Skepticism

Defending Dick – genitalia, profanity and insults

Back in January, some of you may recall, I wrote a little post about “Headset Vince“, the Shamwow/SlapChop guy. That post is still making its way around the entire internet (the entirenet? is that catchy? no? nevermind then.) Seriously, I had no idea how many people cared so deeply about the topic. It’s received an unprecidented amount of traffic.  I was sure the Scientologists were going to come after me, but no such luck.

But almost as fun as being murdered by Tom Cruise was an email we received a couple of weeks ago from someone who liked the article, but not my writing style. She said she “wasn’t offended”, but felt that my frequent use of the word “dick” demonstrated a double standard since no one at Skepchick throws the word “cunt” around in the same way.

The email in its entirety, more dick, and my reply after the jump.

(Suggestion:  if you are offended by the discussion of comparative obscenity, you should [read more here] instead of after the jump.)

Name: Jane Q. Public

Email: [email protected]

Subject: News Item or Link

Message: I am writing about Elyse’s article “Buy ShamWows! Now!”
(January 19, 2009, http://skepchick.org/blog/?p=5490)

I found the article to be fascinating. But I take exception to
Elyse’s frequent use of the word “dick”. Don’t misunderstand me, I am
not “offended”! But I think it is unprofessional and it reflects a
double standard.

As we know, men tend to be offended less easily. But if the word
“dick” is okay, then there really is no reason that the word “cunt”
should not also be okay. However, I do not see ANYBODY going around
calling other people “cunthole”. There must be some reason why.

Less double-standard, please. Then your articles will carry more
credibility. People know the authors are female from the name of the
site. It is not necessary to pound that home with a sharpened
sledgehammer. Doing so makes you appear to be pissed off and
defensive, rather than objective.

Other than that, keep up the good work.

I appreciate that Jane Q. Public is not “offended”, but rather is merely put off by my need to pound my gender home with a sharpened sledge hammer. I also understand that she thinks the girls at Skepchick should stop picking on the boys just because they’re tougher than us.

But I think that the reason we can throw the word “dick” around so freely and not “cunt” has nothing to do with each gender’s relative skin thickness. It has to do with what the words mean in context.

The word “dick” is only similar to the word “cunt” in that they are both slang for those body parts generally reserved for significant others, Catholic priests and Skepchick calendars. They are also the kind of names that get your mouth washed out if you use them to describe your sibling when your grandmother is in earshot. But as an insult, they do not carry equal weight. And as degrading references to gender, they are even less equal.

Let’s keep score here. Dick is an insult. It is aimed generally at men, and refers to a penis. Cunt is an insult. It is aimed generally at women and refers to a vagina. On that comparison, no Sexist Degradation Points awarded to either term. Cunt: 0, Dick:0

Dick, while generally applied to men, can be used in gender neutral situations. If you don’t know the gender of the person in front of you, who is driving like an asshole, you might call that person a dick. The term “cunt” is reserved for once you’ve seen that driver, and that driver is, undoubtedly, female.  Sexist Degradation Points: Cunt +1, Dick 0

Cunt and dick are both used to communicate that the insultee is unpleasant or unlikable, a person you would likely prefer to avoid if given the option. But the word cunt is closely related to the word “bitch”; both words almost exclusively used to describe women. Dick is mostly used when describing men, but not with the same exclusivity. You only call a man a cunt if you are being ironic or campy.  SDP: Cunt +1, Dick 0

If I were to call you a dick, I would not be saying that you are acting in a manner consistent with possessing male genitalia in your Dockers. Cunt and pussy mean exactly that, but female rather than male. If I call you a “pussy” I’m saying that you are physically weak or emotionally soft like a girl. You are not strong and manly. You possess traits that are undesirable and therefore you are acting like a woman; you are acting like a vagina. Cunt, on the other hand, does not mean that you are weak and womanly, it means that you are  unpleasant and bitchy. You are like a woman who is having her period, a ball of hormonal rage… a bloody cunt. SDP: Cunt +2, Dick 0

For these two words to be sexist equals, you have to be able to swap them out in the same way.

If I say, “Rebecca, you are acting like such a cunt today.” Do I mean, You are acting like your girly genitals are doing all of your talking today, and you’re seriously pissing people off?

Yes, that is exactly what I mean.* I mean that a man in her situation would handle it completely differently. He wouldn’t get his panties in a wad. He wouldn’t have to act like a controlling bitch to get the job done.

If I say, “Sam, you are acting like such  a dick today.” Do I mean, You are acting like your manly genitals are controlling your actions today, and you’re seriously pissing people off?

Nope, not at all. I am saying that he’s being a jerk.**  If anything, I’m saying that by virtue of his penis, at least his jerkiness is not him acting like a pussy.

SDP: Cunt: +1, Dick -1.

Cunt is arguably the worst insult you can hurl at a woman. You could call her a bitch, but that’s not enough… what’s a step beyond bitch? Cunt. What’s worse than cunt? Fucking cunt? Goddamn cunt? Goddamn fucking cunt? After cunt, it’s just a matter of qualifying her amount of cuntiness.

It’s a word that is generally reserved, even by those of us who are unabashedly profane, for the worst situations. It is more than a word. It is a statement. You are not saying that this woman is just unpleasant, but that she embodies everything that is evil and wrong with women. It’s the word people use when they can’t come up with the words to articulate how much they hate a woman. Calling a woman a cunt is the equivalent of calling a black man a nigger or a gay man a faggot. But you really can’t throw around words like nigger and faggot without coming across as an ignorant hick. But with the right delivery, cunt makes a profound statement about the person being described.

But is dick the worst thing you can call a man? Is it any worse than asshole? Is asshole the worst thing you can call a man? I doubt it.

Here’s an example – last night, I was watching the documentary Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father. It’s about a boy, Zachary, whose mother found out she was pregnant with him shortly after she killed his father. At one point, Zachary’s grandfather calls the woman a cunt, or maybe a fucking cunt either way, it really works. It tells you exactly what he thinks of her. A woman murders your only son, she’s a fucking cunt.

“You murdered my family, you… you… you cunt!”

But let’s flip it. Let’s say it was a man who murdered their only daughter. Can you really call him a dick?

“You murdered my family, you… you… you dick!”

It only works if it’s the first time you’ve ever used profanity. Otherwise it sounds like you’re trying to parody South Park’s famed “You killed Kenny”.

Dick is more appropriate for the following exchange:

Guy 1: You ate all my PopTarts, you dick.

Guy2: Geez, I’ll buy you another box. No need to be such a dick about it.

Compared with:

Girl1: You ate all my PopTarts, you cunt.

Girl2: Geez, I’ll buy you another box, No need to be a cunt about it.

See? The second one is actually pretty funny to me because the exchange is so bizarre. SDP: Cunt +10, Dick +0


Go ahead and add up the points yourself.  I don’t think a total is necessary.

Flippantly using the word dick, I will concede, isn’t professional – but neither is posing topless for the Skepchick calendar. But, you may be surprised to hear, I am not a professional journalist. Hell, unless you count Wii Sports Boxing, I’m not a professional anything.

