Who or what are ‘t***s’?

I came across this news item in the British newspaper The Independent about a row within the ruling Conservative Party following the resignation of a cabinet member who says he objects to major cuts being made in disability payments.

The headline for the story was “David Cameron would welcome a leadership challenge to ‘get rid of the t***s’, says minister” and one passage quoted a minister who is an ally of Cameron:

The minister, who is supporting the “remain campaign”, told the Sunday Times: “He [Cameron] wants to fix the problem. He wants to get rid of the t***s who have caused all the problems. There will be a reckoning.”

So who or what are ‘t***s’? The only words that would fit that I could think of are ‘twits’ and ‘tarts’ but those seem pretty mild. Mainstream British newspapers are far less prudish than US ones and one can find even ‘fuck’ in regular articles, which would cause a huge controversy here. So what is so offensive about this word that it required three letters to be replaced with asterisks? Any British slang experts who can enlighten me?


  1. raym says

    Or even “tossers”, although there aren’t enough asterisks. I suspect Nathan is correct, though: the word is ‘vulgar slang’ (as described by the Concise Oxford Dictionary) for female genitalia, generally applied to someone regarded as stupid or obnoxious.

  2. Dr Sarah says

    I thought ‘tits’ at first, but don’t think that’s bad enough to be asterisked out. I agree with Nathan.

  3. ShowMetheData says

    The best fit would be -- so stupid that it is their defining feature. A combination of stupid and an asshole.
    And any decisions they make would be based on a deluded but privileged view of the world unable to accept any input because they have it right (actually totally wrong)

  4. TGAP Dad says

    In all the salty British TV I’ve seen, “twats” is the only thing I’ve only ever run across that would fit in this context. (And it was pronounced with short “a” sound, rhyming with “cats.”

  5. Mano Singham says

    But remember the word has to be so bad that three letters have had to be asterisked out. ‘Tits’ has too few letters and that and ‘toffs’ and ‘turds’ are hardly that objectionable.

    I thought that ‘twat’ meant an obnoxious person, like a another British derogatory term ‘prat’. I had not realized that it originated in reference to female genitalia. What is it with thinking of that as obnoxious anyway?

  6. Phil says

    There was some kerfuffle over Cameron’s use of the work “twat” in a radio interview (When Absolute Radio host Christian O’Connell asked him about his views on Twitter, the Tory leader said: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.” http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/jul/29/david-cameron-apology-radio-twitter), earlier in his term as prime minister. That might contribute to a paper censoring the word, particularly in an article about Cameron, although it also makes it surprising that another Tory would use it when speaking to the press.

  7. abear says

    It is pathological that our capitalist white British society has such toxically masculine habit as using slang words for female genitalia , the very source of life and the source of pleasure for many too.
    English people are really sick.

  8. Lofty says

    In the same way, Australian males use the C word for the same female body part as a strong insult. It took me some maturity to grow out of the habit of calling stupid people dumb c***s.

    In the same way a “hissy fit” comes from “hysteria” and originally was considered a female behaviour trait due to having an uterus. The word “hysterectomy” comes in here too. So there’s another term that I’ve thrown out of my lexicon.

  9. says

    It’s weird that people don’t seem to think that they use the c-word in Britain considering that its use there is one of the c-word bingo squares (“But the English…!”).

  10. dannorth says

    The content of this thread leads to believe that you might enjoy this reply of a comedian to a heckler.

    “You are not a cunt. You have neither the depth nor the capacity to please”

    Sorry if a bit OT.

  11. sonofrojblake says

    My understanding is that “twat” is kind of like “cunt” in Britain.

    Your understanding is… limited.

    “Twat” is kind of like “cunt” in the same manner that “bone” is kind of like “fuck”, i.e. yeah, it means basically the same thing, but the one is basically acceptable in all but the most polite conversation (if regarded as a little bit vulgar), whereas the other is literally the worst word you can say. In every survey of what are the worst swear-words (and we do these things pretty regularly, we like to know where we stand), “cunt” is the absolute worst, whereas “twat” doesn’t even bother the top ten, not even as bad as “shag” (someone tell Austin Powers).

    Me, I’ll stick with “Belgium”.

  12. says

    The whole idea of using “naughty words” but blanking them out is really weird if you think about it. Of course the reader knows what is being obscured, so there was no point in doing the obscuring at all. So the writer is just showing that they are cowards that want to use “naughty” language but don’t have the courage to do it. I think that if some a**hole is going to f***ing use naughty language they ought to have the scalia to just trump away and let the chips fall as they do.

  13. Kilian Hekhuis says

    Marcus, #24: depending on your social milieu, children can read a lot earlier than they know the more spicy swear words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *