregenerate sexists who use it at every opportunity. The rest of us think it shouldn’t be used.

  245. says

    Gregory Greenwood #38

    If you think trying to impress upon them that the term ‘cunt’ is misogynistic is difficult, just try to convey the notion that ‘fag’ is homophobic. They will stubbornly claim it is just slang for cigarette, and ignore all points to the contrary about its connotations in other cultures.

    In fairness, those making this argument have a way, way better case than for cunt. ‘Fag’ meaning cigarette and ‘fag’ meaning homosexual have, in fact, no etymological relationship whatsoever as far as I can determine. The former is derived from ‘fag end,’ the last bit of rope or cloth, the cut off end, from there was used to mean a cigarette butt, and by extension the whole cigarette was a fag. The anti-gay slur, meanwhile, derives either from a misogynistic term for an old woman, related to faggot meaning a bundle of sticks, stereotypically carried by old peasant women, and/or the British pubic school practice of younger students ‘fagging’ for older students, acting as servants and often as sexual targets. This in turn comes from fagging meaning to work hard, derived from fatigue. I can still see the arguments for reducing the use of fag for smokes in terms of splash damage etc, but the argument that it’s got nothing to do with queers or homophobia is actually a perfectly accurate one.

  246. chigau (違う) says

    hamster9 #309

    So, upthread some have said pr*ck is not sexist.

    Liar.

  247. sugarfrosted says

    How is this any different to PZ desecrating a host?

    Accusations of calling someone a c**t were never used to oppress a group of people, as accusations of host desecration were. I seem to recall PZ also partially did this in response to a student being unfairly harassed for unintentionally committing host desecration.

    (I didn’t see this until way late, sorry)

  248. sugarfrosted says

    Oh bother, why can’t HTML be more like latex

    How is this any different to PZ desecrating a host?

    Accusations of calling someone a c**t were never used to oppress a group of people, as accusations of host desecration were. I seem to recall PZ also partially did this in response to a student being unfairly harassed for unintentionally committing host desecration.

    (I didn’t see this until way late, sorry)

  249. says

    Australian here. Like Neil Rickert @30 I grew up with ‘cunt’ just being part of the verbal arsenal; it was always “that one you never say around adults, especially your mum” and so was used secretly and gleefully. During my time at high school it even became a compliment if paired with an adjective; “mad c—” and “sick c—” were applied to anyone who partied particularly hard or skated well or was generally seen to be good at anything. This was long after the actual meaning of the word had been discovered; the word was almost never used to refer to a vagina and was never used to insult a woman (just each other).

    Of course, once the further demeaning nature of the word became apparent to me, the grownup thing to do was to stop fucking using it.

    Language being as plastic and alive as it is, it might well come to pass that the c-bomb takes on a new meaning and no longer has the connotations it currently does – “bastard”, for instance, no longer has the impact it did when being born out of wedlock was actually a very bad thing and we’re all familiar with how the word “gay” completely changed its meaning in living memory. Swearing in general has lost a little of its impact, with popular prime-time shows often laden with unbeeped expletives.

    However, such shifts are generational and we’re not quite there yet – I’m sure that even in the UK, where some would have you believe that people just call each other cunts over the dinner table, it’s actually still not acceptable in everyday discourse. So I’d suggest to the defenders of the c-bomb to pull your fucking heads in – at least while your mum’s around.

  250. screechymonkey says

    sugarfrosted @315,

    I think the main reason why this gotcha attempt fails is that as far as I can tell, neither PZ nor anyone else here is claiming that the standard is “never say or do anything that offends anyone.”

    Rather, the standard is (1) do your best to be aware of when you’re giving offense; (2) intent isn’t magic — the fact that you don’t intend to give offense doesn’t mean that the behavior is fine; and (3) give serious consideration to whether whatever you’re trying to accomplish is worth giving offense.

    In the case of the host, PZ knew that some people would be offended by what he was doing. He didn’t whine and evade and disingenuously claim that he didn’t mean to offend anyone. He explained his reasons for doing so and argued that it was justified. Whether you agreed with that or not, he owned what he was doing.

    The people defending the use of the c-word are implicitly saying that their need to use that specific word to insult someone outweighs the offense that it gives. That’s an argument that I find pretty dubious, especially given that they simultaneously claim that the word is just another generic insult, which ought to mean it has plenty of adequate substitutes. (“It’s just like saying asshole or shithead or fucker!” “Ok, then could you please use one of those instead?” “NO! It’s vitally important that I use this particular word instead of its totally equivalent alternatives!”)

  251. says

    How is this any different to PZ desecrating a host? Should he have not done that because it offended a whole lot of people? Is it really not possible that it’s ok to say to someone “You are wrong to be offended by that”?

    Because it’s a fucking wafer, not Jesus’ pinkie toe, and he did so in response to some thin-skinned extremist arseholes who thought some kid who stole a similar wafer deserved to be threatened with violence and death.

    And I don’t think PZ was saying “you are wrong to be offended”; he was saying “Threatening to harm someone over a stolen wafer is a ridiculous response to being offended. Here, have some more offense – and fucking come at me.”

    And yep, I say “fuck” a lot. Yep, it’s a swear-word. But it’s not gendered, ableist, sexist – it’s an equal-opportunity expletive. It’s also incredibly versatile.

  252. dotton says

    Please explain why c*nt is such a “sacred cow” , as opposed to t*at, pri*ck or numerous other similar expletives.

    Thankyou.

  253. anbheal says

    I just read the comment thread at Ophelia’s write-up, and again, I cannot help but comparing the defenses to N-word apologists. Particular the Scottish or British women who say “hey I use it all the time, at dudes, hence no sexism”. As in white American guys defending N-word usage by saying, “hey, I use it all the time with white people, I greet my buddies with “hey, mah n**gah”, so I’m not using it in a racist way.”

    And then all of the folks from this or that region of England or Scotland who claim it’s just a generic regional insult or non-insult: sure, everyone you hang out with in Alabama or Mississippi might say the n-word, in a variety of contexts, with a variety of intents, and some black people may say it all the time as well, in various non-insulting contexts, sometimes referring to white people (“d’yeh hear what that n**gah Rush Limbaugh said today???”), has absolutely no bearing on the issue of whether it’s a hateful word. So what if you and your friends have said it your whole lives: just stop saying it. It’s really not so hard. If your girlfriend enjoys the reference during bedroom escapades, sure, indulge her. If you wish to discuss the word in its sociological and linguistic contexts, as we’re doing here, then carry on. The phoneme isn’t banned. Just stop using it so casually, all intent aside. Because to do so is insulting. You know it, everybody is telling you it, so why not just evolve?

    I used the f*g word reasonably freely until about 1985. Younger and smarter people told me it wasn’t cool. I stopped. Never once did it occur to me to suggest in my defense that in some parts of England it means cigarette. So just grow up and reduce your usage until the point where it’s eliminated in contexts where it might be offensive. Then evolve to reduce and eliminate its usage ever where it doesn’t offend, as in, among all your asshole friends who still use it. What’s so fucking hard about that?

  254. says

    Dolton,

    C*nt is a sexist insult. Tw*t is a sexist insult. Pr*ck is a sexist insult, although as it’s aimed at the unfairly-dominant half of society, some might feel it’s better as it’s “punching up.” Others (probably most here) don’t feel that way and hate the usage of all three equally.

    if you seriously think tw*t doesn’t get called out as sexist, you’re not paying attention.

  255. says

    You have to love how so many defenders of c*nt bring up “intent,” as if that had any bearing whatsoever. What that defense really is, is just another way to shift blame. “Oh, you were offended at my use of offensive, gendered language? Well, there must be something wrong with you then, because dearie me, I never intended to be offensive!”

  256. says

    I do think that a lot of the reaction here is due to objections to “Yanksplaining” – “Yanks trying to tell us how to use our own damn language”.

    I once heard an American earnestly telling a Brit, in a pub in England, that they should use “African-American” instead of “black-” though the person being referred to was was also British.

    At a Narnia website inhabited by mostly teenage American Christians there was consternation when it was discovered that C.S. Lewis actually used the term “ass”- it was explained that “arse/ass” traditionally have different meanings in BritE, bit it was decided that Lewis was wrong and that not only British people should stop using this but that forthcoming versions of the book or movie should censor it.

    As far as usage, in my experience (Canadian), the c-word was sometimes used as a term of straight insult, exactly the same as ‘dick’ or ‘p**ck’ (not sure what gets though the filter). If I said of someone : “He/She is being a real c*** about this” the meaning is “obnoxious” with no connotations of weakness.

    OTOH, “you dumb c***” ” can either mean “you stupid pr***k” (non-sexist in intent) or “you stupid cow” (sexist).

    Like the B-word. “She/He is a real bitch” is referring to someone who is strong (while someone can be a d*** or a p**** without the added meaning of “someone you should be careful of” )

    The use of the word as a reference to weakness- “I’m gonna make you my bitch” ; “I’m CEO,bitches”- strikes me as distinctly American. (Whereas someone who is ‘bitchy’ is whiny- it is a slur at female weakness.)

    (I only recently realised I’d been misunderstanding the term ‘bitch-slap’. I interpreted it as a powerful open-handed blow, stronger than a regular slap- a slap from a mean bitch, not a slap given to a weak bitch.)

  257. chigau (違う) says

    Sometimes I regret that we retired the porcupine.
    ah well
    .
    lymie #324
    Bless your heart.

  258. screechymonkey says

    Concerned troll is concerned.

    It’s always amusing when someone goes to the effort of creating new sockpuppets just to repeat the same shitty argument.

  259. says

    Because it’s easier than being… you know… FUNNY.

    Yes, that’s sad – because invective is an art-form if it’s used correctly and creatively.

  260. says

    Australian here: “c unt” is an insult here, and yes, we do often use insults as terms of affection. They don’t need to be in the dictionary as such. That apples to all insults. And as a term of affection, it’s not something you could use to a stranger, so that’s no excuse.

    It is also an *extreme* insult: a word that is still not allowed on TV even where “fuck” is just fine after 9pm, and “bugger” is weak tea and fine for children. As such, the word is more used by the lower classes (don’t let anyone tell you we’re a classless society.)

    Its usage here is similar to the British, in that it’s more often used to refer to men than to women. Comedian Catherine Deveny uses it to refer to herself which is mildly shocking, not least for that gender-crossing edge. And duh, of course it’s sexist. Devs can call herself a c unt or a bitch or whatever she wants, as she’s in the group being denigrated. It’s like n igger in that respect.

  261. says

    Bummer, I had an explanation of Australian usage but my filter-avoiding must have failed. It will turn up later possible. In short: sexist duh; used mostly British style to refer to men rather than women.

    Also insults are much used as signs of affection, but that’s no excuse. You don’t get to be affectionate that way to strangers, which leaves them just being insults.

  262. says

    @331 Alethea: me too – I didn’t realise there was a filter in place until after I’d posted. Sigh!

    I’ll follow your lead with a summary of my comment:

    1. I grew up in country South Australia where “c-” was a common insult and later a compliment (exclusively toward and amongst males); once aware of the demeaning aspect I stopped using it. It’s not rocket surgery, FFS.

    2. Usage/meaning of “c-” might change to the point where it no longer has the impact it does now (like “bastard”), but such changes are often long-term and we aren’t there yet. So, y’know, maybe don’t use it. Again, it’s not brain science.

  263. atheistblog says

    Fuck, when should we stop saying Fuck ? It has all the bad sexist, racist, homophobic, all kind of meaning, just often comes from even PZ’s mouth too, how many times in this blog PZ wrote FUCK you ? You know ‘fuckable’ is an adverb and sexist word, so PZ is guilty here, he used FUCK word often.
    I am so offended by the word FUCK. I don’t wanna fucking heard the word FUCK from PZ on this blog anymore, otherwise PZ is a Fucking Fuckable Fucker.
    So when you looking into things without contest, and pick up on tiny bits on culture, there is nothing gonna stop you from anything. And I don’t like the word FUCK, how many times Opheila also used FUCK you ? Are you gonna double down on me because I don’t like FUCK word, and call me names insinuate and speculate about my sexuality and desire just because I don’t like the word FUCK ?
    I just don’t want to hear the word FUCK from you, no justification, just no more FUCK. I think PZ used M!@@###FUCKING word as well. That offended me as well. Verdict is PZ is Guilty.

  264. says

    It’s like Saint George said (and I’m paraphrasing, here) — There are no good words or bad words. It’s all about the thoughts and ideas that are attached to the word.

    To expand on that a bit, if “c*nt” was associated with some other non-gender-specific body part, it’d probably be fine. (“Knock it off, you elbow!”) It’s the association — and this is done both individually and on a societal level — the association of female genitals (or more broadly, genitals in general) with being “dirty”, “bad”, “sinful”, naughty, and so on, both current and historical, and the historical and ongoing oppression of women for being women, well… “c*nt” ends up having a lot of weight and power behind it that can really hurt even if you don’t mean it to.

    And that, rather than any inherent quality in the word itself, is why it’s in the same pile as f*gg*t, n*gg*r, and other such slurs.

  265. chigau (違う) says

    atheistblog
    If you were to provide a link to your blog, I’m sure alot of people would go there to chat with you.
    Really.
    You are really interesting.
    Really.

  266. says

    atheistblog, if you need the difference between the f-word and the c-word explained to you, especially this late in the thread where it’s already been covered numerous times (including the bit where it’s more than just about taking personal offence), you’re either too fucking thick to get it, too fucking lazy to bother or are here with a transparent fucking agenda and be dismissed. So fuck the fucking fuckety fuckballs the fuck off, for fucks McFucking sake.

  267. allegro says

    When I’m pissed, my language could make the proverbial sailor blush. It takes a lot to offend me. In fact, I can’t think of any other word that does besides the word in question. When I hear or see it, my reaction is visceral, a gut punch, and the person whose mouth it comes out of is reduced to the lowest of the low. I have more respect for dog shit since that has some value in fertilizing the soil and feeding the worms.

  268. nomadiq says

    I’m with Lymie @ 327. Next time I hear someone say the word “Fanny” I’m going to have to go ape-shit explaining how sexist and derogatory that word is, regardless of how it was used. Because in my culture, where I grew up, holly fuck is that offensive (hint: it doesn’t mean arse or ass to me). Not many things are as offensive. Only ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ comes close. But oddly enough no one I knew ever used the word ‘cunt’ to mean a pejorative with respect to women until I moved to the US. Then the word ‘cunt’ was _redefined_ for me when I first watched “American Beauty”. I had to accept this new usage and understand under what context it was offensive for one group or another. Yes, a word was redefined for me – dramatically. I guess redefining can happen.

    Words are funny things. How they are used _does_ matter. Context _does_ matter. I think about this every time I eat couscous or go the growl. Don’t know what I am talking about? You and your inability to understand my unique cultural context is clearly rooted in the head.

  269. Fukuda says

    @michaelnewshaw

    If I said of someone : “He/She is being a real [c word] about this” the meaning is “obnoxious” with no connotations of weakness.

    So, identifying female genitals with obnoxiousness isn’t sexist. Ehm…

    Like the [b word]. “She/He is a real [redacted]” is referring to someone who is strong (while someone can be a [d wprd] or a [p word] without the added meaning of “someone you should be careful of” )

    More like being dangerous and mean, rather than strong I’d say. Hardly positive connotations either.

    A word doesn’t need to imply weakness in order to be sexist. It’s associating female genitalia with overall negative and disgusting things and concepts after all.

  270. Rey Fox says

    atheistblog should be banned for constant inspid drive-by commenting. In my opinion anyway.

  271. says

    I know the guy has up and left, and that I’m repeating Louis’s metaphor here, but…

    @manocheese #153:

    If my intent is not sexist and I am not aware of any sexist connotations it is logically impossible for me to be a sexist just for using that word.

    If my intent is not to step on your foot and I am not aware of the placement of your foot, it is logically impossible for me to cause you pain just by stepping on your foot.

    That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about people causing splash damage through use of words that they’ve never thought about the implications of. Intentional or not, you’re contributing to a general cultural bias that it’s bad to be a woman, or woman-like, or be something associated with women.

    If I am a decent person and I unintentionally step on someone’s foot, my proper response is to say “oh, I’m sorry, I’ll watch where I’m stepping next time.” Only an asshole says “well, if you wore kind of shoes I’ve always worn, it wouldn’t hurt” or “it didn’t hurt me” or “I’ve stepped on lots of other people’s feet and they never said it hurt” or “you shouldn’t be yelling at me, I didn’t mean it” or “I have the right to step wherever I want and if you get hurt it’s not my problem.” Intent matters, but it isn’t magic, and it isn’t an analgesic either.

    Your “knowledge of the future” comment is ludicrous. No, what it takes is knowledge of the present, knowledge of what a word means before you use it. Do you routinely use words without knowing what they mean? At best, such a practice often leads to looking foolish (see also the former US President who wrote about “lacerates” running down his cheek), at worst, it leads to this sort of thing. Being aware of the connotations of a word doesn’t require magical precognition, but access to a decent dictionary.

    It’s true, there are almost certainly pockets of culture where any given slur is used without regard to the problems it represents. I know a lot of high schoolers who don’t give a second thought to what a certain homophobic f-word means until someone reads them the riot act about it. I was almost an adult before I learned what it really meant to “gyp” someone, and I’m sure there are still places down south (and elsewhere) that think nothing of a wide variety of slurs against black people. Doesn’t make the words any less racist or powerful, it just means there are communities where flagrant, open bigotry goes unchallenged and has no consequences, as it is such a default assumption that no one even thinks to question it. That doesn’t obviate the problem, it is the problem.

    My grandmother assured me that the n-word was derived from “ignorant,” and thus could be used against anyone and wasn’t actually racist. Fail to see how (aside from the false folk etymology) that’s a whole lot different than what we’re seeing here.

    @macha #258:

    Same goes for that word describing violent rape …

    fuck

    .. why draw the line?

    Speaking of false folk etymologies, this one seems to be assuming the “for unlawful carnal knowledge” canard. The actual history of the word is more interesting, and less contrived–and has fuck-all to do with violent rape.

  272. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Jafafa Hots, #324:

    Don’t waste your breath. The odds that Dotton (322) = david9, krishnan, etc. are pretty high.

  273. Anri says

    I have to wonder if the defense of sexist insults is a lot like the results of surveys in which men will say they’d be willing to rape a woman – so long as you don’t actually use the word “rape”.

    It seems to go something like this:
    1) I am, by definition, a Good Person.
    2) A Good Person cannot be sexist.
    3) I use the term c*nt.
    4) Therefore, Good People can use the word c*nt.
    5) Therefore, c*nt cannot be sexist.

    Similar to:
    1) I am, by definition, a Good Person.
    2) A Good Person cannot be a rapist.
    3) I am willing to have sex with someone when they are blacked-out drunk.
    4) Therefore, Good People can be willing to have sex with someone when they are blacked-out drunk.
    5) Therefore, doing so cannot be rape.

    Am I reading too much into this?

  274. Anri says

    Also, atheistblog @ 334:

    I know you’re not capable of hanging around and defending your posts (I Wonder Why!), but here goes:

    The reason that c*nt is offensive – to a certain kind of person – is not that it’s icky. It’s because it’s sexist. And certain kinda of people don’t like sexist things because, y’see, they believe sexist practices are bad. You are, of course, free to disagree.

    To demonstrate the equivalence of your (let’s be honest here – utterly affected) umbrage at the word ‘fuck’ and the dislike of the word c*nt by people who don’t care for sexism, all you have to do is show that ‘fuck’ is a gendered insult – for example by pointing out that only women, or only men, can fuck.

    Good luck with that.

  275. mirrorfield says

    @Goodbye Enemy Janine
    To insult a woman, slightly differently though equally powerfully, you… Well, question her femininity and sexuality. Possibly suggest that her mammae are underdeveloped, followed by insinuation of sexual deviancy resulting from unattractively masculine appearance.

    Sexual dimorphism is a fact that’s eminently usable in insulting someone. Sexism, pretended or serious, is also highly useful, but despite obvious connections a separate source of insult.

  276. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    ….you wanted to drive Brits crazy?

    Why not just spell things like they’re pronounced? O.o

  277. says

    What I learned today: British intent is magic
    What else: In a world in which about one billion people are competent speakers of English, everybody should heed the magical British intent when somebody from some regions of the UK uses a word. It’s theirs, forever*
    Even more: In order to completely derail the thread we get “but in other languages the etymological equivalent of n***** is a totally OK word, therefore argument”**

    *Maybe we should make them give back all the words they took from other languages, or force them to use them in the sense they are currently used in those speech communities.
    **I haven’t found the argument yet. What I’ve found is a complete lack of any understanding about linguistics

  278. says

    Sexism is a separate thing from sexual dimorphism when it comes to insults? Man, people really reach for the bottom of the barrel when trying to justify this bullshit.

  279. Louis says

    Azkyroth,

    ….you wanted to drive Brits crazy?

    Why not just spell things like they’re pronounced? O.o

    YOU GO TOO FAR!!!!!!!

    Louis

  280. jefrir says

    Azkyroth,

    ….you wanted to drive Brits crazy?

    Why not just spell things like they’re pronounced? O.o

    YOU GO TOO FAR!!!!!!!

    Louis

    It’s okay, they won’t really do it. I mean, if you were going to spell “colour” the way it was pronounced you’d spell it something like “coluh”. Silly Americans got rid of the wrong letter.

  281. throwaway says

    During mirrorfield’s most recent babbling, they used this phrasing:

    unattractively masculine appearance

    It’s casual slips like this that cause me to no longer wonder how they truly feel about women with a ‘masculine’ appearance.

  282. throwaway says

    mirrorfield: When does a ‘masculine appearance’ on a woman become unattractive, just so I can let all my lady-friends at the gym know when they need to stop lifting heavy shit over their heads and go have some babies?

  283. zenlike says

    I see Mirrorfield is continuing their streak to prove to us that, yes, conservatives are indeed a-holes.

  284. azhael says

    I just wanted to say that i think swearing is an art, i love it and i think it makes life better. I come from an area where you meassure the degree of intimacy and friendliness with other people by how vicious and vile the shit you say to them is. Context is fucking everything* and words are completely* stripped of their capacity to offend, insult or be perceived as aggressive. I can say horrible things to people i love and there is no chance whatsoever that any of them would take even the slightest offense.
    This means i have a very high tolerance for insults…and it’s usually not enough to use words that are supossed to be insulting, in order to cause offense, entonation, intent and context are crucial. It’s typically much easier to insult me with “normal” words than with insults.

    I still wouldn’t be so delusional as to say that there is absolutely nothing sexist about using a word for genitals as a pejorative.

    *except not quite. The words still mean what they mean, it’s just that their meaning is not relevant in certain contexts. You don’t use the word for its meaning, but for emphasis, shock value or as a general exclamation.