But as for treating men unfairly by using the word dick? C’mon. It’s a nice sentiment that the sexes are equal, our genitals are equal, and that insulting one gender is insulting everyone; but it’s not the reality. Until “dick” is used with the same hatred and venom that “cunt” is, I will continue to use it. Likewise, once Jon Stewart starts throwing around “cunt” nightly in lighthearted commentary without backlash, I will use it, too.  Because that’s fair.

But I won’t use “boob” as an insult. That sounds like something an old and creepy guy would say. And besides, what’s better than boobs?


*That is exactly what I mean in this completely hypothetical statement. IRL, I totally heart Rebecca.  She pays us in  love and candied unicorn poop, and we adore her for it.
**If his manly genitals were controlling him, he’d either be peeing on everything or having sex with everyone he saw… that’s generally not referred to as “being a dick”, but rather “I’m calling security. You’re fired.”
Elyse

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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115 Comments

  1. February 28, 2009 at 10:36 am —

    What a cunt.

  2. February 28, 2009 at 10:51 am —

    Perhaps because I have arterial plaque older than most of the chicks here, I have a problem using “cunt” to refer to anything, and when I hear someone saying it I am a bit uncomfortable — unless it is said by a female in a kind and loving way – Elyse, you could say it, Rebecca could say it – but I don’t feel as if I could.
    It implies, to me, a lot of emotion and hate, and a disagreeable encounter with someone of the opposite gender I would let a rather sarcastic volley, such as “creationist” (ok, maybe that is a bit far- forgive me). But, when cut off in traffic by someone with a gunrack on the back of their truck and a “fish” symbol – instead of referring to that individual as a “cunt” I feel better stating the obvious “there goes a friend of Jenny.”

  3. February 28, 2009 at 10:58 am —

    I frequently use “You male mammary” as a vicious insult.

    While reading that I kept hearing Bill Hicks dealing with a heckler in my head: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PdKpR9qNtg

  4. February 28, 2009 at 10:58 am —

    I have decided that cunthole is my new favorite insult.

  5. February 28, 2009 at 10:59 am —

    LOL. Exactly! Why is this so hard to understand?

  6. February 28, 2009 at 11:01 am —

    I have such a crush on you right now.

  7. February 28, 2009 at 11:08 am —

    Just want to mention that “cunt” is a gender-neutral insult in the UK :) Strangely, I don’t think we’re quite as bothered about swearing as in some parts of the world I’ve been to.

  8. February 28, 2009 at 11:13 am —

    Nice piece. I agree completely.

    To me, however, the best insult is the one they never see coming. A coworker and I were having one of those silly “is too”, “is not” sessions during a meeting:

    They “Is, too.”

    Me “Taint”

    They “Are you saying I’m wrong?”

    Me “No, I’m saying you’re halfway between a…”

    At this point the coughing, laughing, and general discomfort drowned out the rest of the explanation. Meeting over.

    The problem with all single words is they lose their punch so quickly. It’s like the borg or the replicators. You only get to shoot off a few cunts before they are immune and everyone else is bored. I think if you’re going to hurl invective you owe it to everyone to think up something original or at least original to the context. Instead of brown-noser try cunt-noser or ball-chinner. We have a great language. Use it, people!

  9. February 28, 2009 at 11:18 am —

    If you don’t know the gender of the person in front of you, who is driving like an asshole, you might call that person a dick.

    Does this mean I can go ahead and refer persons of indeterminate sex as “he” and “him”?

  10. February 28, 2009 at 11:19 am —

    I “cunt” remember a funnier post. Rolling on the floor here.

  11. February 28, 2009 at 11:23 am —

    A splendid treatment of the subject.

    I wonder if we should start trying to reclaim and repurpose the word “cunt” in a way that blunts its power to marginalize and degrade. Like “Elyse is such a witty/charming/smart cunt.” Would that do any good?

  12. February 28, 2009 at 11:30 am —

    Also, “cunt” is not a diminuitive of the name of a former US President…

  13. February 28, 2009 at 11:30 am —

    “She pays us in love and candied unicorn poop, and we adore her for it.”

    I take exception to Elyse’s use of the term “candied unicorn poop”. The correct term is “Skittles”. Taste the rainbow.

  14. February 28, 2009 at 11:51 am —

    What Oskar K said.

    If I get called a cunt by one of the male persuasion, I thank him and then regale him with details of my wonderful cuntiness, for hours on end or until he runs away.

  15. February 28, 2009 at 11:59 am —

    Yeah, here in the UK, “cunt” really isn’t as gender-centric as this article suggests. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s used more “mano e mano” than anything else. For proof, check out the amazing Ray Winstone/Ben Kingsley gangster movie Sexy Beast. You’ll have never heard so many “cunts” in one place. Well, not outside of your local Scientology testing centre, that is.

  16. February 28, 2009 at 12:00 pm —

    I disagree.

    In the real world, dick is thrown around without a whim, because men ARE that much more thick skinned. You have to be, as insults are what establishes pecking order at soon as you’re 6 years old.

    Someone calls you a faggot or a cunt or a cocksucker or a dick or whatever & you brush it off, means nobody really fucks with you like that any more. If you show that the insult gets under your skin, everyone will use that against you.

    I guess women don’t really understand this, b/c we’re all quarantined off from each other until puberty???

  17. February 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm —

    I really do wish “dick” was as offensive to men as “cunt” is to women.

    Think about it. If I’m talking about, say Nancy Pelosi, I can say, “that dumb cunt,” but if I’m talking about GWB, saying, “that dumb dick” doesn’t have the same weight. This is crap. Why don’t men get an offensive discriptive word?

    Cunt is more offensive. I don’t care why, it’s enough that it is for my purposes. I use it for both men and women when the situation calls for it, and if you wish to tie “why it’s offensive” back to gender inequality and a fear of menstral blood, so be it. The etymology of the word is irrelivent to its current usage.

  18. February 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm —

    @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): Cunt is only degrading or marginalizing if the receipient accepts it as such. You (plural) can only be degraded or marginalized if you choose to be. Words are just words, except when you (plural) have a victim/persecution mentality.

  19. February 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm —

    A while back I decided I was going to make the effort to be more gender neutral in my choice of insults. I specifically did this because “cunt” is such a fantastic fucking insult and I was pissed off that it was only used in reference to women. I mean there’s just something about a one-syllable word that begins with a hard c, ends with a hard t and is still considered deeply offensive, I didn’t want to waste it. “Dick” just doesn’t have that impact anymore. So I started calling men cunts too.

    It’s just a matter of society changing the meaning of words. It’s already happening with “bitch.” I don’t think anyone in my circle of friends still considers that an exclusively female insult. We call men bitches all the time. So get out there and start calling men “cunts” people! Yes we can!

  20. February 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm —

    As others have said, as an insult ‘cunt’ is gender-neutral in the UK, bordering on male-oriented (perhaps cause we do irony so well?). But the best insult is ‘cocksucker’. I wonder if calling a heterosexual male that would be considered homophobic by Jan Q Public?

  21. February 28, 2009 at 12:44 pm —

    @mxracer652:

    You say that as if I can walk around calling people whatever I’d like. It’s not just the recipients problem, it’s also a problem of intent. Words do have meanings, and there are intentions behind the words we use.

    If I ask my husband to go to the grocery store to buy me some bananas, and he comes home with bananas, I can’t get upset with him for not buying me lemons. I can’t say to him, “No, you only bought bananas because that’s what YOU wanted bananas to mean. Thats your problem. When I say bananas, I mean lemons.”

