I love swearing; there is nothing quite so liberating as a few choice curse words. A ‘for fuck’s sake’ here, or a ‘prick’ there, or, dare I say, the odd ‘cunt,’ is my catharsis; it gets me through near enough any situation where passions are stifling. They are immeasurably satisfying to vocalise. The hard cacophony of swear words spew emotional excess, and I always feel weirdly purified after a long, curse-filled rant.
I remember the first time I heard the word ‘cunt.’ It was said as part of a rather sparkling triad of filth by my Dad. We were sandwiched between two other vehicles on a particularly difficult stretch of country lane. My Mum, my four brothers and I were all strapped in. Good job, because my Dad had a sudden and unprecedented outburst of road rage.
‘Everywhere I go I’ve got a fucking cunt up my arse!’
In that moment, I could swear that all animate nature scuttled into the hedgerows, all the apples immediately rotted and fell from the trees, and the sky turned black. I had never heard the word before, but I knew it was really bad.
Most swear words seem to lose their potency as we grow up. ‘Fuck you,’ for example, is so year-nine, and you’d be forgiven for using it pretty much anywhere in extenuating circumstances (usually those pertaining to unwanted contact with stingy insects, or a cheating ex-boyfriend.) I find ‘fuck off’ to be apt for most incidences of emotional outburst, but the big ‘C’ word is that little bit more satisfying, like ordering steak from Gaucho, rather than the mildly disappointing Wetherspoon’s.
I have spent a lot of time wondering why the word ‘cunt,’ one of the oldest curse words in the English language, has remained so exceptionally offensive in western cultures, whilst others seem increasingly empty.
And for all that crowd-stopping shock factor the word possesses, does anyone know what it actually means in its abusive form? It might literally refer to female genitalia, but so do twat, vag, and pussy, terms which just don’t have that particularly aggressive dimension to them. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, neither do cock, dick or bollocks. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘cunt’ used as an insult refers to ‘an unpleasant or stupid person;’ that definition doesn’t work for me. If someone in my company was being unpleasant or stupid, say, sliding in front of me in a queue (something which particularly pisses me off and I intend to revisit at a later date,) most would agree that hollering ‘Oi! Wait in line ya cunt!’ would be somewhat uncalled for.
I am not a Linguist, and neither have I studied Feminist Linguistics in any great depth to come up with an informed reason as to why the word ‘cunt’ is so cunt-ish. But in my experience, the word is more or less equally violent whoever it is applied to. This is why it makes no real sense that it should be considered so unforgivably offensive; it offends no group in particular, just the cunt you describe.