  285. azhael says

    Oh, forgot to mention that while in my social circles, what i described above is the case, it doesn’t magically translate to any other context. I learned that when i moved away to college and my displays of familiarity and friendliness were met with “what the fuck did you just call me?”. Intent only works when people are familiar enough with you to understand what that intent is. In a place like the internet i would say that intent is generally pretty useless. It’s definitely not this magical thing that unambiguously dictates to others how they are to perceive certain words and that if it fails, it needs only be invoked to make it all ok.

  286. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    To be fair to mirrorfield, I didn’t perceive them to be saying that masculine appearance is unattractive when evidenced by a woman. I perceived mirrorfield to be saying that **if you wish to insult a woman** then a successful approach might be singling out aspects of that appearance that could be considered more male or more masculine, calling attention to those aspects, and suggesting that those aspects are then a source of unattractiveness and that they are sufficient to render the woman unattractive in net.

    This is in no way to defend mirrorfield’s daft assertion that it is possible to apply human manichaeism to sexual polymorphism to achieve a pair of binary and oppositional categories entirely independent of sexism.

  287. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Context is fucking everything

    Well, then: I really need more context in my life.

  288. says

    Its been interesting but I’m off to a working class East End pub now, where I will no doubt describe the landlord who has just tried to give me 2 weeks notice (I have explained the law to him) to leave a flat that I’ve furnished over the last 2 years, as “a c-t”.

    My audience will mainly be the kind of working class women, of the various nationalities and sexualities which make up the 10th most deprived borough of the UK, and that live the kinds of oppressed lives that Orphelia Benson makes a living theorising about.

    I’ll bring this discussion to the table as is often my practice with contentious FB topics (yes they do see me as a little odd), that American feminists believe they should stop using “the c-bomb” because the American feminists believe it to be a gendered insult.

    I’ll return with their response but don’t be surprised if it starts with C and end with S!

  289. says

    Danny Butts

    My audience will mainly be the kind of working class women,…

    Say no more! You found some women who agree with you, therefore all the other women are wrong.
    And it’s just such a novel argument, it’s not like we ever heard it before, I’m totally convinced!

  290. carlie says

    All hail Danny Butts, who carouses with working class women! Because none of us have ever been near the working class, as all Americans, (especially liberals, and most especially feminists, and most most especially feminists on the internet), are wealthy beyond measure and so safely ensconced in our bubbles of comfort and privilege that we have nothing better to do than to natter on about language in an esoteric way that is of course not at all related to the real lives of real people! Nay, we understand not the language of the common people, and are so pretentious and highfalutin’ that we are unconnected with the real world. But forsooth, Danny Butts shall be our intermediary, the one who speaks the truth to us and sets us straight in our ways!

  291. Gregory Greenwood says

    Louis @ 350;

    YOU GO TOO FAR!!!!!!!

    Seconded – there are some things no Britisher can abide. In the stereotypical vernacular of our transatlantic cousins, ‘them’s be fightin’ words’…

  292. Gregory Greenwood says

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy @ 311;

    I see your point, but all too often I encounter people who use the term in the presence of Americans, where the phrase has a very different connotation, and who then become incredibly defensive when it causes offence. Rather than behaving reasonably, and avoiding the use of the term when in the company of people who find it offensive, they act as if the use of the term is a fundamental human right that must never be abrogated under any circumstances.

    I obvioulsy can’t say with certainty, but I also get the impression that many of them are fully aware of the connotations that ‘f*g’ has in the US, and use it in the presence of people who they know full well will consider the term bigoted with the intent to elicit that reaction, and then attempt to hide behind the different meaning attached to the term in some parts of the UK in order to pretend that it was all an innocent misunderstanding, or to imply that the offended party is being ‘oversensitive’ or want to ‘censor’ other people, or even is some sort of ‘militant homosexual activist’.

    That kind of attitude, that seeks to hide behind cultural difference in order to express bigotry with relative impunity, is all too common among some of my fellow Brits, and is the exact same mentality that lies behind claims that ‘c**nt’ is not sexist in the UK when it manifestly is.

  293. Rey Fox says

    I’m in a real crisis right now. Somebody needs to restore my previous high estimation of British people because right now, they’re starting to seem like, well, a right load of tossers.

    Context is fucking everything

    Ah, didn’t you get the memo, azhael? The PC Police has banned the c-word in any and all contexts spoken to any and all people, on penalty of being forever labeled a Sexist and sentenced to hard labor in the quinoa mines. That’s what happened to manocheese.

  294. opposablethumbs says

    Sadly, Rey Fox, the proportion of tossers among British people is probably just as high as it is among USAnians or indeed any other nationality ;-)
    (though I cling to the illusion that the proportion of tossers may be slightly lower in Scandinavian countries, and suspect that it is probably even higher in theocracies and other countries where religious fanaticism and/or cult-of-personality runs rampant)

  295. Gregory Greenwood says

    Rey Fox @ 367;

    I’m in a real crisis right now. Somebody needs to restore my previous high estimation of British people because right now, they’re starting to seem like, well, a right load of tossers.

    As a Brit, let me invite you to live in our green and pleasant land for a month or two – I guarantee it will permenantly cure you of any misplaced high opinion of British people as a group. Just like anywhere else, we have our fair share of bigots and arsehats of every description, as has always been the case.

  296. azhael says

    @367, 361

    Hmmm…i must have failed at expressing what i was trying to say, even with the asterisk that you both omitted. Quotemining, much?
    I was describing a very specific situation in which context actually IS everything for the individuals involved. It was not a generalization to every situation as i had hoped my other post had made clear.
    My point is that i understand all those people saying that context and intent can strip a word of its meaning and i agree, it most definitely can, but it doesn’t mean that it always does or that it works for everybody.
    As i described earlier i can say the most horrible things to my friends and none of them would ever take any offense whatsoever, but when i’ve said similar things (much milder to be fair) in different contexts, i got very different responses, i got people gasping, wide-eyed and taking offense at my words. This was an important lesson: intent only works when it’s fully understood by everybody involved.

    I like swear words, and in particular i think the word c*nt rolls of the tongue..it just sounds great and has a punch to it that works great, BUT i completely understand that using a word for genitalia as a pejorative is always intrinsically sexist. I may like the sound of the word, but you might have noticed that i don’t use it. I try hard not to use the word as an insult (i have nothing against the word as a synonim for vulva) even though i acquired a habit of doing so by immitating british people like a parrot (which works for learning languages). Incidentally i’m trying to correct my tendency to use “dick” as an insult too.

  297. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @azhael, 370:

    c*nt rolls off the tongue

    This thread …

    … Yeah.

  298. azhael says

    Well , yeah…it does. It’s a strong monosylabic like “fuck” and “cock”. Are you saying now that the word itself is bad? Obviously not. So there is nothing wrong about the word and there is nothing wrong about finding its sharp, strong sound appealing). What’s wrong is using it as a sexist pejorative, which it is regardless of intent (intent only allows you to ignore the sexist connotation, but it’s still there).

  299. nich says

    @azhael:

    Hmmm…i must have failed at expressing what i was trying to say, even with the asterisk that you both omitted. Quotemining, much?

    You can’t seriously accuse somebody of quote-mining for failing to include your footnotes. This is a comments thread, not a textbook. Either say what you mean up front or don’t say it at all.

    I think the word c*nt rolls of the tongue..it just sounds great and has a punch to it that works great…

    Did you read the OP? How does saying that help at all, even with your asterisks and caveats? Learning that you can rip on your precious little friends using misogynistic language without consequences or that you think that word has punch (no fuckin’ duh) just raises hackles. Were we discussing the n word, I doubt you would bog the thread down with pointless commentary on the aesthetics of its vowels and consonants.

  300. mohkohn says

    The C-Word? You mean ‘the most offensive word in the English language’? According to a British TV programme?
    Germaine Greer on the c-word in British history

  301. nich says

    Well , yeah…it does. It’s a strong monosylabic like “fuck” and “cock”. Are you saying now that the word itself is bad? Obviously not.

    Are you attempting to make Maki Naro’s Twitter feed or something?

  302. azhael says

    Learning that you can rip on your precious little friends using misogynistic language without consequences or

    I’m spanish….do you seriously think i call my friends “c*nts”?
    The bit about how i can say anything to my circle of friends was to illustrate that i understand the objection that others have made that yes, within certain contexts insults can loose all of their aggresive power and not be ofensive at all, even, in certain circumstances, when it is understood and agreed by all parties, loose their racist/sexist/homophobic connotations. That doesn’t mean that you can then extrapolate that to any situation or that from then on those words have lost their meaning.
    The other bit about how i like the sound of the word was to illustrate that even if i do, i don’t think it’s an acceptable word to use as a pejorative unless it is agreed by all parties that it is, which is technically possible and also happens with other slurs (african americans using n*gger in music and towards each other, homosexuals using f*g among them…), but doesn’t in any way make it acceptable outside of those contexts.

    You think my commentaries are pointless but i made them precisely with the intention of addressing the people who claim it is ok to use that word as a pejorative because the way they use it is non-sexist, or it’s a cultural thing, etc…that even if i agree that there are differences in cultural perceptions towards swear words and insults, that different contexts can significantly modify the offensive power of a word and even if i happen to find the sound of the word rather appealling, it changes nothing in terms of the word being unambiguously sexist when used as an insult.

    And no, i didn’t necessarily expect to be quoted including my footnote, but deliverately quoting without the asterisk seemed slightly malicious to me. Regardless i have clearly failed to express myself.

  303. azhael says

    Oh, and forgot to add that i don’t rip on my precious little friends using misogynistic language. I rip on them using a large variety of expletives, but not sexist ones. I also don’t use homophobic ones, racist ones and i’m working on getting used to avoiding ableist and ageist ones too, but cultural habits are hard to change.

  304. says

    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- and carlie at 363 and 364

    you have almost managed to convince me that feminism doesn’t need intersectionality.

    almost.

  305. Zeppelin says

    Azkyroth: Speling things the wei their pronaunst is triki for inglish, biicoez inglish speling iz veri inkonsistent änd daz not teik daielekt intu ekkaunt. Not tu mentshn the fäkt thät inglish hes wei moor vauels then the faiv thät the letin älfäbet provaidz, so yu wud niid ä bansh of ekstra leters.

    (Ken yu tel Ei em tränskraibing british inglish?)

  306. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Trying to pit women against other women using class is what you’re doing Danny Butts, you do not know a thing about intersectionality (did you have to look that up?). Using religion is also a way to divide and conquer women, see “Dear Muslima” by Prof. R. Dawkins.
    I’m sure I’m poorer than you and carlie and Gillell combined, but I wouldn’t use that as a silencing tactic or to try to shame other women into accepting that it’s perfectly fine to call a woman a c*nt. (otherwise, you are anti-intersectionality!!)
    But apparently you can do that, and feel all self-righteous about it, because you know some working-class women. I am poor and the daughter of immigrants, I know a lot of working class and poor women, does that trump your opinion on everything?

  307. throwaway says

    Intersectionality plays no part because there is no need to determine which demographic has the most valid complaints (or determination of acceptability) with regard to the way a word affects perceptions of women as a whole. Given that this is not something that you claim would affect the women you claim to be in association with by the claim of their own admission, you cannot then claim intersectionality to negate and ignore any negative impact the word has for other women. That’s the mark of a truly non-intersectional person, and it’s no wonder that you fell into your own tiger pit. Must be an anti-feminist asshole, then? Must.

  308. throwaway says

    Poorly worded on my part. Here’s a more succinct way of putting it: Danny – you cannot claim someone is being non-intersectional when there is no harm being disregarded. You are a disingenuous or ignorant arse for asserting such and using your poorly grasped understanding of ideas within feminism. Fuck off.

  309. jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says

    After reading this thread, I get the weird sense I just watched a Guy Ritchie film.