    I mean, I could, but he’d probably start packing his bags after the second time I did it.

  22. February 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm —

    Ok, next time I am in the UK, I will use the term “cunt” as often as possible .

    Here in the US, it still packs a punch.

  23. February 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm —

    I have to disagree. After watching the Vagina Monologues a few times every Valentine’s Day for years and chanting “cunt, cunt” in a room of a few hundred people for the precise purpose of reclaiming it, being around women who prefer it to all the other long- or shorthand for their genitals (and it really does roll off the tongue far better) and having female friends with whom it borders on a standard greeting, it has no sting- the Steven Pinker-style disgust responses has been washed away.

    And really, it shouldn’t have possessed one in the first place. It’s just the old, non-offensive Anglo-Saxon word for female naughty bits, parred with “cock” and “fuck” as counterparts, and was reduced to vulgar status by the influx of upper crust speakers of Romance languages.

    Cunt lovers unite!

  24. February 28, 2009 at 1:01 pm —

    Methinks the email commenter doth protest too much.

  25. February 28, 2009 at 1:03 pm —

    @: Aristothenes

    There’s a quite formal medical textbook from around about the 1600s that refers to a “cow’s cunt”, so you’re spot on that it was non-offensive back then.

  26. February 28, 2009 at 1:05 pm —

    Where I grew up in the UK, cunt was always a insult used by men about men, to the point where I was actually surprised to hear it used to a woman in a film.

    But for genitally-related insults, I prefer prick.

  27. February 28, 2009 at 1:10 pm —

    @Chris Hyland & @Aristothenes:

    It was considered vulgar even in the 1600’s. Shakespeare couldn’t use the word “cunt” explicitly, but used clever word play:

    HAMLET
    Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

    Lying down at OPHELIA’s feet

    OPHELIA
    No, my lord.

    HAMLET
    I mean, my head upon your lap?

    OPHELIA
    Ay, my lord.

    HAMLET
    Do you think I meant country matters?

    OPHELIA
    I think nothing, my lord.

    HAMLET
    That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

    OPHELIA
    What is, my lord?

    HAMLET
    Nothing.

  28. February 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm —

    @Elyse

    Wow. If you ever run for President, it will so cool when the media digs up this post. lol.

  29. February 28, 2009 at 1:16 pm —

    Perhaps dick is more acceptable since it’s short for ‘Richard’. To test this hypothesis, perhaps we need a sufficiently large sample of women to legally change their name to cunt. Any volunteers?

  30. February 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm —

    @Mully410:

    This post is the last of my worries as far as dirt digging goes. There’s video out there of Skepchicks Take Manhattan!

  31. February 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm —

    Interesting and entertaining, but wrong, wrong, wrong. Mostly.

    Swear words, insult words, etc., and all their various and multitudinous meanings and intentions, and most importantly their depth and strength are generally culture and locale-specific. And so, words and their meanings and usage are so subjective, impermanent, and ever-changingly variable, that in the end your anaylsis, although quite interesting, is rather flawed, and carefully avoids history, etymology, culture, and locale.

    Degree of offensiveness, regardless of the words used, is in the ear of the receiver, not the sender — though it is strongly affected by the context. Intent of offensiveness, regardless of the words used, is in the mind of the sender, not the receiver — and is somewhat affected by context. And both of those are further refined, defined, clarified, and modified by the locale, the society, the culture, and the unique sub-culture of both sender and receiver.

    Lastly, your Shakespeare claim is wrong on a couple of counts. It was not so much that the word was offensive in Shakespeare’s time (’cause it wasn’t particularly), and hence his not using it, as it was the ol’ Shakes (and most importantly his character, Hamlet) being clever and poetic. For the record, the more common usage in Shakespeare’s time, and certainly during the waning years of old English was cunny. Also for the record the word cunt was not in general daily common usage during Shakespeare’s time, but was slowly coming into common usage, and was not considered so much vulgar as odd.

  32. February 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm —

    Hypothesis: Could it have something to do with the way the word actually sounds? “Cunt,” especially when spoken with rage, has a very percussive, hard K that can be pushed out of the mouth so hard you hear the gurgle of saliva in the throat. It’s a really visceral and abrasive sound.

    “Dick,” even though it begins with a hard consonant, doesn’t quite have the same umph to it. I personally find “prick” much more aggressive than “dick,” and now I’m wondering if this isn’t why.

    That’s not to say, of course, that the historical and cultural contexts are relevant, but it seems to me that sometimes words, while ultimately arbitrary, can have an edge of onomatopoeia (ref. “moist” and “bludgeon”), and maybe that’s part of what’s going on here.

    Just a thought…probably not a very good one.

  33. February 28, 2009 at 1:32 pm —

    In an email, I referred to someone that I have disagreements with as a dick, as in, “We’d have a lot less problems, if she would stop being such a dick.” This was then forwarded on to the wrong person, and it probably made its way to her. Though I do not know this for certain. It didn’t really occur to me to use the word “cunt”, but I am thankful that I didn’t because it probably would have gotten me in more trouble. My favorite words of choice to insult people are “asshole” probably because everyone has one of those, and “fuck-wad” which I don’t know the meaning of but I like the sound of it.

  34. February 28, 2009 at 1:35 pm —

    @Plittle: O a former vice president, or as a shortened name for anyone named Richard. I think that in itself gets dick as an insult knocked down several points on the SDP Scale.

  35. February 28, 2009 at 1:37 pm —

    @SicPreFix:

    My point is that you can’t go around calling people nigger, spic, cunt, faggot, asshole, etc. and when they become offended say, “Well, that’s your problem.”

    As far as using profanity not directed at an individual, then yes, I agree. It’s just a word. And I don’t think a person should say, oh fiddle cakes when they slam their thumb with a hammer just for the sake of not offending. If you mean fuck, say fuck. If you mean ass, say ass.

    Also, choosing to be offended and a term being offensive are not the same thing.

  36. February 28, 2009 at 1:44 pm —

    @Elyse: Another note on this Shakespeare thing is that “nothing” was also, at the time, a ribald term for the vagina.

    Sort of changes the way you think about “Much Ado About Nothing,” huh?

  37. February 28, 2009 at 1:55 pm —

    @mxracer652: I have to take issue with that. Words aren’t just words. They are necessarily imbued with meaning and context, connotation and inference. If words were just words, double entendre wouldn’t make any sense, and puns wouldn’t make people groan.

    If you’re taught by long association that a word has a shocking or offensive meaning, it’s not a simple matter to throw off the bonds of that conditioning and be comfortable with hearing the word. That’s kind of the point of profanity. It’s offensive because we’re (generally) taught from an early age to be offended, and hearing a word in that special category provokes a reaction that is far more visceral than simply conjuring up the dictionary definition.

    I think it would be great if we could all just shake our heads and get over our ingrained reaction to taboo words. If we could all see past a particular choice of words, to criticize the offensive or obnoxious ideas that the speaker is advancing, discourse would be improved. But (just as with any long-taught belief) it takes hard work to undo years of indoctrination, and your contention that it’s a simple choice to not be offended is overly simplistic.

  38. February 28, 2009 at 1:58 pm —

    @Elyse said:

    My point is that you can’t go around calling people nigger, spic, cunt, faggot, asshole, etc. and when they become offended say, “Well, that’s your problem.”

