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13 Instances When It's Perfectly Okay To Use The C-Word

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | February 25, 2013 | Comments ()


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As you well know, last night someone running "The Onion" Twitter account fired off a joke involving a 9-year-old and the word c*nt. Dustin has already posted a lovely, measured response, and many, if not all of you, have weighed in on the matter. If you didn't already see it, as of around 9:30 a.m. PST, "The Onion" officially responded with the following apology:
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So are we done talking about it? Maybe we should be. But I feel the need to say that there are few words that get under my skin quite like that one. I'm not a humorless bitch, but I do believe in the power of words and, for me, there are at least three words left in the English language that set my teeth on edge: n*gger, f*ggot and c*nt. When used as an insult, that f-word and the n-word are obviously hate-filled slurs meant to make the object feel small, feel their "place." And when the c-word is flung, hatefully, at a woman, I feel it much the same way. I wince.

I had a fellow (female) Pajiba writer ask me why that word bothered me so. I dunno. Did Eve Ensler and Ani DiFranco "reclaim" it at some point? Have I seen enough Guy Ritchie movies that it shouldn't faze me? I can't explain it; it's a visceral thing, not a rational thing. I once had a commenter call me a c*nt for spoiling a TV plot line for them and more than any other reasoned, deserving or thought-out insult, that one stuck with me. I understand it doesn't mean the same for other people. I also understand that the source of this particular kerfuffle is "The Onion," so we should all probably just unclench. But my marshmallow petal feelings on the subject aren't really the issue. The issue, surely, is that girl's age. You know it, I know it, "The Onion" knows it. But some of you love that word, love the way it tastes in your mouth. So if you are going to use it, make sure it's under one of the following circumstances. These are a handful of instances when it's okay.

If You're British

If You're Irish

If You're Scottish
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If You're Whatever It Is Tom Hanks Was Supposed To Be
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If You're Jon Stewart
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If You're Naming The Bluth Family Boat
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If You're In A Production Of The "Vagina Monologues"
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If You're Reviewing That Gwyneth Paltrow Movie
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If You've Elevated The Act Of Swearing To An Art Form

If You're A Psychopath
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If You're the Kind Of Guy Who Likes Punching Women

If You're Prepared To Get Fired
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If You're Al F*cking Swearingen, You Can Say Whatever You Damn Well Please
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  • theresa443509

    I was really enjoying your article, until I got to the following:
    " I can’t explain it; it’s a visceral thing, not a rational thing."

    Well, as a woman who personally loathes hearing the c-word used as the most hateful, derogatory, insulting possible comment I CAN explain it my issues with it. Hearing the c-word used as an all purpose insult insults me as a woman because it takes the one thing that seperates me by sex (my female genitals) and makes it into a term of dismissal, scorn, and contempt.

    Using the one thing that I have that men don't, that defines me as a female biologically, as the most degrading, the most insulting possible slander implies that being female is in itself unclean, inferior, dirty. As a grown woman, hearing my female genitals used as a term of deep contempt is distressing enough; I can only wonder how young girls, who are just coming to terms with themselves and their sexuality and their femaleness, must feel about this. About hearing their genitals used to slander, degrade, humiliate, and insult a person.

    And honestly, despite the stigmata attached to it, I hear the term all the time. I've heard it used by both men and women in equal measure to insult and degrade the objects of their dislike. And a good 80 percent of the time, it seems, the person in question being called the c-word is, in fact, a woman.

    It seems as though Joanna Robinson has taken the typical, common attitude of most "cool" women today. She notes that the word makes her uncomfortable.... then implies that her own discomfort is basically "visceral rather than logical." Then she basically dismisses her own discomfort (and, along with it, that of others) as silly and persnickity, the result of overly sensitive feelings. ("But my marshmallow petal feelings on the subject ...")

    Disappointing, in my eyes. Because while not making a big deal of things is well and good, sometimes it is okay to call something out on being offensive.