  310. neko says

    pz et al:

    I’m a professional linguist. Here are some facts from our world that are relevant:

    1. Words change meaning over time.

    2. Words can mean different things in different places.

    It therefore follows that cunt does not have to mean the same thing to all people. Some good examples of words that at one time referred to female anatomy that have lost that association are orchid and orchestra. It is, of course, completely fine to use these words without risk of offense.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the UK and it’s clear that for many there the word cunt has indeed lost some of the sexist connotations it has for us. That said, there are many brits who find it offensive as well. So my take is that while words generally can change their meanings to such an extent that what was once offensive can cease to be and what was once innocent can become offensive, cunt is still pretty offensive for lots of people, and certainly for Americans. If the language of your site is American English, it would seem quite reasonable to exclude it.

    mike

  311. Al Dente says

    jrfdeux, mode d’emploi @383

    After reading this thread, I get the weird sense I just watched a Guy Ritchie film.

    Nobody got killed and Madonna didn’t make an appearance.

  312. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    I was almost an adult before I learned what it really meant to “gyp” someone, and I’m sure there are still places down south (and elsewhere) that think nothing of a wide variety of slurs against black people. Doesn’t make the words any less racist or powerful, it just means there are communities where flagrant, open bigotry goes unchallenged and has no consequences, as it is such a default assumption that no one even thinks to question it. That doesn’t obviate the problem, it is the problem.

    Weird. Where I come from ‘gyp’ means servants’ quarters that you have to use for yourself since you don’t have servants anymore; this being the second half of the 20th century. Of course, this is also the idiosyncratic English elite university usage. I can’t speak to ‘Brit’ usage. Nor ‘British’ usage (and those of us using the gyp rooms were not just British but international).

  313. says

    @cm’s changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) #385:

    Weird. Where I come from ‘gyp’ means servants’ quarters that you have to use for yourself since you don’t have servants anymore; this being the second half of the 20th century. Of course, this is also the idiosyncratic English elite university usage.

    I’m not familiar with that version of the word. I was speaking of “gyp” as a verb, meaning to swindle or cheat, derived from a shortening of “gypsy.”

  314. Paul Brown says

    @384, niko …

    On a rather awkward visit to my GP, I discovered that the standard measure of testicle size is “orchid”. And the gear used to do the assessment was an “orchidometer”.

    *shifty eyes*

    And NO. I am not telling …

  315. Suido says

    # 201 Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

    manocheese @ 175

    No it hasn’t. I have said repeatedly that I am not defending the right to keep saying it or denied that it is used as a sexist word.

    You at comment 5:

    it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism.

    You at comment 19:

    If the idea behind ‘cunt’ was to infer that a man was womanly and that womanliness was the insulting part, then it would be sexist. But that is not the inference,

    You at comment 29:

    We have other words that are use as “you are womanly” intent as an insult and I am saying that this is not one of those words.

    You at comment 51:

    This has a lot to do with my point that these swear words come from their taboo nature, rather than a gender bias.

    Liar.

    QFFT. How convenient that you flounced at #197 (with accusations of hypocrisy) rather than address your own lies and goal post shifting.

    Manocheese at comment 94

    If you can’t discuss this properly, I see no point in continuing.

    I really hope you’re lurking, and can see how dishonest you’ve been in this thread. What’s worse in “proper” discussion – lies or insults?

    And finally, from comment #157:

    I spend all my time watching what I say, confronting others for saying the wrong thing and thinking about how I use language. Coincidentally, I’d spent a few hours this week thinking about the word “pussy” and how I wish there was a swear word that wasn’t sexist for people who were cowardly. I was thinking about other sexist words and this one just didn’t come up.

    Time not very well spent, it seems, given your inability to make a cogent argument on the subject and defend it. As for whether you spent ‘hours’ trying to think of abusive synonyms for cowardly, that’s ridiculous. It takes 3 minutes and an online thesaurus to investigate the possible options.

    Chickenshit.

    That was easy. You really aren’t as clever as you think, and you’ve been exposed as a liar. There’s only one way you’re going to be respected here, and that’s by admitting you fucked up multiple times in this thread. It’s not too late.

  316. Suido says

    # 201 Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm

    manocheese @ 175

    No it hasn’t. I have said repeatedly that I am not defending the right to keep saying it or denied that it is used as a sexist word.

    You at comment 5:

    it doesn’t carry any historical connotations of sexism.

    You at comment 19:

    If the idea behind ‘c*nt’ was to infer that a man was womanly and that womanliness was the insulting part, then it would be sexist. But that is not the inference,

    You at comment 29:

    We have other words that are use as “you are womanly” intent as an insult and I am saying that this is not one of those words.

    You at comment 51:

    This has a lot to do with my point that these swear words come from their taboo nature, rather than a gender bias.

    Liar.

    QFFT. How convenient that you flounced at #197 (with accusations of hypocrisy) rather than address your own lies and goal post shifting.

    Manocheese at comment 94

    If you can’t discuss this properly, I see no point in continuing.

    I really hope you’re lurking, and can see how dishonest you’ve been in this thread. What’s worse in “proper” discussion – lies or insults?

    And finally, from comment #157:

    I spend all my time watching what I say, confronting others for saying the wrong thing and thinking about how I use language. Coincidentally, I’d spent a few hours this week thinking about the word “pussy” and how I wish there was a swear word that wasn’t sexist for people who were cowardly. I was thinking about other sexist words and this one just didn’t come up.

    Time not very well spent, it seems, given your inability to make a cogent argument on the subject and defend it. As for whether you spent ‘hours’ trying to think of abusive synonyms for cowardly, that’s ridiculous. It takes 3 minutes and an online thesaurus to investigate the possible options.

    Chickenshit.

    That was easy. You really aren’t as clever as you think, and you’ve been exposed as a liar. There’s only one way you’re going to be respected here, and that’s by admitting you fucked up multiple times in this thread. It’s not too late.

  317. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    Gypsy? Hmm.

    I was almost an adult before I learned what it really meant to “gyp” someone, and I’m sure there are still places down south (and elsewhere) that think nothing of a wide variety of slurs against black people. Doesn’t make the words any less racist or powerful, it just means there are communities where flagrant, open bigotry goes unchallenged and has no consequences, as it is such a default assumption that no one even thinks to question it.

    [...]

    I’m not familiar with that version of the word. I was speaking of “gyp” as a verb, meaning to swindle or cheat, derived from a shortening of “gypsy.”

    So if I made a cup of tea in the gyp room it would not be a slur against … gypsies? black people?

    Or, perhaps, that in different places, different people mean different things by the words they use and that those words are perhaps not offensive in ways other people find them?

  318. Owlglass says

    I have no opinion on the matter (and I am no Brit), however don’t find the arguments very convincing when social justice enthusiasts can’t even produce an internally consistent line of reasoning. Such issues always come across as extremly important and — we learn— only terrible people would ever disagree. But then it takes about 30 seconds to find counterexamples within the very same camp, suggesting that such extremely important matters are actually controversial. They just don’t seem to be, since “internal” disputes are hardly, if ever, made a topic. Why not? It’s probably easier to ask in-house blogger Ally Fogg why he uses the insult, and have him write up a reply than being outraged over Ricky Gervais who will unlikely follow up on it. Neither Ophelia Benson, nor PZ Myers have to look very far. Ally Fogg’s example is only from the day before Ophelia Benson wrote her blog post and it can’t be considered unreasonable to expect that such inhouse examples be included, and discussed, too.

    Ally Fogg wrote on May 8th: I swear a lot, including calling people cunts (note to US-based readers, where I grew up we pretty much use that word as a punctuation mark.)

    Technically, this is only a mention and not a use, which is a Very Important Difference as some philosophers maintain, but we can believe Ally Fogg that he also uses it, and examples can be googled up easily.

    Then we have this blog’s comment section, which prides itself of its rude language. Tone trolling is generally frowned upon. An appeal to civility isn’t even consistent with the general style of this comment section…

    PZ Myers wrote (in 69): [...] You know what civilized people do when told that their common phrases are offensive to a lot of people they don’t actually intend to insult? They stop using them.

    (emphasis mine)

    A day before this blog post, on May 9th, Sarah Moglia expressed a rather typical social justice opinion, and it’s all in the headline: Fuck your Civility Bullshit. That’s not an unheard sentiment among this parts. Her article is otherwise bereft of substance: one can express bad ideas without insults, who knew? (it remains mysterious how insults somehow improve one’s opinons). What is it now? Is civility something to strive for? Should we stop using insults and phrases which are “offensive to a lot of people [we] don’t actually intend to insult”. How do we determine that? We may know it about some phrases and insults, and “cunt” is clear by now. But how about, for example “stupid”? Even though a group (no other than your allies from Atheism Plus) finds the use of the word “stupid” clearly upsetting…

    Rebecca Watson declares: [...] There is currently a, er, lively discussion happening in the comments of Surly Amy and Elyse’s DDoS Valentine post over the use of words like “stupid” and “idiot” to describe people who are ignorant. A few commenters are arguing that those words are triggering for people with mental disabilities and so they should not be used.

    I disagree, and as of right now I’m content allowing words like “stupid” to continue to be used across the Skepchick Network. I might consider requesting that writers include a content note at the top of posts that contain that language, but I’m still not really sure it’s necessary at this point. [...]

    Rebecca Watson would have to maintain that she’s unsure whether it’s “necessary at this point” to consider the feelings of some groups, who might be unintentionally hurt by such terms. That’s from mid-February, hardly in the distant past. Once more, there is really no need to turn to some outgroup and make examples with them, when there is plenty of material among friends and allies. Is there a possibility to take all this information in, and produce a coherent piece on how to deal with the situation? Is “cunt” more hurtful to unintentional targets of the insult than is “stupid” or “idiot” (“moron”, “retard”and so on), and how do you know?

    It has to be an internally consistent view across many different individuals, because it’s always Serious Business™ when someone from the outgroup is caught red handed. Such individuals are quickly labeled and it is attempted to block, ban, remove, ostracize, made a pariah. Hence there is a strong impression that this is ultimately about ingroup community standards and shibboleths with next to no substance otherwise. “Cunt” is just a very known negative identifier.

    There are some final observations: a) insults are meant to be insulting and hitting just the right target with surgical precision is usually of lesser importance, if it’s important at all. The only inhibiting factor is that insults also say a lot about the person using the insult but when the meaning is different in other communities, it is entirely pointless to expect that someone adheres to “what looks good” in your particular community. The additional damage may be even desireable. The whole point of using an insult is to have it an effect, and declaring foul play is just tone trolling. b) the meaning of words is negotiated by communities, and they might come out with different meanings, or connotations for same words. This allowes others, where “cunt” has not the same connotation, to use it risk free among their peers, since it does not give off dubious opinions of the user of the insult in their community, but it angers people in the next community even more. That makes the insult even more attractive, especially when the target community isn’t well regarded anyway c) words that were created to signify medical conditions which are apparently undesireable in discussions, such as “stupidity”, will be subject to the Euphemism Treatmill. The problem is not the term but that some conditions are undesireable, hence the term “retard” is not better or worse than “stupid”or “moron”, “lacking wit”, having “problems with reading comphrension” and so forth.

  319. carlie says

    From Merriam-Webster:

    Definition of GYP

    1 British : a college servant
    Origin of GYP

    probably short for gypsy
    First Known Use: 1750

    Where I come from ‘gyp’ means servants’ quarters that you have to use for yourself since you don’t have servants anymore; this being the second half of the 20th century. Of course, this is also the idiosyncratic English elite university usage.