    Perhaps. But it depends where and to whom you say such things. There is a sort of mutual relationship going on in that instance, in terms of locale and culture. For example, if you go to Scotland and someone calls you a cunt and you take a typical North American response to it, you, the receiver, are definitely in the wrong.

    Also, choosing to be offended and a term being offensive are not the same thing.

    Perhaps. but that doesn’t take degree into account.

    And lastly, how dare you say fiddle cakes. I am so offended….

    /scampers off like a dicky fool

  39. February 28, 2009 at 2:03 pm —

    @Oskar Kennedy (LBB) said:

    Words aren’t just words. They are necessarily imbued with meaning and context, connotation and inference. If words were just words, double entendre wouldn’t make any sense, and puns wouldn’t make people groan.

    Sure, but it is most definitely not the word that carries that import and content. It is specifically the society, locale, culture, and sub0culture that imbue that word with its meaning, degree, and perhaps intent.

    So in the end, words are just words. It is our locale, culture, etc., that gives power to our sayings.

    Nonetheless,

    But (just as with any long-taught belief) it takes hard work to undo years of indoctrination, and your contention that it’s a simple choice to not be offended is overly simplistic.

    is quite true.

  40. February 28, 2009 at 2:19 pm —

    Do word combos to eliminate sex bias.
    Example: That person is a real dickunt.
    To express greater outrage keep building.
    Example: Oh yah you are a cockuntsucking prussyick!

  41. February 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm —

    There’s a lot of love thrown at Rebecca (and anyone who has a secret stash of rainbow unicorn scat is definitely worthy of the adoration),but I gotta say…I heart Elyse on this one.

    To Jane: Don’t be a fucking cunt. Use the damn word if you feel like it, but don’t complain because people aren’t using a particular curse. Cursing is a personal choice. I have a preference for dick, pussy, shitwaffle, and asstard. I use the occasional cunt, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue like shitwaffle (and who doesn’t love waffles?)

    On a side note, my daughter’s 20th or so word was “pussy.”

  42. February 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm —

    @SicPreFix: I think we agree more than we differ. You’re absolutely right that the meanings attached to a word are created by (and shared within) specific cultural contexts, rather than by the particular combination of sounds. I just don’t think it’s correct to suggest that, because that collection of sounds isn’t by itself inherently offensive, that the contextual meaning should be easy to ignore.

    On a side note, it would be a different and interesting world if particular combinations of spoken sounds could have inherent physical effects on the listener. I’m reminded of the ur-language in Snow Crash. Maybe it could provide a physical basis for magic spells, as well.

  43. February 28, 2009 at 2:40 pm —

    But aren’t most epithets just space-fillers? When I strike my thumb with a hammer and yell, “FUCK!” I’m not suggesting we all stop work and engage in intercourse. “SON OF A BITCH!” does not mean I am calling to my puppy.

    I recall once calling someone “…such a bastard…” in front of my then-teenage (adopted) son. He looked at me and said, “Dad, I’m a bastard. Are you saying I’m as bad as he is?” Here was the true conflict between context, meaning and usage!

    I think you feel cunt has a greater meaning than dick simply because the word dick, used as a conversational epithet, has been dulled by overuse. In most of common society, it is a worn out space-filler used for lack of something creative to say. OTOH, cunt has not arisen (on these shores) to the level where it is just a throw-away word. It still packs venom. As it gets worn down by overuse, it too will become bland.

    For me, it is sad that a word can lose its meaning through over use. When I was just a lad, the term “Asshole” invoked an image of a winking sphincter emitting shit. Truly an insult. Now it just means the guy who cut me off in traffic.

    What a loss.

  44. February 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm —

    @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): There is no need to coddle adults & make excuses for not being able to think around their long standing Pavlovian conditioning.

    You wouldn’t accept that excuse for repetitive inappropriate behavior, so why not hold everyone to an adult standard?

  45. February 28, 2009 at 3:00 pm —

    @Elyse: You can call people niggers, crackers, whatever, first amendment & all.

    Your example missed the point, as bananas isn’t an insult meant to get a reaction from somebody.

    You have no control over who insults you. You DO have control over how you react, no matter what “words” may be used. You are not some mindless automaton that does what you’re programmed to.

    Again, I think this all really comes down to the difference in how boys & girls are raised, as there is very little you can say to most men that would get them this pissed off.

  46. February 28, 2009 at 3:08 pm —

    Here in the UK, we take our freedom of speech seriously. So here is an amusing piece on (almost) getting arrested. *NSFW*

    http://www.b3ta.com/links/Royal_Bank_of_Scotland_GIVE_US_OUR_MONEY_BACK

  47. February 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm —

    Needs more cuntnuggets. Also, I’m going to have to make it a point to call more men cunts. At the least it’ll amuse me.

  48. February 28, 2009 at 3:18 pm —

    @Elyse: Oh it packs a massive punch in the UK, it’s pretty much the rudest word you can say. It’s just not an insult about or to women, specifically.

  49. February 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm —

    @mxracer652:

    Yes, legally I can call anyone any name I want. Is your point that therefore I should?

    Yes, I have control over my reactions, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be offended when someone calls me a cunt. Being offended and being victimized are different, but a person using the term to describe me is undoubtedly trying to send a strong message about what they think of me.

    My point about the bananas is that words are not arbitrary. We use them to communicate something specific.

    And as for being pissed off, I think you’re projecting. I am in no way pissed off. In fact, I had a pretty good giggle at points while writing this post. I simply thought Jane’s email was a misguided notion that should be addressed and would make a fun discussion. If I were pissed, I would have made a bigger deal about the condescending tone of the email.

  50. February 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm —

    @tkingdoll:

    So it’s still an insult along the same lines, but it rather refers to anyone displaying undesired vaginal-related behavior?

  51. February 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm —

    Elyse — I wouldn’t say it was necessarily vaginal-related. It’s just a more extreme version of “dick” or “you’re an arse” or “stop being a cock”. Someone is being annoying, deliberately.

    It’s not like “pussy”, where that implies femininity and weakness, as you said earlier.

  52. February 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm —

    @Chris Hyland:

    So I shouldn’t go around calling people cunts at random?

  53. February 28, 2009 at 3:52 pm —

    @Elyse:Why do you care so much about what someone thinks of you? I routinely am called a faggot (by complete strangers, mind you) & couldn’t possibly care less. When you get offended by what someone says about you, then you obvioiusly value their opinion, or else you wouldn’t care/be offended.

    I didn’t think you were pissed about the email, but I can definitely see you being pissed about being called a cunt. My point is that most men don’t give a shit, whereas women do for some (bad) reason?

  54. February 28, 2009 at 3:56 pm —

    @tkingdoll: Agreed about the UK usage. I’ve only ever heard “cunt” used as an insult (rather than an anatomical reference) against a man, and it’s not a playful insult to be laughed off. It means you think someone is really despicable, and a fight may well ensue.

    We don’t have “dick” on it’s own so much as “dickhead” (or, to be medically correct, ricardocraniosis sufferer), and this can be anything from a minor jibe for a laugh to a silent curse at the BMW driver who just cut you up on the motorway.

  55. February 28, 2009 at 5:07 pm —

    @Elyse: “Yes, I have control over my reactions, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be offended when someone calls me a cunt.”