  • Salzigtal

    16. The old joke where The Pope's airplane seat-mate looks up from his crossword puzzle and asks "what's a four letter word for woman that ends in _unt?" As The Pope turns beet red, the seat-mate says "never mind, it's aunt".

  • wendy

    you forgot: if you're chloe moretz.

  • googergieger

    Ugh.

  • Guest

    Why are my comments being deleted? The first one didn't have any curse words in it and the second one was self censored.

  • Kate at June

    Oh god I love that word.
    Once I had to scream it on stage at the top of my lungs (not The Vagina Monologues) and my fondness for it never abated.

  • phase10

    Re: The Way of the Gun...at 0:34 is that JGL in a bad wig or does he have an uncle in the biz?

  • u4eahh

    As Australian comedian Jim Jefferies (star of the excellent "Legit" on FX, watch it) has said, "You've got worse words in America. You haven't heard me say Motherf*cker yet... The word motherf*cker is much more offensive than c*nt, [c*nt is] in Shakespeare and Chaucer, it's the oldest swear word in the world, it's lovely! Let's break down the word motherf*cker: it's a boy, f*cking his mum... in the c*nt, it's horrible!"

    I have a lot of English friends here and in London, and it's almost exclusively used by men towards other men (I'm not getting into the reasons why, I don't know them myself), either as a direct insult, or with those you're familiar with, actually a term of endearment. Personally, I don't have a problem with it; this article and the vast number of comments seem to point to a growing problem in this country, that people just love to be offended by things. We just LIVE for it, it seems. Listen: C*nt is NOT in the same ballpark as n***er or f***ot, it's not in the same league, it's not even the same sport. It's just a word. Words are words, with very few exceptions. This is not one of them. Let's all grow up a little bit and get on with our lives.

  • Az

    I'm sorry but no one delivers the c-word better than an Aussie. Same goes for bush pig.

  • Wait, so we get gifs with the word spelled out in the article above but our comments are moderated if we spell the word out in our replies? Yet this wasn't done when Django-gate hit or in normal articles where this word's cup could runneth over at any time? What?

  • LaineyBobainey

    I like using it as an adjective. "God, she is being a c*nty little jerk today!" Every now and then, I will use the actual word for someone and I only use it for people I truly despise. It's not a word that I will interchange with other swear words, so if I refer to someone as a c-word, you know it's not just a bad mood; this is someone I cannot stand.

  • Az

    I prefer c**tastic, actually.

  • denesteak

    Ah... I made the mistake of actually spelling the words out instead of using ****s. So my comment didn't show... that's the reason, right?

    Sigh.

  • Candee

    Saaaaame here...

    Anyway--I love the word C*NT! That's what I say. I don't know why people get butthurt about words at all. I'll be glad when this is completely forgotten about. Which should be in a day.

  • Pookie

    Why censor my comment?

  • I never use the word. I've almost never even heard it used so it doesn't even feel like a forbidden word--more like one of those ethnic insults that died out at one point.

    The one exception to the "never used" rule? When a student teacher in my high school lectured on a German scientist named Kundt--except the teacher didn't know German so he mispronounced it throughout the hour long lecture.

    That was kind of funny.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Or you can always just say"see you next time".

  • Slash

    Eh, I don't love it, but it's just another word to me. I don't use it myself. My preferred nomenclature for disagreeable people is "asshole."

  • Maguita NYC

    Paris Hilton.

  • Ben

    Maybe it's growing up in Australia but I seriously do not get the big deal about the word? It's just a swear word? Seems like people making a mountain out of a molehill to me. Would it have been better if they'd called her a bitch? A fuckwit? A dickhead? Why is c*nt suddenly out of bounds?

  • kirbyjay

    It is about the men who use it towards a woman relegating them to be a mere female body part and thus beneath them that gets my craw.