    You don’t see any connection between “a college servant” (British) with etymology from “gypsy”, and servant’s quarters specifically in an English university context?

  320. Suido says

    @neko #384

    Some good examples of words that at one time referred to female anatomy that have lost that association are orchid and orchestra. It is, of course, completely fine to use these words without risk of offense.

    Consider me unimpressed at your linguistic skills if you think that orkhis refers to female genitalia. Or perhaps it’s your biological knowledge that’s lacking?

    You’re right though, after more than 2000 years and numerous translations and appropriations since the original language, it’s not surprising that orchids and orchestras don’t make people think of testicles. However, c*nt is different. It doesn’t have a convoluted etymology, it has a very simple, singular definition, which has then been appropriated as a slur. Unless you’d care to provide another definition, which is completely separated from its origins?

    As a dual passport holding Australian/English citizen, I reject the notion that adults in either country are unaware of the offensiveness. Many have normalised their use of the term, but that doesn’t change the fact that they know it’s offensive, and will moderate their language when meeting new people (especially women they hope to impress), in job interviews, on TV/radio, etc. This moderation is universal in my experience, in both countries.

  321. throwaway says

    Sometimes I hear people use the word “jewed” instead of “gypped”. Do any of the defenders of “c*nt” feel like “jewed” is also just another of those words whose meaning is not relevant to the source of its power? Yes, your intent isn’t to disparage all Jews as money-grubbing shysters. Anyone can plainly see that you were meaning only to refer to that one specific person as a money-grubbing shyster and not perpetuate the negative stereotype which lends its full weight behind the word.

    It is the exact same principle for the word “c*nt”. This isn’t hard.

  322. throwaway says

    Anyone can plainly see that you were meaning only to refer to that one specific person as a money-grubbing shyster and not perpetuate the negative stereotype which lends its full weight behind the word. But there is still that pesky knock-on effect of perpetuating a negative association with a class of people historically on the outside of society.

    Small addition for clarity and to make the connection more explicit.

  323. Merlin says

    This is an odd thread. I wonder if the next point of argument will be that p*ssy is not a gendered slur either. D*ck, however, is because it insults male anatomy and that is not OK. Maybe after that, some of these rhetorical contortionists will defend the position that the sun actually rises in the east and sets in the west, that down is actually up and up actually down.

  324. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    From Merriam-Webster:

    Definition of GYP

    1 British : a college servant
    Origin of GYP

    probably short for gypsy
    First Known Use: 1750
    [...]

    You don’t see any connection between “a college servant” (British) with etymology from “gypsy”, and servant’s quarters specifically in an English university context?

    Curiously, no. From my COED:

    gyp² n. Brit 2 a college servant at Cambridge and Durham [perh. f. obs. gippo scullion, orig. a man's short tunic, f. obs.F jupeau]

  325. says

    neko

    It therefore follows that cunt does not have to mean the same thing to all people.

    1. So all the British people here from all over that place who testified that it is indeed sexist are simply wrong?
    2. Is there a place where, if I said “I want some d*ck in my c*nt” somebody would have to ask for clarification because they would totally not understand what I’m saying?

    As a linguist, if you indeed are one, you should be aware that just because something is generally true about words and languages is true for one specific example.

  326. ChasCPeterson says

    c*nt rolls off the tongue

    Try a bit more pressure, and perhaps a rotary motion.
    hth

  327. azhael says

    @384 neko

    1. Words change meaning over time.

    2. Words can mean different things in different places.

    This reminded of a South Park episode where the word “f*g” is completely redefined. The same thing has been happening where i live. The words “maricón” and “marica” are strongly homophobic slurs equivalent to “f*ggot”. Their use with that meaning has declined a lot as the spanish culture has changed (it’s not disappeared, mind). They have now been reassigned new meanings and are used as roughly synonimous with “coward” and here in particular they are used as part of expressions of astonishment and admiration, much the same way as when you see someone do something mazing and you go “son of a bitch….”. In their new usages, the context is clearly different, the intent is also clearly different and they have lost the strong offensive power they used to have. However, they haven’t lost their meaning entirely and what people fail to understand is that the ofensive meaning is very much still there.
    When they use it as a synonim of “coward” what they are in fact doing is implying that cowardice is a quality of the soft and unmanly. When they use it in an expression of astonishment, it is given a possitive spin, where the pejorative is flipped 180º to become a compliment. However the trick is in the expression, not in the meaning of the word. It works the same and it is in fact used with pretty much any other expletive or pejorative. The word continues to mean what it means, but because of the possitive spin of the expression people fail to recognize it. When used as a synonim of coward, they fail to recognize it is offensive because it’s not directed at gay men and its meaning is now different, completely missing the connection between the two meanings.
    I have the exact same problem trying to tell people that the way they use those words, despite the new contexts and the crystal clear intent, is still very much offensive, that you are having here with c*nt.

  328. birgerjohansson says

    Hmm… an effect of male privilege is that “prick” “schmuck” and “putz” are not necessarily gendered insults.
    Personally, for those who want OT or sharia law I would prefer “coprolith” . Even if that is unfair to dinosaurs.

  329. carlie says

    Ok, so there are two etymologies for the word “gyp”. Knowing now that one of them is a long-time ethnic slur that is still in current use as said slur, do you think that it would make you a good person to carefully explain to a Roma friend that you don’t mean any harm by it because of its alternate etymology, so will continue to use it in their presence?

  330. Sophacle says

    This is a really interesting discussion. I thought I’d just add a slice from my particular cultural background. Australian, working class. I said the word when I was younger a lot (late teen, early twenties) because it was the vernacular of my group of friends. Now I say it almost never. Culturally, among working class Australians, (trades, etc.) it’s very common. Usually the context is basically people. Can you cunts help me out with this. He’s a good cunt. Etc.

    Sometime my girlfriend calls me it, sometimes I call her it. We understand each other, and know that the offensive nature of the word plays into our particular sense of humour. But I wouldn’t use it around people I didn’t know VERY well, and completely understood that they were okay with it in context. And I think that’s the important thing about this kind of word. To say it only works culturally is fine, if you only use it around people who explicitly understand how you’re using it. And to defend using it in situations in which it might possibly offend people is pretty shitty, considering the inherently sexist nature of the word.

    I’ve also been to Glasgow, and heard the way it’s used there, which is even more relaxed than it’s used here. But again, a word being used within the confines of a particular cultural environment is different to it being defended in general.

  331. Remster says

    Folks

    There seems to be no doubt that ‘c*nt’ is a word that many British people find offensive and many American people find doubly offensive (possibly the converse holds for the word ‘sp*z’). For me this is reason enough for handling the word with care and for avoiding it altogether in most situations. However, I’d like to ask a few questions about why it’s offensive in British English, without intending to question whether it’s offensive.

    1. In British English, the difference between ‘c*nt’, ‘pr*ck’, ‘tw*t’, ‘c*ck’, ‘d*ck’ and ‘f*nny’ is one of degree, not of kind. They can all be used to express contempt towards a person. Why is ‘c*nt’ the most taboo of all these words?

    2. In British English, ‘f*cker’ is roughly equivalent to ‘c*nt’ in its ability to express contempt, but there’s no implication that people who have sex are contemptible. Why do we think there’s an implication that (people who have) vaginas are contemptible?

    3. I’ve no idea whether the female-specific words (‘c*nt’, ‘tw*t’ and ‘f*nny’ ) have ever been used to advantage men over women. Have we any evidence of this?

    I’ve looked through the thread but not found any answers to these questions (except perhaps for a few speculative ones).

    Remster

  332. jefrir says

    In British English, the difference between ‘c*nt’, ‘pr*ck’, ‘tw*t’, ‘c*ck’, ‘d*ck’ and ‘f*nny’ is one of degree, not of kind.

    This is not quite true; “fanny” is not generally used as an insult. Instead, it is the childish term used for the vulva, equivalent to “willy” or “peepee” for the penis.

  333. procrastinatorordinaire says

    @401 Remster

    My understanding of this issue is that the power of the c word is derived not directly from what it describes, but its vulgarity. It has long been considered one of the most vulgar words in the English language, if not the most. The power of the insult lies in the shock value of its use, and here in the UK it is used indiscriminately for men and women, but usually reserved for those special occasions when you really want to express your displeasure.

    Though you are literally calling someone by a term which describes the female genital organs, what you are really saying is that the only way to describe them is by using the most vulgar word in the English language.

  334. says

    atheistblog @335:

    Fuck, when should we stop saying Fuck ? It has all the bad sexist, racist, homophobic, all kind of meaning, just often comes from even PZ’s mouth too, how many times in this blog PZ wrote FUCK you ?

    Fuck is racist?
    Fuck is sexist?
    Fuck is homophobic?
    That’s news to me. It’s probably too much to ask you to explain yourself.

    ****

    Danny Butts @362:

    I’ll return with their response [...]

    Don’t bother. Like the sockpuppeting troll and nohellbelowus you have nothing of value to contribute to this thread.

    ****
    neko @384:

    That said, there are many brits who find it offensive as well. So my take is that while words generally can change their meanings to such an extent that what was once offensive can cease to be and what was once innocent can become offensive, cunt is still pretty offensive for lots of people, and certainly for Americans. If the language of your site is American English, it would seem quite reasonable to exclude it.

    Um, what if the language of a site is British English? Is it ok to allow the use of the word, despite the fact that-as you mention-many people across the pond consider it offensive as well?

  335. says

    What ‘drives me crazy’ is being called a Brit. I am English. Welsh and Scottish people also prefer to refer to themselves as such. On the whole us Brits prefer to refer to the country we are from.

    My interpretation of the use of the word ‘cunt’ as mostly a slur against men IS TOTALLY that it is misogynist abuse! It is saying that you are so disgusting/ pathetic/ whatever, that you, as a man., are like a lady part.

  336. carlie says

    Though you are literally calling someone by a term which describes the female genital organs, what you are really saying is that the only way to describe them is by using the most vulgar word in the English language.

    And why is it the most vulgar of the words?

  337. eveningchaos says

    The term “pussy” was not originally a sexist term. It is a shortened form of “pusillanimous” meaning lacking courage and resolution, but I guess now it has been redefined to refer to women’s genitals. Is this word inherently sexist now, or is society ignorant of the actual root of the word?

  338. throwaway says

    The term “pussy” was not originally a sexist term. It is a shortened form of “pusillanimous” meaning lacking courage and resolution, but I guess now it has been redefined to refer to women’s genitals. Is this word inherently sexist now, or is society ignorant of the actual root of the word?

    Yes, it is sexist to use the term “pussy” in a derogatory way to either emasculate or imply cowardice strictly because it has the modern association with the symbol of womanhood. And about that etymological source of “pusillanimous”: that’s a post-hoc folk etymology.

  339. eveningchaos says

    @408
    Thanks, I wasn’t aware that it was reverse engineered to reflect that meaning.

  340. eveningchaos says

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy #409
    I was misinformed. I should have looked further into the etymology. Thanks.

  341. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    And what do you wish to convey about the person the word is directed at?

    Nice try but no cigar. What if the answer is “affection” (“c’mere you soppy c—t and give us a hug”)?

    That’s the crux of the argument!

    Yes, intent’s not magic. It is, however, real. And words’ usage changes over time.

    And why is it the most vulgar of the words?

    Because (along with ‘arse’ and ‘fuck’, with which it started out commonplace, and which all became vulgar during the Victorian era) it is the last to be normalised. And it is being normalised, it really is. Honestly! (Which is why there’s this argument.)

    [FTR, it's not a word I use; I have nothing to defend here. I just ... linguistics.]

    Ok, so there are two etymologies for the word “gyp”.