    No, you shouldn’t be offended when someone calls you a cunt. If you must be offended, be offended by the message transmitted. If said (hypothetically) that you were an ignorant, tallentless, obnoxious, and insufferable waste of the oxygen you breath, or if I were to (again, hypothetically) call you a cunt, you should be much more offended by the former than the latter. The latter is an off-the-cuff, throwaway comment.

    Seriously, offended by name-calling? How old are we?

    When I use the word “cunt,” I don’t do it because it is intrinsically offensive, I use it because I know other people are offended by it and I know, because of that, it will add emphasis. I’m preying on their stupidity and insecurity. I’m exploiting a weakness.

    Here’s a tip, if you don’t want a word to be offensive, then don’t be offended by it!

    Maybe it’s just how I was raised. My mother never let me use, “but he called me a _____” as an excuse for my actions…

  56. February 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm —

    @mxracer652:

    You wouldn’t accept that excuse for repetitive inappropriate behavior, so why not hold everyone to an adult standard?

    I don’t think that’s a particularly valid comparison. Asking someone to change their behavior is far different from asking them to change their feelings.

    And frankly, I don’t think it’s particularly adult to expect everyone you interact with to accept your particular conception of what language is appropriate. I love me some profanity, but I have a modicum of respect for other people, and I’m not uncomfortable picking a different word if someone has different standards of sensitivity than I do. Are those words so important to you that you can’t shelve them for a few minutes if you’re asked politely not to use them?

  57. February 28, 2009 at 5:41 pm —

    I’m surprised no one has brought up George Carlin’s routine on how words are ultimately just words – it’s the intent behind them that matters.

    http://www.iceboxman.com/carlin/pael.php#track14

  58. February 28, 2009 at 6:14 pm —

    “But I think it is unprofessional and it reflects a double standard.”

    Gee. We’re supposed to write to a professional standard here? That’s no fun. As a matter of fact, it’s boring on a blog.

    I think Jane Q. Public is being a dick.

  59. February 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm —

    @Elyse: yeah, it’s a nasty insult but just means ‘extreeeeeeeeme asshole’ (which I guess is anatomically accurate in some ways). It’s quite final, too. You call someone a cunt behind their back, you really mean it with vitriol and probably don’t talk to that person. Call them a wanker or a dickhead and you’d still probably have a beer with them if you were in the same room.

  60. February 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm —

    OK. What everybody seems to be missing here is that swearing (there, I’ve said it!) is not just a way of upsetting other people. it’s not just a way of venting your feelings so you don’t commit murder/criminal damage, it’s also an incredibly versatile way of using language. For instance, I worked in a garage some years ago ( yes, I am old, and, yes I’m about to tell a story) and one of my colleagues was working on a very difficult repair. After several hours of dogged perseverance and no apparent progress, the rest of us realized he was having trouble so we gathered round to offer helpful advice “I can see what the problem is, you’re a cunt!” (see the posts about the English use of this word). After a few more of these good-natured Bon Motts he truned round in a fury born of utter frustration and screamed. “The fucking fuck won’t fucking-well fuck!” And we all knew exactly what he meant.

  61. February 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm —

    This whole thread smells a bit fishy to me :-)

  62. February 28, 2009 at 7:37 pm —

    The marvelous thing about the English language is how it evolves over time. What was once considered obscene eventually becomes commonplace, and new obscenities take their place. “Shit” is so ubiquitous now that it rarely even merits a bleep on Canadian television, and “fuck” isn’t far behind.

    I have never considered bodily functions, body parts or the vernacular expressions of them, obscene in any way, and certainly not in the same league as racial epithets or drogatory terms about someone’s intelligence. Therefore “Fuck” is not bad, but “nigger” is.

  63. February 28, 2009 at 8:43 pm —

    Cunt packs more punch for much the same reason nigger or faggot do. They all define someone by a group, a group that is not the dominant one, and imbue that group with inherent negative qualities.

    From what I gather, powerful groups are usually not well defined, but the features of minority groups usually are (for an example I’m familiar with, in the 1800’s in the north west fur trade, I’ve found many examples of men being expected to be hot tempered and violent and untrustworthy if they had even a quarter native american ancestry, but no assumptions about personality were made if you were white). So, words that lump you in with an assumed to be inferior group are hurtful. Words that don’t might otherwise sting, but not with the same weight. But, if it’s a well worn word, not used in that manner, it loses that aspect of it’s offensiveness, and I gather that’s the UK usage. It’s dissociated from it’s meaning as short hand for all the assumed negative traits of women.

    So, I try uncouple them from sex in my cursing. “He’s a cunt, she’s a dick, why are you looking at me like that? No, I didn’t get that backwards.” That kind of thing.

  64. February 28, 2009 at 8:49 pm —

    I just call douchebag guys ‘cocks’ so that my usage of cunt balances out. :P Personally I am offended more by the tone and context of what someone is saying than the actual words they’re using. I’ve heard plenty of tamer words like bitch come out of someone’s mouth dripping with insult. I’d rather stray from the generic though and get more creative if I really don’t like someone anyway.

  65. February 28, 2009 at 9:03 pm —

    I think that “cunt” can vary depending on where it’s used. My boyfriend from India tosses it around for men, too, and it’s much less naughty or serious there, no more intense than “dick” or “asshole” is, in the United States. I get the sense the same is true for England.

    I tend not to use genital-epithets at all. I think of cunts as warm, welcoming, nice, etc., and am not going to call someone who cuts me off in traffic something that’s nice. But I’m also not blind to its sexist use in the United States. I avoid them, but I don’t freak out when the words are used.

    I do appreciate your pointing out how different the connotations are behind “dick” and “cunt,” though — I think folks don’t often think about how sexist and demeaning “cunt” can be, compared to the boy words, like dick and prick.

  66. March 1, 2009 at 1:22 am —

    @mxracer652 & @Hanes:

    I am not offended if a random person were to call me a cunt. In fact, if either of you were to call me a cunt (since I’ve never even met you) I would laugh it off. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying to at least convey something awful about me. Using the word cunt means at least one of us has some personal issues to deal with. Either he (or she) is too crude to come up with a real argument for why I am such an awful person, or I am such an awful person there are no other words to describe me… or perhaps a little of both.

    If, on the other hand, Rebecca or Teek or my mother or husband were to call me a cunt, it would be more than just a “throwaway comment”. It does matter to me what people I care about think of me. If that makes me a bad skeptic, so be it. I’m just human.

  67. March 1, 2009 at 1:34 am —

    @mxracer652: Just to toss in my thoughts… I’ve seen many men get quite worked up after being insulted, regardless of the insult, when the word or phrase was said with contempt and/or hostility. This goes back to the concept that it is the intention of the word that causes the most damage. Also, I’m guessing you’ve never seen a male umpire or referee called a “cocksucker” during a male sporting event? That gets a pretty strong reaction. It has nothing to do with thick skin, and everything to do with context.

    That being said, there are some words (due to limited usage, specific connotation, etc) that carry power, regardless of intent. Cunt, for many people, is one of those words.

    I think we can all agree that if I am showing disgust, hatred, and cruelty with my body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, it doesn’t matter what word I use – the message is clear… I am trying to insult and hurt you.