    A redneck sort of loser driving a landscaping truck cut me off in my car once when I was driving my daughter to school. He actually pushed me out of my lane and into oncoming traffic where I luckily avoided a head-on collision. I dropped her at school and returned to where he pulled in. I approached him and told him he should be more careful because I had a kid in the car and he cut me off. The number of c--ts that came out of that derelict's mouth would rival the f--cks and n-words in a Quentin Tarantino movie. He was ( and I always wanted to use this word in a sentence) apoplectic. He ranted and raved and spit and tried to pull the license plate off of my car as I sat there almost amused at the thought of what he would have done had I confronted him in a hostile manner. He obviously hated women and felt I had no right to question his male superiority.

    This is the kind of man that a woman hates to hear that word from. You know, the kind of guy that tries to pick you up in a bar and when you show no interest you are a C--T. Said in jest, it doesn't bother me at all, it's the hostility behind it that I don't like.

  • Kate at June

    Ok, lets try this again, my last one didn't seem to make it through the censorship.
    Whats the difference between c*nt and any other female specific curse said in that context or by those types of men? Replace c*nt with b*tch or tw*t, the same meaning is there, the hostility doesn't go away.
    Sexists be sexists no matter what word they choose.

  • It is my wife's favorite curse word actually. She holds it in reserve when she's really fired up. I find it funny when she uses it. I use it sparingly, against both sexes, and when they have transgressed from "dipshit" to "fuckwit" continuing toward "fucking asshole" before landing on "c word".

    I'm not defending the original tweet. I saw it when they posted and was pretty taken aback by it. I saw it as shock humor, went "Damn, guys!" and moved on. However I wonder if for a site like The Onion that gets outrage directed at it pretty often they didn't open the door to a whole lot of butthurt complaints down the line. I don't think I've ever seen them apologize for anything before and this is a paper/site that featured a detailed cartoon on their front page of most of the major deities jerking each other off last year.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    That Deadwood quote was actually Calamity Jane. I know because it's one of my favourite lines from the show. Flash fiction is great.

  • BWeaves

    I don't have a problem with the C-word. I'm not wild about it, but it's just another 4 letter word.

    The problem I had with it, was it being used to refer to a 9 year old on the "best" day of her life. Little kids should not have negative publicity of a dirty joke sort. It was in poor taste and not funny.

  • I shall not rest until the male genitalia has an equivalent. I'm gunning for cunk or cump as my phallic phrase.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Just don't call Liz Lemon one.

    http://www.spike.com/video-cli...

  • Guest

    I'm confused. Ben Kingsley isn't Irish and as far as I can find out neither is Don Logan from sexy beast. Although I do agree that the Irish can get away with the C-word, as evidenced by In Bruges.

  • In NZ and Aus, when someone of whatever gender is being generous and fun, they're a good c*nt. So appropriate.
    That reaction you have to it though, I feel the same about 'slut.' Feels gross even typing it. So devaluing and nasty and misogynistic.

  • TSF

    Intent plays the biggest part. In Glasgow you'll hear the word 50 times before breakfast and no one really cares. I think one of the major differences between use in the US and the British Isles (and perhaps OZ and NZ) is that British/Irish people rarely - if ever - use it to insult women. There's no viciousness; in fact, as you note, it's often a term of endearment. In the US it's used to dehumanise, to hurt, and/or to offend women. I'll listen to someone use that word all day and not care. But the moment I hear a rape joke or any sort of casual misogyny, we will have a problem.

  • Return of Santitas

    Yes, thank you! I was just thinking this but couldn't get the words out. It is all about intent. See above examples where people are calling out specific women they would like to call cunts. Paris Hilton, Andrea from Walking Dead...using the term to describe them makes me uncomfortable. Using it to describe some dickwad politician? Magical poetry.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Again, if I'm being honest I call Robin Van Persie a c word 3-4 times a weekend. But in my defense he totally is.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Aren't most Dutch players? *ducks and runs away*

  • lowercase_ryan

    Bergkamp and Gullit were ok, but the rest sure thing.