    Three, actually! There’s also “bloody arthritis, my knees are giving me gyp”. Now if my hypothetical Roma friends actually complained about using the term, obviously, I wouldn’t. But they haven’t.

    But, by this measure, there are any number of words that have been used as slurs, like ‘flit’ and ‘scope’. Are they essentially homophobic and ablist, respectively?

  342. auden says

    I agree that c*nt is an offensive word (though as stated above it does not have the same sexist connotations, it is just considered vulgar).

    However I don’t agree with the implication that because it is offensive in one place for one reason (particularly America), it should automatically be considered offensive everywhere, to do so would just be arrogant (taking an ethnocentric position that your culture and use of language is superior to everyone else).

    For example, it is only by reading the comments here that I have found out that twat is considered to be horribly offensive in some parts, where I live it is about as mild an admonishment for stupid behaviour as you can get. Similarly bugger when taken literally as an insult has negative connotations towards gay people, but the common usage here is so utterly detached from this original meaning that it is again only considered a very mild insult/expletive. To illustrate how mild both these are locally, my parents/extended family have been calling me and my brother a silly bugger/tw*t whenever we have done something foolish for as long as I can remember, and the closest I’ve heard any of that generation come to actually using a proper swear word is “balls”.

    Tl;dr : I consider c*nt to be an offensive word but a cultural context is important, suggesting that word usage in another country is wrong because of the negative connotations it has for you is also offensive and pretty arrogant.

  343. procrastinatorordinaire says

    @405 carlie

    And why is it the most vulgar of the words?

    I presume it is related to the fact that talk about genitalia has for long been a taboo. That is then compounded by the beautiful, guttural brutality of the word itself.

    @406 Tony!

    And what do you wish to convey about the person the word is directed at?

    Used in anger, it’s the nuclear option. The weapon of last resort. Your opinion of the other person is so low that you don’t care how they react. Once you have hit that level, either the other walks away or it gets physical. Here in the UK, you don’t call someone a c*nt unless you really mean to make them mad.

  344. twas brillig (stevem) says

    The simple fact that the c word often refers to a female body part should remove it from ever being used as an insult (or a derogatory slur). Same with male anatomy parts. Ethnocentricity complicates usage immeasurably,
    Regardless of whether some ethnicities consider it offensive, or inoffensive, the fact that it is the word for a feature of a particular sex, means; that it should not be used offensively. Don’t worry about whether somewhere some culture finds some particular word to be an anatomical label of one sex only. The rule, proposed, is not Americans can’t use this word to an English because Americans find it offensive. Not the reverse: that it is okay to use it in Britain cuz Britons use it all the time, so just because you’re American and Americans find it offensive, go ahead and use it in Britain (only). Nor worry that: this word I’m about to use to insult you is used by Koreans to describe female buttocks, so I better not use it here in France. What’s wrong with sticking to anatomical features that both sexes possess using your native language? [why insult with anatomical features anyway, except "a$$hole"; that seem ubiquitous and asexual ;-| ]

  345. twas brillig (stevem) says

    ahem … cough … just asking ^_^ ::: I have always been curious about the origination of the c*nt word. The only thing I can postulate is that is short for “cunnilinguist” –> cun’t (that’s why it refers to ‘that part’ of the female anatomy) o_O

  346. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    A grizzled don, when challenged about his use of big words, famously said ‘send the fuckers to a dictionary’ ;-)

    My COED:

    cunt n. coarse slang … [Middle English, from Germanic]

    (It has a Wikipedia page, too, you know!)

  347. procrastinatorordinaire says

    @416 twas brillig (stevem)

    Cunnus was the Latin word for the vulva. C*nt comes to the English language from its Germanic roots, and its origins are likely much older than Latin.

  348. says

    cm:

    Nice try but no cigar. What if the answer is “affection” (“c’mere you soppy c—t and give us a hug”)?

    I was under the impression that procrastinatorordinaire’s comment:

    My understanding of this issue is that the power of the c word is derived not directly from what it describes, but its vulgarity. It has long been considered one of the most vulgar words in the English language, if not the most. The power of the insult lies in the shock value of its use, and here in the UK it is used indiscriminately for men and women, but usually reserved for those special occasions when you really want to express your displeasure.

    Though you are literally calling someone by a term which describes the female genital organs, what you are really saying is that the only way to describe them is by using the most vulgar word in the English language.

    was about using c–t as an insult, not as a term of affection. Their response @414 appears to support that.

    Because (along with ‘arse’ and ‘fuck’, with which it started out commonplace, and which all became vulgar during the Victorian era) it is the last to be normalised.

    I don’t think this answers the question of why the word is vulgar.

    ****

    procrastinatorordinaire @414:

    Used in anger, it’s the nuclear option. The weapon of last resort. Your opinion of the other person is so low that you don’t care how they react. Once you have hit that level, either the other walks away or it gets physical. Here in the UK, you don’t call someone a c*nt unless you really mean to make them mad.

    So the ultimate insult is also a slang term for a woman’s vagina? I have a huge problem with that.

  349. procrastinatorordinaire says

    So the ultimate insult is also a slang term for a woman’s vagina? I have a huge problem with that.

    As Germaine Greer points out in the video above, you just called a woman’s c~unt a scabbard or sheath for a sword (vagina). The vagina is also just one part of the c~nt. You are saying that a woman’s c~nt is just a receptacle for a manly sword. No problems with that?

    It is the sound of the word combined with its vulgarity which makes it so powerful, not its literal meaning. If it meant some unmentionable part of the male anatomy, or a donkey’s anatomy, it would still have the same effect.

  350. jenny6833a says

    Dear People of Whatever Gender: You’re making massive mountains out of miniscule molehills.

    It’s just a word. Sneer a little, shrug, and move on. If sneering and shrugging seem like too much effort, just move on.

    “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words ….”

    Jebus Crisp!

  351. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    Tony!

    cm [...] I was under the impression that procrastinatorordinaire’s comment: [...] was about using c–t as an insult, not as a term of affection.

    It was! But that was posted after I posted #412, so I wasn’t responding to it.

    *confuzzled*

    My point is that people do use the word in non-insulting ways. To say that that usage is inherently mysogynistic seems to me a little strange. *shrug*

    procrastinatorordinaire:

    Here in the UK, you don’t call someone a c*nt unless you really mean to make them mad.

    My claim is that, in certain parts of the country, and primarily amongst younger people, this claim is no longer true. Hence the argument. :-)

  352. says

    As Germaine Greer points out in the video above, you just called a woman’s c~unt a scabbard or sheath for a sword (vagina). The vagina is also just one part of the c~nt. You are saying that a woman’s c~nt is just a receptacle for a manly sword. No problems with that?

    If someone were to use vagina as an insult (which I’ve heard before), I’d have a problem with that too. That’s not what I did.

    It is the sound of the word combined with its vulgarity which makes it so powerful, not its literal meaning. If it meant some unmentionable part of the male anatomy, or a donkey’s anatomy, it would still have the same effect.

    How do you know that? When it is used as an insult, how do you know it’s divorced (somehow) from its literal meaning?
    Also, what makes the word vulgar?

    (incidentally, I second Inaji’s suggestion to read Jack Holland’s book. It is incredibly relevant to this thread.)

  353. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    And, finally (for now):

    This is a subject which fills books, and has a word all of its own: what you have been reading is a brief outline of English scatolinguistics. One of the things which becomes clear is that usage varies widely from country to country, and within countries. In one place a word may be a term of affection, in another a clear and direct term of abuse. And these words provide a potted social history of the speakers of the English Language. However, used appropriately and with panache, many people feel that these words actually add depth, colour and a sense of regional variation to the English language.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-london/plain/A753527

  354. says

    Dear jenny6833a:

    It’s just a word. Sneer a little, shrug, and move on. If sneering and shrugging seem like too much effort, just move on.

    “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words ….”

    Women are oppressed the world over and this word is one more thing that adds to that oppression. And you think “let it roll off your back” is somehow the response to misogyny.

    Do you tell gay people to “let it roll off your back” when someone refers to them by a homophobic slur? As a gay man, I sure as fuck don’t do that. Such words are demeaning and marginalizing.

    Do you tell black people to “let it roll off your back” when someone refers to them by the N* word? That word is one more piece of the oppression that blacks continue to face in the US.

    What about other slurs? Are you perfectly fine telling trans* people to “let it roll off your back” when a bigot hurls slurs their way?
    Do you tell First Nations people to “let it roll off your back” when they get offended by the continued use of Washington Red****s?

    Why don’t you just fuck right off instead of telling people how they should react to being oppressed and dehumanized, you pissant. Given everything I’ve read from you, I’d love it if you never came back.

  355. procrastinatorordinaire says

    @422 cm

    My claim is that, in certain parts of the country, and primarily amongst younger people, this claim is no longer true. Hence the argument. :-)

    I did start the paragraph you quoted with the proviso “used in anger”. I was specifically talking about the use of the word as an invective and not referring to its use in other circumstances. As you rightly pointed out, it can even be used as a term of endearment or respect.

    It is possible that among the young it is far more common and has lost some of its venom, but I don’t get out that much any more :)

  356. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    Jack Holland’s book

    Ah!

    Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice, by Jack Holland (who was Irish).

    Ad hominem, I know, but he was also quite fond of police brutality (see: Phoenix: Policing the Shadows).

    C*nt is covered in the introduction.

    Not really. From what I’ve read here (haven’t bought the book), it’s asserted–correctly, for the time–that it was the most taboo word. But there’s no explanation of why, nor about why that might have changed since.

  357. says

    cm:

    Not really. From what I’ve read here (haven’t bought the book), it’s asserted–correctly, for the time–that it was the most taboo word. But there’s no explanation of why, nor about why that might have changed since.

    I haven’t finished the book, but what I have read deals more with the word as a misogynistic insult, not as a taboo word.

  358. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    (Of course, since Jack Holland died, I shouldn’t really expect him to comment on modern developments.)

    À bientôt.

  359. chigau (違う) says

    jenny6833a #431
    You are a fuckingidiot.
    Never mind, cupcake.
    It’s just a word.

  360. Suido says

    @jenny6833a #447

    She ignored the chaf and focussed on her goals.

    How do you know she didn’t react react angrily behind closed doors? How do you know that media framing of her story didn’t cause her to stress over her choices in life? If you can’t provide evidence for your opinion, it sounds like you’re making shit up to fulfill you preferred narrative, and your respect for the truth is similar to your cavalier approach to spelling. Good job.

    Most of y’all focus on the chaf while letting goals go unserved.

    Oh look! More bullshit! Unless you’d care to list the diverse personal goals of the pharyngula commentariat, and explain how they’ve been neglected?

  361. says

    jenny:

    She ignored the chaf and focussed on her goals.

    Most of y’all focus on the chaf while letting goals go unserved.

    :-)

    What the ever loving FUCK do you know about how people here focus their time? Please, tell me, how can you determine-from comments on a blog-what *anyone* here does to further their goals. You assume too much, based on too little, while minimizing the harm done by the use of bigoted slurs. You’re a piece of work.

  362. nohellbelowus says

    @Tony #410:

    Like the sockpuppeting troll and nohellbelowus you have nothing of value to contribute to this thread…”

    Oh ouch. Until someone quantifies auditory “splash damage” all this thread has truly accomplished is to make the horde look like a bunch of hypocritical nitwits trying to tone-troll the entire world.

    Insulting a fellow human ‘properly’ is an ‘art form’ ? This is what passes muster as a knock-down argument in here? Allow me to fart in your general direction. Anybody truly interested in social justice would avoid insults in every possible context (to eradicate ‘splash damage’ completely).