    Some words carry much of that weight on their own, and are therefore more powerful at conveying the message. In the same vein, some words carry more of that power than others. Cunt is generally a more powerful word than dick, for many of the reasons stated already. While many people might feel differently (seemingly because they have actively tried to change the way the word makes them feel), the general consensus seems to follow along with the ideas in this post.

    Also, I am very tired. I’ll probably be embarrassed to reread this tomorrow.

  68. March 1, 2009 at 2:06 am —

    @Elyse:
    Well then I guess we barely disagree. If “just some person” uses the descriptor “cunt,” then they’re uninventive to say the least. If someone who’s opinion is valued refers to you or me as a cunt, then it’s not the word that offends us, but the opinion that generated the outburst in the first place that worries us.

    Really all I disagree with is this: “or I am such an awful person there are no other words to describe me…”

    My point is that words are words, and no one carries more intrinsic weight than any other. You should be offended by the idea, if anything, or the mindset behind the expression, if you must, but not by the particular vocabulary used. If someone insults me in, say, Yiddish, should I be less offended than if they had spoken in English and used a particular vocabulary? I think not.

  69. March 1, 2009 at 6:45 am —

    @tkingdoll: Yes, you’re bang on. It’s not an utterance you’d use lightly. BTW, although I’m not sure it’s entirely wise to suggest cunt is the same as an “extreme asshole” and that it may be “anatomically accurate in some ways”, it does allow us to tap countless unmined sources of potentially amazing insults, such as “Jesus! Look at all the shit pouring out of her vagina!” That’s what I call cutting edge.

  70. March 1, 2009 at 8:18 am —

    I like using the word cunt as an expletive. I’m pretty sure it’s the only word in the english language that still holds that level of emotion.

    People say fuck, dick, shit, ass, etc., all day long, and nobody blinks. But the second you drop a C-bomb, jaws drop. In professional sports, the “big three” that will get you a penalty are “Motherfucker,” “cocksucker,” and “cunt.” For some reason those are held above all the rest. I’m not sure why.

    I am sure that I enjoy saying “cunt” when i stub my toe, bowl a gutterball, spill milk, or break a wine glass, because “shit” just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

  71. March 1, 2009 at 10:03 am —

    I’ve been pondering over what phrase might answer Elyse’s question about an equivalent masculine insult to cunt. My first thought was mother-fucker. It’s punchy and can roll off the tongue with the same level of venom as a rattlesnake bite. The true test though, is does it seem as misplaced as calling a man a cunt? I think it’s still lacking there. Close, but not quite enough. So, could it be modified a bit to make it more insulting? Father-fucker is only worse if you allow it also to insult gays, so that wont work. Replacing fucker leads to some over-the-top curses that throw the equation off in the other direction.
    What’s needed here I think, is something to demean the masculinity of the guy being sworn at.
    Limp-dicked mother-fucker. That’s a step in the right direction, but I think it could be a bit better.
    Little limp-dicked mother-fucker. Closer still, but ‘little’ is such a cute word it doesn’t fit with the others. I think what’s needed to finish this off is to add something to it so that the entire insult says, “You are a dim-witted man who lacks the good taste not to have sex with his own mother, and lacks the good sense to perform the act in a manor in keeping with the use of the word sex.” So, ladies, gentlemen, bitches and dicks I give you . . .
    shit-dicked mother-fucker
    I think it’s a testament to men’s thick skin that it takes a multi-syllabic word to compete with the short and simple cunt.

  72. March 1, 2009 at 10:44 am —

    personally, I think Eylse is wrong; the C word is used as much as the D word in England, particularly amongst 14-19 year olds and although the C word is a much worse insult, its never been a female-based insult from where I come from, (the actual meaning of the word means little to people) its just known as the worst swear word there is, and can be aimed at anyone. Also, I agree with the person who complained about the previous article, but for a different reason; I just thought the repeatingly using the word ‘dick’ Elyse lessened the impact of the article, as nothing much was gained by using the word and it makes one seem… I don’t know, less intelligent :/ sorry if this causes offence, it isn’t meant to, I just wanted to leave my opinion

  73. March 1, 2009 at 10:49 am —

    Use other body parts for name calling.
    You are an appendix.
    Well you are a nose!
    Oh yeah , blow me.

  74. March 1, 2009 at 11:02 am —

    @hanes: I called George Bush a “dumbfuck,” myself.

    Personally, I’d rather use the scalpel (or the laser) than the club, so to speak. At least it shows originality and throws off your opponent because they have to think about what you just said. If you laugh (as I do) at those that use common swear words on you, it really messes up their heads, too. It’s not the reaction they are looking for.

    @Elyse: If I had a hundredth of the Bard’s skill with words, I’d be a rich man…He was (whoever he was, if you’re into the various literary conspiracy theories) beyond an original, beyond a genius…There’s no English word to describe his talent.

  75. March 1, 2009 at 11:26 am —

    @ollyfish:

    No offense taken. You’re probably not the only one who thinks I’m just a blathering idiot. I’m sorry you didn’t like the Shamwow article. It’s received over a quarter million hits, and of all the comments I’ve read (both here and from sites linking to the article) I’ve only seen two people complain about me using the word “dick”. It seems that most people think it’s a well-written article and that I come across as having an IQ above 80 or so.

    But I understand that you don’t like the word and you think it cheapens the article. I can accept that. A literary genius I am not. And, like I said, I am not a professional journalist. I’m not offended by you not liking my writing style. That’s fine with me.

    My point here was that the reader was commenting on the fact that we throw the word dick around but not cunt. She thinks the words carry equal weight, yet they do not… at least not here in America. I wrongly assumed that it was the same everywhere.

    I am not in the UK. In my whole life I have spent 3 days there, and I am not familiar with the nuances of cursing across the pond. For that, I apologize. But there has been a lot of talk in this thread about the differences in usage around the globe, and my intention was to start a discussion.

    I’ve certainly learned a lot about how to properly call a person a cunt.

  76. March 1, 2009 at 11:28 am —

    Interesting that Elyse seems to be saying that the word cunt is used against women in the USA. In the UK it’s used pretty much exclusively by men against men and has come to have a secondary meaning of “useless”. Hence an often used rejoinder is “At least I’m useful, then”. Meaning the swearee (as opposed to the swearer) has taken to interpret the term in it’s original context, i.e. a vagina, and is therefore deflecting the insult by contesting the more recent meaning of “useless”.

    Of course, the receiver of the insult can choose to take enough offense at the term to resort to physical violence in reply, but that’s a whole different social interaction…

    Not to mention a risk that corespondents to date seem to have ignored?

  77. March 1, 2009 at 11:37 am —

    In fact, if it’s shock value you’re looking for, in my experience nothing is better than a good right cross, or perhaps a swiftly raised knee, or perhaps both.

    Obviously there may be unwanted consequences to these actions but in the right place, they can be extremely effective.

    I offer this advice as a logical conclusion to the discussion at hand, but of course, some of you may think I am going a bit too far?

  78. March 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm —

    @MathMike: It being harder to come up with a short insult for men isn’t evidence that men are more thick skinned. Is it evidence that white people have thicker skin because you can’t come up with a short word with the same power as “nigger?” Is it proof heterosexuals have thicker skin because there isn’t a matched word to “faggot” or “cocksucker?”

