Swearing can be elaborate, hilarious and glorious. But even monotonous swearing of the kind that makes people tut about ‘poverty of vocabulary’ can be used to brilliant effect. Look at Trainspotting, which uses monotonous swearing to convey everything about its narrators – Scottish, rage-filled, of varying education, all of them spiralling into heroin and self-destruction and a mass of unfocused fury, turned inwards as much as out: You fucking knew that fucking cunt would fuck some cunt.

You can hear the character in that line (roughly translated, ‘It was inevitable that the individual we’re discussing would one day cause severe injury to somebody’.) The accent, the words spat out like bullets, the incoherent emotion overwhelming any powers of expression. That’s character through poverty of language.

–KJ Charles on using the right tools for the job.

[Content warning for slurs, below.]

I swear a lot; it’s in the fuckin’ ‘Strayan National Character, after all. Still, I disagree with KJ here on one thing: no matter how common it is in the UK, “cunt” is still an inherently misogynistic word. It’s rarity or lack thereof has no bearing on whether or not it’s a gendered slur. Think about words like “retard” or “tranny” or “fag”. The fact that they’re commonly used–and, often, commonly used in a way that doesn’t “intend” offense–has literally zero bearing on the fact that these words are, in fact, slurs.

Also see “bitch”, which is super-duper common in US media–as I’ve mentioned before, I always feel a bit taken aback when US shows will censor “piss” but not this word–but is still, in fact, a gendered slur. There’s probably some argument in here African-American women in particular could make that parallels the British use of cunt (also see: the n-word). Which, yes. Okay.1

These words are still slurs.

I like cunt, but I like it as a descriptor for the body part it’s intended to describe. Using it as a synecdoche for women in general is sexist, since it carries implications of a) womanhood being “dirty” or “unspeakable”, and b) women as a subordinate sex-class. Using it as an aggressor against men is misogynistic, because–as with bitch–it implies that womanhood is so “lesser”, and gender so essential, that the absolute worst thing a man could be considered is a woman.

So… yeah. Tl;dr, KJ is awesome and y’all should buy her books.

  1. Although, Black women can legitimately reclaim these words in a way, say, a white man can’t. See also usage of “fag” and “homo” in the queer communities.