Saturday, June 13, 2009

An Exception For The C Word

Normally I'm against the C word, as many women are. But it's the centerpiece of the following story, which is the funniest I've heard in months, so I'll make allowances for it this time:

Derrick from downstairs said he used to work in an Atlantic City casino. He did various things in there, but he said one of the worst tasks the job had to offer was that of cashing out people's chips. Derrick and his co-workers dealt with a lot of pissed-off and abusive people at this particular duty. People would either come up to complain that they hadn't won when they thought they should have, and others would complain that they should have won more. They took out their frustrations on the staff, and the staff in turn learned to hate customers.

Derrick said Atlantic City is one of the places in the country where it's not uncommon for business transactions between opposite sexes to conclude with one party saying "Thanks, hon." In practice, it sounds like "ThanksHun." So Wade, Derrick's co-worker, started substituting "ThanksCunt" for "ThanksHun" with female customers. The difference was so subtle they almost never picked up on it, and when they did, they just looked a little puzzled and failed to catch on to the full message. Thus, he was able to vent spleen on customers in a way that seemed polite and everybody was happy.

A dapper Lithuanian was also part of this work crew. This Lithuanian spoke fluent English and was very intelligent, but he was still at risk for missing the subtleties and nuances of our culture and language. He was very taken with Wade's "ThanksCunt" habit and decided to try it himself.

So when the Lithuanian finished waiting on a woman and delivered a crisply enunciated "Thank You, Cunt," the woman's jaw dropped in shock and horror and she looked like Edvard Munch's The Scream. Derrick said he sustained internal injuries from laughing so hard.

ON THE FORBIDDENESS OF THE C WORD AND THE UNFORTUNATE NATURE OF HUMOR: Cunt is the last swear word that still has any real shock value. Twisty Faster over at I Blame The Patriarchy recently used a version of it and got into trouble with some of her readers - her blog examines feminist issues and her readers tend to be feminists. Some of them took offense to the use of such a demeaning term targeting females. Apparantly the outcry at her use of "cunt" was so bad, she developed Multiple Personality Disorder to deal with it.

Personally, I am repulsed by the use of "cunt" in coversation, but I have encountered females deserving of the term and was really glad it was available for me to use at those times. Much like Derrick, a gay man, once said when describing another man he didn't like: "I hate this term, but there's no other way to put it. He is a faggot." If a word's not forbidden and coated in nastiness, it's lost its efficacy as a swear word. Even motherfucker has lost a lot of its punch in this day and age. In 10-15 years, cunt won't sound so bad either and we'll have to make up new swear words or do without.


Anonymous said...

So many words built to offend are based on the feminine. I prefer not to insult people by using slang terms for my own equipment. In a way it's like I'm insulting both them and myself. Not the effect I was looking for. In an effort to change the curse paradigm, sometimes when someone says motherfucker I'll echo their sentiment with "father-raper!" It certainly wakes everyone up.


verona said...

Father-raper is a much stronger term than motherfucker, because it implies violence. Motherfucker, on the other hand, sounds nasty but doesn't imply coersion was used. While it's understood that the mother in question is the motherfucker's own, that's not made clear in the term. Mother-fucking can conceivably be committed in extra-familial, romantic and committed circumstances.

So all our dads are motherfuckers, really. Most of the nice male role models we all know are motherfuckers. I'm pretty sure Captain Kangaroon and Mr. Rogers were married and had kids. Happy Motherfucker's Day!

I agree from an ideological standpoint that Cunt is an offensive term degrading to women. But like many people, when I'm pissed off I'm not in the same kind of mental place I'm in when I'm having an intellectual discussion about the appropriateness of swear words. It's not just a word naming a body part - calling somebody a vagina wouldn't have the same connotation. Cunt has some idiomatic negativity to it that communicates disrespect, which comes in handy when you want to communicate said disrespect.

Anonymous said...

Well said.

I use the term father-raper chiefly to hold a mirror to the conversation, a sort of Alice-Through-The-Looking-Glass trick. Sometimes people get so locked into the habits of their speech they never question the terms they're using, which gets really boring to listen to after a while.

Doing my part to shake up expectations and spank mediocrity,