    It’s a matter of political and social power. Those words are insulting because they identify someone as something they are, and load that part of their identity with heaps and heaps of negative baggage. It’s insulting, if you’re sexist, because it’s not nice to point out to a lady that she’s of the weaker sex. If you’re not, it’s insulting because someone would use such a sexist method to insult someone. There’s no shared cultural bias to reference about men, whites, or heterosexuals, because those are the top of the political pyramid, at least in most of the english speaking world.

    Though, for what it’s worth, I do see more men throwing around insulting language at each other much more casually, but I don’t think it’s thickened skin, it’s that it’s used without venom. Delivery gives most of the punch to an insult, or pulls the punch, if you please. Some words have baggage, but most can be made tame, and many can cut without being one of the heavy words.

  79. March 1, 2009 at 1:38 pm —

    @chrisb: You mean ‘cunting edge’.

  80. March 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm —

    @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): It’s not any more difficult to change feelings than to get a dog salivating at the ringing of a bell. It just takes more work.

    I use what language I deem appropriate. Nobody has a right to not be offended.

  81. March 1, 2009 at 2:21 pm —

    @Oskar Kennedy (LBB): Here is a good example of what happens when you respect “sensitivity”.

    http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=9b8e3a6d-795d-440f-a5de-6ff6e78c78d5

  82. March 1, 2009 at 3:37 pm —

    @Elyse:

    Well, I don’t think you’re a blathering, nor blithering idiot. I just thought your scope was a bit limited perhaps.

    Elyse, read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. Not only is it a great, fun, funny, sad, powerful book, but the ubiquity of the word cunt is, well, rather spellbinding. And it may just slightly alter your perspective on the word.

    :)

  83. March 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm —

    @mxracer652: I’m not talking about a right not to be offended. I am a staunch believer in free speech, and I don’t think the law has any place telling people what they can and cannot say. Rather, I’m talking about a tiny amount of courtesy. I can’t see a particular word being so vital to your self-expression that you absolutely have to use it, even if asked politely not to.

    Let me qualify this. If somebody’s being a prick about it, that’s one thing. If you’re arguing with someone, have at it. But if you’re asked nicely, can you really not resist swearing for awhile?

    And how, in any universe, does being courteous enough to not swear when asked lead to the passage of anti-blasphemy laws? That’s as ridiculous a slippery-slope argument as I’ve seen in a long time.

    I’m talking about having the grace to choose a different word when it facilitates a social interaction.That’s a far cry from withholding criticism of an idea or belief for fear of offending its proponents. It’s an even bigger stretch to a government imposing that fear of offense on others.

  84. March 1, 2009 at 4:03 pm —

    @SicPreFix:

    I’m an idiot because I can’t even write a coherent post about Vince, not because of this post. This post is merely another example of my stupidity and lack of professionalism as I defended my use of bad words.

    But, like I said, after a quarter million hits to that posts, and links coming in from EVERYWHERE (WordPress tells us everyone who links to us, and I’ve checked out a large number of them) only two people have complained that they hated the post because of the word dick. The overwhelming majority enjoyed the post, and most of the people who didn’t like it had more issues with my suggestion that they should buy the towels.

  85. March 2, 2009 at 3:05 am —

    The problem with avoiding the word “cunt” is that it leaves you lacking an appropriate expletive for Dick Cheney. Bush was a motherfucking arsehole, no question, but Cheney, like Rumsfeld, was and is simply a cunt.

  86. March 2, 2009 at 4:52 am —

    Interesting argument.

    Just checking, it might be an English thing/Northern English thing, but does everyone think there is a ‘cunt is an insult aimed at women’ element? Because we northerners use it pretty universally, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever really heard anyone use the word at/about a woman, but instead even their usage in anger would be directed at/about a guy who’s being so much of a total cock/dick/knob/bellend/ballbag that none of those words suffice.

    Also, ballbag is one of the best insults. And on the BBC’s official listing, I believe cunt is the second most offensive thing to say. Position 3 is motherfucker. Number 1? Most offensive thing to say on the BBC? Sisterfucker. Sister-fucker. Interesting for 2 reasons: 1) it’s never ever ever been used by anyone ever [other than me since I learnt it]. 2) it can by definition only be used to insult men.

  87. March 2, 2009 at 5:47 am —

    “Sisterfucker”. Hmm. New one on me, and on the spellchecker, apparently.

    Maybe if the BBC didn’t have it on it’s “don’t you dare” list we’d all be using it.

  88. March 2, 2009 at 7:29 am —

    @Marsh: Confused. Why can ‘sister-fucker’ only be used to insult men? I don’t think that’s the case, unless you’re trying to define ‘fuck’ as ‘penetration with penis’, at which point ten million lesbians will laugh at you.

  89. March 2, 2009 at 7:35 am —

    @tkingdoll: Hmm, good point. Well in any case, at worst it can be seen as a gender-neutral insult I suppose, although I think even despite the amusement of 10 million lesbians, I think most people would first go to a hetero place for the insult rather than assume lesbianism, but I take your point.

    I more just wanted to highlight a new and silly curse word for the amusement of anyone who likes that sort of thing.

  90. March 2, 2009 at 9:25 am —

    As an alternate insult, I would like to offer up “pig fucker” for use. It’s surprisingly satisfying to use and works nicely in combos. Shit eating pig fucker, pig fucking asshole, etc.

  91. March 2, 2009 at 9:33 am —

    “pig fucker” I like it, it’s got a nice erm, ring to it, among other things…

  92. March 2, 2009 at 9:39 am —

    I’d also like to add that, though I don’t think it’s worse than “dick”, I definitely think “dickhole” is a funny insult. Which is why I use it so often.

  93. March 2, 2009 at 10:22 am —

    @Elyse: “Dickhole” almost sounds affectionate, like something you’d say to your dog. “Who’s a little dickhole? Yes you are, you’re a good little dickhole! Ooja booja gooja dickhole!”

  94. March 2, 2009 at 11:13 am —

    LOL at LBB!!

  95. March 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm —

    @tkingdoll: I’d go with sister fister.

  96. March 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm —

    @mxracer652: Uh, words have meaning, because, that’s … why they are words.

    And as long as “woman” or “woman-like” is still an insult — pussy, cunt, “that is so gay”, faggot, wussy, “you drive/throw like a girl!” etc, etc, then “cunt” is still far worse than “dick”. Sorry to say.

  97. March 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm —

    A view from the bottom of the world (NZ), like the UK its more of a general insult here. The example dialog you posted would be pretty acceptable between two guys in my workplace

    Guy1: You ate all my PopTarts, you cunt.

    Guy2: Geez, I’ll buy you another box, No need to be a cunt about it.

    Down here it tends to mean hard, difficult, unfair.. as in he’s being a real cunt about it, or it was a cunt of a job.

    It is known here that the americans have a real problem with it. Last week I head that Liam Finn was surfing with Ben Harper and used it, and Ben stop talking to him. ouch.

  98. March 2, 2009 at 5:12 pm —

    In the Uk we still prefer the word “Bastard” for that, i.e. at my wife’s primary and Infants school in the East End of London (yes, it’s another story!) the headmaster was struggling with a difficult fence repair (it was a Catholic school so suffering was good for the soul, and the budget). After a long time he stood back and mopped his brow when a young lad (about five) came up and said sympathetically. “It’s a real bastard, isn’t it sir?” What could he do but agree?