  • I have a copy of the book titled with that same word. It's got a bright blue cover, and a pretty yellow flower, and the word in very large orange letters. It's all about the history of that word, which has apparently been around for a very, very long time, and I find the whole thing extremely fascinating, but it keeps sitting on my shelf instead of being read. Or left out on the coffee table where my grandparents can discover it while they're visiting or something.

  • Hasen Klub

    I bought that book for a friend of mine as a gift. She's really into the history of the feminist movement, and I was in that section of the bookstore, when that title just jumped out at me. Kinda hard to miss really. Anyway, sat down in a chair right there by the shelf and read the whole thing without even realizing it before making the purchase. It's a very interesting read.

  • Jannymac

    I did a study in 2007 that asked about the appropriateness of certain words within the cable television environment. Ranked #2 as Not OK for anyone was the C-word at 20%. Both men and women were surveyed, so you would think the percentage would be higher, right? As for the #1 word not ok for anyone, that was "Jesus Christ" used as an expletive (23%). I would say go figure on the JC thing except my mother still gets on to me for using, so there you go. As for the N-word...didn't even make it into the top 15 words, so there are still large parts of the population that think it's ok.

  • NateMan

    That is... Incredibly disturbing. Oh, and if Jesus Christ didn't come out of my mouth as an expletive, it'd never come out at all. Dude should be grateful for the free press.

  • My sister and I learned the word the Scottish/Irish way. I'd wager it's her favorite curse. It's not uncommon for me to receive a text from her along the lines of "Oi c*nt, where should we meet up for dinner?" or "Oi c*nt, what's the score of the Cubs game?"

  • TheAggroCraig

    I knew a girl who liked to respond to such an insult with "The qualities of a c*nt are warmth and depth, so, thanks."

  • Chuggy G

    She... got called a c*nt enough for that to become a thing, huh?

  • Jill

    I've always loved the story of Judy Dench being called a c*** by a taxi driver while crossing traffic. She stopped, turned around and said to him "That's Dame C*** to you!"

    God, I love that woman.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    The follow up to that was an insult "I would call you a c*nt but the qualities of a c*nt are warmth and depth," you have neither.

  • toblerone

    There should be a Archer quote in that list somewhere.

    Really though both posts are:

    http://oi51.tinypic.com/feqhrk...

  • Quatermain

    Al's not wrong about Custer. As someone who holds a history related degree or two as well as a love for movies with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland, nothing makes me grind my teeth quite like 'They Died With Their Boots On.'

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I thought it was a comedy...?

  • logan

    Never. Because my wife has 4 sisters and I know for a fact that if the c word is used then bitches are about to get stitches.

  • JJ

    Is this all we're going to be talking about this entire week? I'm already out-outraged, so I'll see you next Tuesday.

  • Brite

    Talking about cunts for an entire week would be awesome....just sayin'

  • TSF

    The SNP will be delighted that Scotland is apparently no longer a part of Britain.

  • NateMan

    #14: Whenever I'm speaking about my father's dead brother's widow. I've seen her:
    Take a horsewhip to her own dog;
    Abuse her child both physically and emotionally, helping to turn him into a drunk and drug abuser;
    Drag my parents through 10yrs of court to contest my grandfather's wishes for his land after he passed, fucking us over royally in the process.

    I love women and I love vagina. I don't call her a c*nt as a dig on either her gender or internal reproductive organs. I use it because 'vicious, vindictive, sociopathic human waste not worth the jail-time earned by beating her to death with a shovel' takes too long to say.

  • theresa443509

    "14: Whenever I'm speaking about my father's dead brother's widow. "
    She sounds like a horrible person and I'm sorry you and yours had to suffer through her abuse.

    That said, I'm not sure why it's necessary for you to call her a c*nt. C@nt is a word that singles out what makes us females female and uses it as the most insulting, humiliating, degrading possible insult for a human being (usually a female.)

