I noted with admiration that Ian Brown continues to display a knack for using the correct swear words at the correct time. At the recent Stone Roses gig in Amsterdam, drummer Reni decided that he was a bit pooped and couldn’t be arsed playing on a couple more tunes for his adoring crowd.
Brown was moved to remark that his fellow musician was therefore a ‘cunt.’
It’s a tricky word, cunt. It’s still a real opinion splitter. Lots of people don’t like ‘cunt’. It can be a very vicious sounding word. It’s got the same hard ‘u’ as fuck and the same amount of letters, but the ‘t’ at the end seems to give it added venom.
I think it’s a great word. In a world where eff-you-cee-kay is fairly commonplace and can be spotted in films with a 12 certificate, it’s nice to have a reassuringly offensive word that can be relied upon to do some damage.
It should go the same way as ‘bugger’, losing the original Middle English definition to become something people call each other when nice words just won’t work.
The Oxford English Dictionary has seen fit to legitimise its use, simply stating that a cunt is ‘an unpleasant or stupid person.’
In the last few years I’ve seen it being used in a slightly watered down way, to become an almost affectionate way of describing someone. People will shrug their shoulders and say,
“Well, he can be a bit of a cunt, but he’s alright most of the time.’
Adding words or letters seems to have a dampening effect too, with titles such as ‘cunty-bollocks’ and ‘cunt-chops’ being awarded to people who’ve transgressed in a workplace or social setting.
It’s only when the word is used with a finger jab or the addition of the words ‘right’ or ‘proper’ that it seems to retain its potency.
I’m all for swearing. In the right place and at the right time, it’s a great way to add emphasis or feeling to a sentence or statement.
It’s not big or clever to only be able to communicate through the art of the eff and jeff, but nor do I see it - as some do - as instant confirmation that the speaker is inarticulate. Some of the greatest comedians in history have used expletives to amplify their act, to great effect. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Bill Hicks have spoken eloquently on the subject, littering their monologues with words that dockers didn’t even know existed.
Chris Rock wouldn’t have an act if he didn’t swear so brilliantly.
“I love my kids, man!!!!”
“You’re supposed to, you low-expectation-having-motherfucker!!!”
When I joined the army, I’d come from a background where there was no swearing in the house. The strongest word we were allowed to use was ‘flipping’. ‘Bloody’ was beyond the pale and - until I got to secondary school - I thought the C word was ‘Cheggers’ (not a million miles away, it has to be said).
If there could be such a thing, the army was a Swearing School of Excellence where I met people who could: construct sentences comprising only of swear words; invent their own; or break up individual words, just so they could jam another ‘fuck’ in there. Words like ‘abso-fucking-lutely’ and ‘encylo-fucking-pedia’ entered my vocabulary.
When I left and became a father, a period of adjustment was required. I realised this when my 2 year old son was helping his gran do a jigsaw. A failure to find the right piece caused him to say, in exasperation, ‘Fucking hell!’ (It was in context, I might add).
The industrial language was left behind, but what could I replace it with? I ended up on a 40s throwback gig, using words like ‘blimey’, ‘crikey’ and ‘jeepers’, to replace their more colourful cousins. They were alright. They didn’t pack the same power, though and made me sound like a Mancunian George Formby, but they stopped my mum giving me dirty looks and provided a sticking plaster.
Funnily enough, my favourite swear word is of the same vintage. It isn’t really that offensive, but it holds a very dear place in my heart. Once again, referring to the OED enlightens us to its meaning: ‘An objectionable, unpleasant or reprehensible person.’
The word? ‘Rotter’ - delivered with startling beauty on December the 1st 1976, at 6.15pm by Steve Jones. All the damage had been done to Bill Grundy’s career already, when he told Steve Jones he still had another five seconds to say something outrageous. He used a couple of the more obvious words, but then ended with a flourish, calling Grundy, ‘A fuckin’ rotter.’
It still makes me laugh every time I see it. The Sex Pistols were trying to be so ‘up-to-the-minute’, but there was Jones in his moment of glory, using abusive terms straight from The Beano.
I’m not saying that we should go out of our way to swear all the time, but in the world we currently inhabit, there should always be recourse to express exactly how you feel…