    Insulting people from behind a computer screen isn’t art. In fact, it’s rather boring in 2014. You Pharyngula inmates need a new schtick.

  363. Suido says

    @nohellbelowus #446

    Until someone quantifies auditory “splash damage”

    Assuming you mean explains rather than quantifies:

    C*nt is the most vulgar insult, therefore c*nts must be worse than every other taboo body part. If c*nts are the worst body part, c*nt owners are inferior to non-c*nt owners. Every time the word c*nt is used in a pejorative manner, this idea is reinforced to everyone that hears it, not just the intended target.

    Auditory splash damage in a nutshell. That was easy.

    Assuming you actually meant quantifies:
    5% of US voters, or approximately 10,000,000 people, would not vote for a generally well-qualified candidate who also happened to be a woman. And that’s just the ones who are honest about their bigotry.

  364. says

    “Assuming you actually meant quantifies:
    5% of US voters, or approximately 10,000,000 people, would not vote for a generally well-qualified candidate who also happened to be a woman. And that’s just the ones who are honest about their bigotry.”

    And that’s *your problem*!

    So why are you language policing two countries, UK and Australia that have both managed to elect a woman prime minister?

    Why is it so hard for you , when some prick dudebro uses the “British defense”, for you to point out that they aren’t actually British, that the have no idea how the British use the word, and therefore trying to defend using the word in a British context makes them look somewhat of a c*nt?

  365. azhael says

    @448 Danny

    Why is it so hard for you , when some prick dudebro uses the “British defense”, for you to point out that they aren’t actually British, that the have no idea how the British use the word, and therefore trying to defend using the word in a British context makes them look somewhat of a c*nt?

    I bet you think that was so clever, don’t you? Yeaah…you do….
    You continue to miss the point that the British usage, despite the dramatic difference in cultural perception, the difference in context and intent, is STILL objectionable because it continues to be a sexist slur when used as an insult. You don’t get to hide behind the other alternative uses to pretend that when you use it as a pejorative (which continues to happen), you are not using a sexist slur. That should be pretty fucking easy to understand.

  366. azhael says

    I missed the opportunity to point out that you defeated yourself because you do in fact supply an excellent example of the word being used as a pejorative right there in your own post. But yeah…you are a clever one…

  367. Remster says

    @jefrir #407
    This is not quite true; “fanny” is not generally used as an insult.
    I certainly hear ‘fanny’ used to insult people (‘You stupid fanny’) but not, I’d agree, commonly. People aren’t that kind.

  368. Remster says

    @Suido #447

    C*nt is the most vulgar insult, therefore c*nts must be worse than every other taboo body part.

    This doesn’t follow at all. ‘F*ck(er)’ is more vulgar than ‘b*gger’ in British English, but as far as I know vaginal sex has never been considered more vulgar than anal sex.

  369. Remster says

    @twas brillig (stevem) #422
    @Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop! #434

    As far as I can tell, the subject of this thread isn’t whether the word ‘c*nt’ is vulgar, or whether it’s offensive, but whether it’s sexist. As I commented in #406, in British English it’s the most vulgar and offensive of a range of words that also includes ‘pr*ck’, ‘tw*t’, ‘c*ck’, ‘d*ck’ and ‘f*nny’. It’s too much of a leap to infer that this is because the vagina is considered to be the most vulgar body part, because (a) the least vulgar word in that list refers to the same body part, and (b) ‘f*ck’ is more vulgar than ‘b*gger’ and yet f*cking isn’t considered to be more vulgar than b*ggery.

    On the other hand, if the objection is simply that the most vulgar word refers specifically to a female body part – irrespective of any implications about its merits relative to the equivalent male body part – perhaps we could solve the problem by adopting the compound vulgarities ‘c*ntpr*ck’ and ‘tw*tc*ck’. Nondiscriminatory and fun.

  370. Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^= says

    453, Remster,

    You really think that abuse hurled at trans* people is “Nondiscriminatory and fun”?

    Think again.

  371. opposablethumbs says

    Don’t you just love it when some silly arse like jenny6833a shows up – somebody whose only “contribution” to a conversation is to say “you shouldn’t be having this conversation (you should be doing some other kind of approved-by-me thing)”?

  372. says

    “you shouldn’t be having this conversation (you should be doing some other kind of approved-by-me thing)”?

    is exactly what the British and Australians are fucking pointing out the American middle class feminists are doing.

  373. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    you shouldn’t be having this conversation (you should be doing some other kind of approved-by-me thing)”?

    is exactly what the British and Australians are fucking pointing out the American middle class feminists are doing.

    This might be one of the worst attempts at a tu quoque ever.

  374. says

    “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words ….”

    Words, when used over and over again in a certain pattern by a certain set of people, deployed to dehumanize another set of people, can serve as a far more effective cultural signal that violence against women is acceptable than outright statements that violence against women is acceptable. Which is why I try to avoid the word “bitch,” which is harder to do than avoiding “tranny” or “n~igger”, because culturally sanctioned contempt for women is so ubiquitous as to be unnoticeable in this culture. Generally speaking, I think it’s a good idea to avoid words which are likely to be the last thing a woman (or trans person or person of color) hears before enduring a physical attack just for being who they are.

    “you shouldn’t be having this conversation (you should be doing some other kind of approved-by-me thing)”?

    is exactly what the British and Australians are fucking pointing out the American middle class feminists are doing.

    1. I highly doubt that all your American critics here are middle class. I’m certainly not. I may have been middle class for a few years when I was a teenager, after my mom went back to work…

    2. Middle class people are always wrong about stuff? What the fuck sort of argument is this? Lower class men get a pass on being sexist because they’re poor? As the daughter and sister and friend of many working class men, I reject that reasoning.

    3. I believe it’s not so much “don’t have that conversation” as it is “if you’re going to insult someone, consider finding some other way to do it besides comparing them to a piece of anatomy which I possess and you don’t, and which also happens to mark me as a member of a marginalized class that is targeted for sexual violence.”

  375. azhael says

    @457 Danny

    Are you seriously going to pretend that people complaining about others using a sexist slur as a pejorative is the same as someone saying “i have no personal interest in something therefore anyone who does is wasting their time and being a poopyhead” ?

    What exactly is it about using “c*nt” as a pejorative that is so important to you?

  376. says

    Anyway, I’m curious about what psychic powers allowed Danny to identify all his critics in his defense of “c~unt” as both American and middle class.

    I’m also curious as to why class is relevant. Yeah, I saw Ally Fogg’s piece. So what? As the daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker of a number of working class men, I reject the premise that they should get a special pass on being sexist because they’re poor.

    Also, it’s not so much “don’t have that conversation” as it is “if you want to insult someone, how about you find something besides my vulva, which is a.) awesome b.) underappreciated and b.) the signifier in this culture that I’m marginalized and targeted for sexual violence just by dint of having one, to compare the worst of the worst to? If it’s not too much trouble.”

  377. Remster says

    I’m not sure anyone has yet explained in what sense of ‘sexist’ the word ‘c*nt’ is sexist (as used in British English). I’m not denying that it is; I’m just not seeing it yet.

  378. opposablethumbs says

    Danny Butts, you could always try reading for comprehension some time – it’ll feel strange to you at first, being a new experience and all, but it’s worth it!
    sincerely,
    Not an American middle class feminist
    PS I had no idea people who are simultaneously USAnian, middle class and feminist were disqualified from discussing sexism on the internet. Who knew?
    PPS you do realise that even if that were hypothetically the case, for some mysterious pulled-out-of-your-arse reason, there are still a fuck of a lot of people here who would not be ruled out?

  379. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @Remster

    I’m not sure anyone has yet explained in what sense of ‘sexist’ the word ‘c*nt’ is sexist (as used in British English). I’m not denying that it is; I’m just not seeing it yet.

    The word is used in a number of ways in British English – including reference to female sexual organs.
    Having female sexual organs is most of the time correlated to identifying as a woman.

    Now, given these two facts – could you in your own words possibly formulate a reason why a synonym for female sexual organs possibly could be an insult directed at a male-identifying person?

  380. says

    I actually rather like the word c~unt and use it to refer to my vulva occasionally, often during sex, but also when just discussing sex and/or bodies and health among friends. I’d like to have the word back please, and since it refers to a part of my body and not Danny’s (or 98% of the defenders of its use as an insult–haven’t heard from any UK women so far, have we?) I think it’s only fair.

  381. Remster says

    @Gnumann

    The word is used in a number of ways in British English – including reference to female sexual organs.
    Having female sexual organs is most of the time correlated to identifying as a woman.

    Not one that isn’t rendered doubtful by other considerations. Go on, help out a thick Brit.

    (Point of info: the word in question isn’t directed solely at male-identifying people.)

  382. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @Remster
    Not one that isn’t rendered doubtful by other considerations. Go on, help out a thick Brit.

    Words often have different meaning dependent on the recipient. And the classical British Defence includes a line or two to the effect that “this can’t possibly be sexist since I only direct it at my blokes”.

    So, my limitation towards the male-identifying is merely a small step towards helping the answer to become more clear to you. There are other constellations with other answers (though none that doesn’t end in sex-negative misogyny).

    Though I’m getting more a wibe of defensiveness on behalf of your own internalized patriarchy than honest inquiry from you, so frankly – I can’t be arsed to educate you. If you’re willing to think and learn you’ve been given the tools you need several times in this thread. And I’ve no need to give somebody a hand that just wants to JAQ off.

  383. procrastinatorordinaire says

    Now, given these two facts – could you in your own words possibly formulate a reason why a synonym for female sexual organs possibly could be an insult directed at a male-identifying person?

    You are telling them that they could only be described by the most obscene word in the language.

    If the literal meaning of the word was significant, shouldn’t you be able to substitute any other synonym for female genitalia into the phrase to achieve the same effect?

    >> I can’t believe he did that, what a vulva!

    >> Watch out for Harry, he’s a vicious fanny!

    Doesn’t really work, does it?

  384. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @procrastinatorordinaire

    Doesn’t really work, does it?

    And those words see regular use as word for sexual organs (outside academic and medical texts?).

    Does British 13-year old boys say “show us your vulva” when they’re sexually harrassing their female-identified peers? Does anybody say “I wanna lick your fanny” during sexual intercourse?

    Those words doesn’t work as insults because they’re not a part of everyday language. There’s no emotional resonance connected to the words.

    Calling a boy “girl” though – that works wonders as a misogynistic insult.

  385. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @procrastinatorextraordinaire #269

    If the literal meaning of the word was significant, shouldn’t you be able to substitute any other synonym for female genitalia into the phrase to achieve the same effect?

    >> I can’t believe he did that, what a vulva!

    >> Watch out for Harry, he’s a vicious fanny!

    Do you think the meaning of those phrases has been substantially changed by replacing the C-word with other synonyms for vagina? Because they haven’t. And I’m a Brit.

    I suppose you could argue that the former has a slightly different meaning, in so far as vulva are a specific part of the whole (pun not intended), but it’s not a substantive difference. It’s the difference between calling someone a “dick” and a “bellend”. The connotations are different, sure, if only because linguistic convention has ranked those words as more and less offensive. But the actual meaning of the phrase is not substantially different.

  386. Remster says

    @Gnumann

    If you’ve made up your mind about my motives on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, there’s probably not a lot I can do to convince you otherwise, so I’ll ignore the bile and carry on regardless. Just for the record, I’m not defending the use of the word – I agree it should be avoided in contexts in which it’s liable to upset or otherwise harm people.