    You can tell yourself, "I only hate my father's dead brother's widow, not all women." Totally legitimate. However, when you call her a "c*nt" as the worst possible insult, you are subtly degrading all women, despite your claims to love them (and their vagina's.) ("I love women and I love vagina.") There are countless brief, one word names that you could call your father's dead brother's widow. Many of them are just as brief as "c*nt," and many of them express just as well what the woman was-- a cruel, hateful person.

    Why is it that you use the c-word rather than these terms? Who knows. Perhaps its because the c-word is still the most hateful, degrading terms a woman in our society can be called. It is also the same thing that biologically makes us women what we are. I think this issue is worth examining for us as a society.

    In short, you logic is so common in people who use the c-word as an insult its ridiculous. "I don't mean to insult or degrade women. I like/ love/ or am a woman. It's just this one evil woman-- she deserves it." And yet the fact is that by calling that one evil woman a c*nt as the most degrading, all purpose insult, you are in fact, subtly degrading all women. Whether you consciously realize it or not.

    Feel free to loathe you father's dead brother's widow or any other cruel woman; nothing wrong with that. But there is an issue with you calling her the c-word.

  • damnitjanet

    I detest the C word. I like the Onion, but that was just in poor taste, whether "satire" or not. She's just a kid. Hang that on an adult, it's not quite so horrific.

    I try not to use that word. I will admit that I used it last night when my frustration with Andrea on "The Walking Dead" reached a FEVERPITCHFROMWHICHIHAVESTILLNOTCOMEDOWN!!!!!!!!!!!! But I think THAT one is completely justified.

  • Ginger

    If You're Working On A Rough Draft. http://s1196.beta.photobucket....

  • Tim

    If it's a typo and was supposed to say beloved "aunt"

  • Jill

    Best joke ever on that show. Hands down.
    If I had a niece with the same sense of humor as I have, I would be thrilled for her to intentionally slip that into my obit.
    Yikes, that sounded like I was talking about the literal version of the word.

  • Conor

    Woo! Irish, I'm off the hook!

    Also, sorry to be that guy, but you've the same video in there twice, and Sexy Beast isn't Irish.

    May I suggest Brendan Gleeson from "In Bruges". Specifically the bit about Ralph Fiennes' "c*nt fucking kids".

    Edit: Oops. disregard.

  • JoannaRobinson

    It's already fixed! You read my Martin McDonagh-loving mind!

  • Horatio Postlethwaite

    No mention of Joffrey Baratheon?

  • lowercase_ryan

    I understand your distaste for the word. I rarely ever say it and never ever to a woman or even in front of a woman. But I'd be lying if I said the word didn't have the ability to crack me up.

  • NateMan

    Honestly, I mostly use it when I'm working on something physical and it goes horribly wrong. My lawnmower won't start, or I slam my nail with the framing hammer instead of the intended one, that sort of thing. I grew up farming, and my dad's favorite phrase when something he was working on refused to work the way it was supposed to was 'You Rotten C*NT'. I have to admit, it is immensely satisfying when uttered in the proper tone of hatred and wrath. Again, directed at inanimate objects. Not women.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I'd be lying if I said I've never used the word. But then again, the subjects of such expressive lamentations are either those same inanimate objects, sh*tbag drivers of whose gender I am completely unaware, or that hypocritical, narcissistic, Lego-haired robot slime-weasel Captain of nepotism in an ill-fitting suit the Conservative Party of Canada keeps trying to pass off as a Prime Minister. I don't ever direct it at an actual woman.

    It's sort of eye-opening to see it presented in the above context though. I never consider it OK to use those other two words under any circumstances whatsoever, regardless of who I'd be referring to. So why do I use this one, even if it's not directed at the group it offends?

  • NateMan

    I think that's a great question, at least about the F-word --- and for the love of GODS, can we spend a second on how frustrating it is that we can't say the words we're discussing?! Saying F-Word and N-Word make me feel like a 7yr old child. We are not, I hope, children, and we should be able to use the words we need to in A GODDAMN DISCUSSION ABOUT THEIR PLACE IN MODERN DISCUSSIONS ARRRRRRRRRRRGH....

    Okay, I feel better now.

    The N-Word is off the table from the start.There's only one meaning for that word. There's simply no other way to use it that doesn't immediately go back to disrespect for the black race.

    F*g now, has different meanings on where you are on the planet. I've got English friends who use it when they want to have a smoke, even after years over here. That of course limits its usefulness as an insult; are you calling someone a cigarette? I mean, if they're toxic and liable to give you cancer it works, but that's about it. I suppose I do know a few people like that. But otherwise, it's only one kind of insult.

    I freely admit I used f*g a lot as an insult in my middle\high school years (92-97). I didn't intend anything sexual by it, not in the sense of one dude getting down with another dude's junk. For me - and, I think, for most young heterosexual males - it's another way of calling a guy a girl. And that's a whole other discussion about why it's an insult for a man to be considered feminine. I don't have the brain power for that one. But I agree; it's a term I'd never use to insult anyone any more. I've simply known too many gay people, or even straight, bullied people, to feel the slightest bit comfortable throwing it out. It was wrong to use it then and it would be much more so to use it now.

    C*nt, though... Maybe part of it for me is I've never heard it used as an insult except on people who really, really deserve it, like the aunt I mentioned in a previous post. It simply doesn't feel like a gendered insult to me. I've worked with women involved with the Vagina Monologues, I've heard women - mostly in the throes of passion, but sometimes merely feminists unafraid of the word - use it to refer to their body parts, but never to refer to another woman. I don't think I've even heard another guy use it to refer to a woman, apart from previously stated, specific exmaples.

    C*nt is a dichotomy. On the one hand, it refers enthusiastically to a female body part which I appreciate, enjoy, and would always like more of in my life. On the other, it means vicious, meanspirited, small-minded, cowardly, distasteful, etc., in a completely nongendered way. It's not always the most comfortable word to use, but I still enjoy it, and I'm okay with enjoying it.

    That said, if I ever hear anyone direct it at my wife or daughter, I will fall on them like a stack of rectangular building things.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Which basically boils down to "if you're a horrible human being looking to get punched in the balls, and you're saying this in a specific accent. Or if you're a woman."

  • AudioSuede

    I just wish I could go back in time to whatever American determined that the c-word was a derogatory term for a woman's vagina instead of the endearing expletive it was meant to be when the Scottish invented it and kindly correct them so I can feel comfortable yelling what has to be the most satisfying swear word in the English language without feeling like Chris Brown.

  • This is possibly the best thing I've seen on the internet all week. I salute you!

  • oilybohunk7

    My dad has had a nickname for my mom that involves the c-word so I'm totally desensitized too it. He also means it affectionately so I have a positive reaction to it. This makes my family sound super dysfunctional but we actually really love eachother.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Especially when you're talking about Chris Brown.

  • NateMan

    Dude's such a c*nt.

  • Sal

    If you're Irish ? And then you play a clip of some East End Geezers. Do you know what an Irish accent sounds like? You know its a separate country right? It's a Republic and I assure you none of us sound like we're in Guy Ritchie film. c**t! ;)

  • Fabius_Maximus

    To be fair: apart from the wrong clip, she's right.

  • Emmet O'Cuana

    And it mostly featured Irish men....and was written by an Irishman. Well London Irish. Oh I give up - it's been edited hasn't it?

  • I'm guessing it's an video embed mix-up, the same video is posted under "If You’ve Elevated The Act Of Swearing To An Art Form", which makes more sense.

  • JoannaRobinson

    OH WRONG CLIP!

  • Christopher Bird

    And of course, #14: when a woman you are having sex with tells you to do things to it.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    or the corollary: when you are woman giving commands on what to do to it

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