    I’ve read through the thread only once, so I apologise if I’ve missed anything significant, but there seem to me to be two patterns of argument:

    1. Since ‘c*nt’ is used to mean both ‘vagina’ and ‘contemptible person’, the implication is that vaginas or people with vaginas are contemptible.
    There isn’t this implication at all. ‘F*cker’ is used to mean both ‘person who has sex’ and ‘contemptible person’, but there’s no implication that sex or people who have sex are contemptible.

    2. Since ‘c*nt’ is worse than the closest words that refer to male genitalia (e.g. ‘pr*ck’, d*ck’ and ‘c*ck’), the implication is that vaginas or people with vaginas are worse than male genitalia or people with male genitalia.
    There isn’t this implication either. ‘F*ck’ is worse than ‘b*gger’, but there’s no implication that vaginal sex is worse than anal sex.

  387. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    Ach! Above is directed at procrastinatorordinaire’s comment at #469. My apologies.

  388. Remster says

    @ Thumper

    It’s the difference between calling someone a “dick” and a “bellend”. The connotations are different, sure, if only because linguistic convention has ranked those words as more and less offensive. But the actual meaning of the phrase is not substantially different.
    That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? What makes ‘fanny’ a bit naughty and ‘c*nt’ really bad must be to do with something other than attitudes to what they refer to, since they refer to the same thing.

  389. says

    That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? What makes ‘fanny’ a bit naughty and ‘c*nt’ really bad must be to do with something other than attitudes to what they refer to, since they refer to the same thing.

    It could be something other than sexism. Yes. There is, theoretically speaking, a 0.004% chance (approximately) that insulting people (men or women) by comparing them to women or to characteristics that are thought to define women is an act that owes nothing whatsoever to the centuries-long history of denigration and disenfranchisement of women in our society.

    Do you have a compelling theory as to what that other thing besides sexism might be? Something so powerfully explanatory that it doesn’t just add to the sexism hypothesis but renders it completely irrelevant?

    Go ahead then.

  390. Remster says

    In fact, just ignore #474, which is patent cack. I need to go back to bed.

  391. Remster says

    @SallyStrange

    I’ve metaphorically withdrawn the post you quoted, but your post addresses my other posts too, so I’ll take it from there.

    Do you have a compelling theory as to what that other thing besides sexism might be? Something so powerfully explanatory that it doesn’t just add to the sexism hypothesis but renders it completely irrelevant?
    No, I don’t have a theory to explain why ‘fanny’ is a bit naughty and ‘c*nt’ is really bad. But my lacking a theory in no way serves to support (what seems to me at the moment to be) your faulty theory. See my #472. If you can dispose of the points I make in that post – it might be really easy, I don’t know – then your theory will be corroborated.

  392. Remster says

    Oh sh*t, I’ve done it again. I take it you can work out where the quotation ends and my response starts.

  393. Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @Remster

    There isn’t this implication at all. ‘F*cker’ is used to mean both ‘person who has sex’ and ‘contemptible person’, but there’s no implication that sex or people who have sex are contemptible

    Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.
    Again, you fail to consider the basic question why is the bleeding word an insult in the first place. As you’ve been asked to, and you’ve chosen to change the topic instead – I can only assume it’s deliberate. (In other words – you can change my mind, but you’re doing a rather awful job at the moment).

    And I’m not too keen on rapidly-thrusting-motion and it’s derivatives as bad word either. I reeks of sex-negativity and quite possibly homophobia (though the word today both means top and bottom, it wasn’t always so. And the active adjective is most likely not the original form of the insult). Though as it’s homophobic roots are uncertain and mostly long-forgotten and these days it’s mostly gender-neutral it’s not on top of my list.

    Just for the record, I’m not defending the use of the word – I agree it should be avoided in contexts in which it’s liable to upset or otherwise harm people.

    If you don’t want to come of as a JAQ’er, don’t use JAQ’ing language. If you really don’t approve of the use of the word as an insult, there’s no need for the hyperseptic act. At least in my reading, this phrase coupled with the rest of your behaviour here is akin to “I’m not racist, but…”

    @Gnumann

    It’s Gnumann+ thankyouverymuch.

  394. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Remster #475

    That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? What makes ‘fanny’ a bit naughty and ‘c*nt’ really bad must be to do with something other than attitudes to what they refer to, since they refer to the same thing.

    Indeed, the metric by which society designated those words to be offensive was not to do with how sexist they are. However, you have to consider why they are considered an insult in the first place; bearing in mind that “offensive” and “insulting” are not the same thing. They are considered to be variously offensive based on some unknown societal metric (I have come across suggestions that it is to do with the amount of aggression it is possible to convey in the mere sound of a word; “more offensive” words tending to be short, sharp, and favouring hard k- and t- sounds as well as plosive sounds), they are all considered insults because no one wants to be called a female genital organ. The fact that it is considered an insult to be called a female genital organ is where the misogyny lies. Why is it considered a negative?

    You could of course argue that since it is considered an insult to be called any form of genitalia, male or female, the insult lies in our societal preoccupation with sex-negative attitudes, and I do think that’s part of it. But then why is it considered a greater insult to be named a female genital organ than it is to be named a male genital organ? The logical answer of course is that, while both are “bad”, female genitalia are considered to be “worse” than male genitalia; which makes perfect sense when you consider that our society has in the past placed the brunt of the burden of it’s sex-negative and sex-shaming attitudes upon women.

  395. twas brillig (stevem) says

    why ‘fanny’ is a bit naughty and ‘c*nt’ is really bad.

    Phonetics! The sounds used to verbalize words, make emotional impacts on the listener. EG “baby talk” that tries to elicit happy emotions almost always end in “ee” phonemes, while scolding (negative) words usually end with the “nt” phoneme (can’t, don’t, etc). There is also influence by the middle vowel being “uh” vs. “aa”.
    This is my theory why those words, in particular, are classified into different categories. ?discuss?

  396. procrastinatorordinaire says

    @471 Thumper

    Do you think the meaning of those phrases has been substantially changed by replacing the C-word with other synonyms for vagina?

    Yes I do. In my experience, a far more accurate substitution in these phrases would be b@stard or f~cker. No other word for female genitalia has the potency and vulgarity of c~nt, and no word for the male anatomy has the same brutality.

  397. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    err – not sure if that goes as rhyming slang – but it sure goes as bloody awful (both figuratively and literary.

  398. Remster says

    @Gnumann

    Again, you fail to consider the basic question why is the bleeding word an insult in the first place.

    Again? Apologies, I missed it the first time round. I can believe that ‘f*cker’ became an insult because it expressed a negative attitude towards penetrative sex, but it no longer expresses that attitude, and hence needn’t express hatred towards sexually active people. The same goes for ‘c*nt’ and the vagina.

    I don’t think you make any other points that require responses, but you’ve missed/ignored my point 2 from #472.

  399. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @procrastinatorordinaire #483

    Do you think the meaning of those phrases has been substantially changed by replacing the C-word with other synonyms for vagina?

    Yes I do. In my experience, a far more accurate substitution in these phrases would be b@stard or f~cker.

    You are confusing “meaning” with “potential to insult”.

    Whether you call someone a c**t or a twat, what you are really saying is that they are a vagina. Because that’s what both of those words mean. That is the meaning of the phrase. However, the former is considered more insulting than the latter, for some reason, and it’s potential to be insulting is greater, even though it’s meaning is the same.

    You are also confusing “accurate” and “equivalent”.

  400. Remster says

    @twas brillig (stevem) #482

    That’s certainly a possibility I’d considered, but I don’t know enough about linguistics to judge its merits.

  401. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @remster 486

    Please read the last bit in my 480 one more time, and act accordingly.

    And my 468.

    .
    Now, given these two facts – could you in your own words possibly formulate a reason why a synonym for female sexual organs possibly could be an insult directed at a male-identifying person?

    .

  402. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Gnumann+ #484 and 485

    It’s not rhyming slang, no. Rhyming slang is a two or three word phrase of which the last rhymes with the word it is intended to indicate, but only the first is said. For example, “apples” is “apples and pears”, which means “stairs”. “Frog” is “frog and toad”; “road”. “Rubba”, “rubba-dub”, “pub”. “Pig”, “pig’s ear”, “beer”. And so on.

    The origin of that one is also dubious. Fanny Adams seems to just be a name, common at the time of first useage, which happens to have the same initials as the phrase “fuck all”, and therefore became a way of swearing without actually swearing, if you know what I mean. See “sugar” for “shit”, and “flipping” for “fucking”.

    This of course is not to say that seemingly innocent-sounding idioms can’t have horrible and offensive origins; they can. I’m just incredibly dubious about that one. Even if sailors had jokingly suggested that the cheap tinned meat they were given were her remains, why would the phrase then come to mean “nothing”?

  403. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Remster #488

    I’ve also come across the same theory, as mentioned in #481.

    I’m curious as to the origin of your ‘nym?

  404. Remster says

    @Thumper #481

    But then why is it considered a greater insult to be named a female genital organ than it is to be named a male genital organ?

    I’m not sure it is. It’s considered a greater insult to be called a ‘c*nt’ than it is to be called a ‘c*ck’, but it’s also considered a greater insult to be called a ‘pr*ck’ than it is to be called a ‘tw*t’, and a much greater insult to be called a ‘pr*ck’ than it is to be called a ‘f*nny’. For some reason that I’m not aware of – at least two of you have proposed phonetics – these words come in an order of insultingness. Perhaps we need a word in the language that refers to male genitalia and is more insulting than ‘c*nt’ (that’s in the fantasy world in which we can’t just stop using all of them).

  405. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    This of course is not to say that seemingly innocent-sounding idioms can’t have horrible and offensive origins; they can. I’m just incredibly dubious about that one. Even if sailors had jokingly suggested that the cheap tinned meat they were given were her remains, why would the phrase then come to mean “nothing”?

    The “nothing”-part is a bit dubious yes. Analogies between female genitalia and chopped meat all too common…

  406. Remster says

    @Gnumann #489

    I don’t need to read the last bit of your #480 again.

    But I’ve re-read your #468. Is it supposed prospectively to address my #472, point 2?

    2. Since ‘c*nt’ is worse than the closest words that refer to male genitalia (e.g. ‘pr*ck’, d*ck’ and ‘c*ck’), the implication is that vaginas or people with vaginas are worse than male genitalia or people with male genitalia.
    There isn’t this implication either. ‘F*ck’ is worse than ‘b*gger’, but there’s no implication that vaginal sex is worse than anal sex.

    Sorry if I’ve misunderstood. I’m guessing I’ve missed something for you to have refused to respond to either this or my #486.

  407. says

    Just to be clear, Remster, you think it’s possible that the act of insulting a person by comparing them to a woman or a characteristic that is thought to define women owes nothing to the centuries of denigration, dehumanization, and disenfranchisement of women in our society?

  408. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    @remster

    I don’t need to read the last bit of your #480 again.

    Welcome to my killfile jerkwad.

  409. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Remster #492

    Allright then, you have to consider why the height of all offensiveness is a word referring to female genitalia and not male. Considering our culture’s history of misogyny, I think it’s a leap of logic to assume that heightened disgust for female genitalia as opposed to male genitalia does not play at least some part in it.

    Shy about your ‘nym, or something?

    @Gnumann+ #493

    I agree re. the analogies being common (“axe-wound” springs to mind…), but I don’t see any allusion to her genitalia in the proposed origins. It merely suggests that the meat was so horrible that sailor’s joked it was really her remains. Weighing the two theories up, logic and Occam’s razor leads me to lend more weight to the “initials” theory rather than the “remains of a murdered girl” theory.

  410. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    @Remster #496

    Apologies, posted my last before reading your #496. Yes, ‘nym is short for pseudonym.