  99. March 2, 2009 at 5:24 pm —

    ZOMG

    The skepchick calender photos were topless??!?! FOR FUCKS SAKE, why didn’t anyone tell me!?!

    I agree, for a change, with Marilove. The world of burns is definitely skewed against women. I can and do call a man a bitch, and when I say it I mean that they are being whiny or weak in some way. With enough feeling behind it, calling a man a bitch usually makes for a fast opportunity to pummel his fist with your face.

    Some other specific examples: when I was serving active duty, if you started to complain about something you would often hear “what’s wrong, does your pussy hurt today?”

    Or if you are especially cranky you might be referred to as someone with “sand in their pussy.”

    I think it is a function of our misogynist culture, to a certain extent. Just look at our leadership: the population as a whole has a roughly 50:50 split between men and women, but that is far from represented in congress (I think we’ve been down this road before).

  100. March 3, 2009 at 9:43 am —

    @OneHandClapping: Woot, you agree with me! *happy dance!*

    I think in some contexts, cunt isn’t a big deal — like, among my close friends, who are all feminists. We can embrace it in that context with open arms. And of course the book “Cunt” is wonderful, too.

    But the majority of the time, it’s used to insult someone because they are being “woman-like” in some way which is “bad”. And that ain’t cool.

  101. March 3, 2009 at 9:45 am —

    And of course the word has a more general meaning in the UK. Words are interesting!

  102. March 3, 2009 at 10:35 am —

    marilove, you need to get out and about more — in the world, that is. Maybe expand your reading list or something.

    Your grand generalisations and absolutist pontifications are so localised that it gives the appearance of forgeting there are some 6 billion people on the planet (out and beyond you and your nearby neighbours and social group) who have a different way of seeing, doing, describing things, different from you and your nearby neighbours and social group.

    @marilove said:

    I think in some contexts, cunt isn’t a big deal — like, among my close friends, who are all feminists. We can embrace it in that context with open arms. And of course the book “Cunt” is wonderful, too.

    This is satire yes? Sardonic irony?

  103. March 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm —

    @SicPreFix:

    I don’t think the topic can truly be related to the other 6 billion inhabitants in the world since we are specifically speaking about the English language. Somehow, I don’t think that a factory worker in China would care if I called them a cunt all day long – it has no meaning for them, just as a verbal assault in Mandarin has no meaning to me. I think it is fair to assume that the idea was raised in relation to the rest of the English speaking world, otherwise the question would have been posed in Swahili, Dutch, Tagalog or any language other than English.

    Further, it is clear from the response of some of the comments that the OP was writing from the perspective of someone in the United States (possibly Canada). This reduces the original 6 billion down to approximately 300-450 million.

    I have never been in an area of the United States where the word “cunt” is thrown around as relatively lightly as “dick.” Admittedly, I have not been everywhere in the United States, nor have a been involved in every sub-culture therein.

    Essentially I think that your analysis is flawed in itself. I suppose there are groups that have embraced the word “cunt” to some end, but isn’t this about society at large? Do you REALLY think that within the U.S. “dick” and “cunt” have similar power behind them?

    Of COURSE words carry meaning depending on the receiver, not the sender, that is who is interpreting the connotation. It wouldn’t really be communication if the receiver didn’t give meaning to the words the sender was using, would it?

    And why would you assume that Marilove, or anyone else for that matter, is less worldly than you? Because she takes a different view of the world? Well I’ve been all over the world, and indeed across much of the United States, and I agree with her on this point.

    I’m sorry, but you come across as an insufferable ass when you say things like that.

  104. March 4, 2009 at 10:41 am —

    So good of you to comment @OneHandClapping.

    I don’t think the topic can truly be related to the other 6 billion inhabitants in the world since we are specifically speaking about the English language.

    Yes, you’re right about that. I should have limited it to the numbers of English speaking peoples in the world. I don’t know what those figures are though: One billion? Less/more?

    Further, it is clear from the response of some of the comments that the OP was writing from the perspective of someone in the United States (possibly Canada).

    “Writing from the perspective of…” yes, but limted to? Absolutely not. Skepchick is visited daily by folks from all over the globe — some of the Skepchicks themselves hail from the UK. It, and the topics therein are therefore global.

    I suppose there are groups that have embraced the word “cunt” to some end, but isn’t this about society at large?

    Yes. And so? Aren’t those sub-cultural groups a part of society at large? Or are they somehow magically excluded?

    Why would you assume that Marilove, or anyone else for that matter, is less worldly than you? Because she takes a different view of the world?

    Well, that’s my perception and how I interpret marilove’s posts, which seem to me to be frequently America-centric and strongly female-chauvinistic. Hey, I could be wrong, but that’s how I often perceive what she has to say.

    you come across as an insufferable ass when you say things like that.

    Ah yes, nothing like a pithy wee ad hominem to get the morning off right.

  105. March 4, 2009 at 4:58 pm —

    Nothing is better than boobs.

    Thanks so much for this post.

  106. March 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm —

    Gah, every single argument is either generalizing your specific opinion to everyone or missing the point entirely.

    For example, it’s untrue that “dick” is in no way sexist – “you’re being a dick” in modern parlance is essentially “you’re behaving in an inconsiderate and impudent manner, like a typical male”.

    The acceptability of “dick” as opposed to “cunt” comes primarily from usage (“dick” as an insult has been more commonly used for a longer time, compared to “cunt”) and etymology.

    “Dick” really did begin its life as the shortened form of Richard. Due to the commonality of the name, it became “everyman” language (e.g. “every Dick and Harry”, similar to “John Doe” in spirit). It thus became extended to refer to a man in general, and eventually to the specific genitalia.

    “Cunt”, on the other hand, began its life as the old-germanic “konten”, and described the female genitals. It’s meaning as an insult is derived from that.

    So the real reason that “cunt” is more offensive than “dick” is that “cunt” is describing a person as female genitalia, thus objectifying them. “Dick”, however, refers to genitalia only secondarily; you really are calling someone a “typical man” when you say “you’re a dick”.

    My conclusion is that both terms are equally sexist, but that the word “cunt” is entirely more forceful, and thus more offensive.

    However, I despise it when people get prudish about offensive language, and gleefully call people of both sexes “cunts” when ever they behave like fucking assholes.

  107. March 6, 2009 at 12:28 am —

    @SicPreFix:

    Hmmm…so it’s an ad hominem when I told you why you sounded like an ass, then said you sounded like an ass. Right. Thank you for proving my point.

    I do take exception to the fact that the OP was writing from the perspective of an North American English speaker, inasmuch as responses from several of the UK and Australian readership said that “cunt” didn’t hold the same meaning for them.

    And yes, the subcultures are certainly a part of the rest of American culture, as your clever remark pointed out. You did manage to elude my point by saying as much, as I am sure you are very much aware.

    However, I won’t beat this to death, as I don’t see you becoming agreeable no matter what point I make.

  108. March 9, 2009 at 9:48 pm —

    Well, I was quite surprised that Elyse would spend this much time writing up a defense of her use of the word “dick”, especially considering that virtually all of it consisted of straw-man arguments.

    In any case, to me it just makes her look even more defensive and therefore even less professional.

    As for the question from “tkingdoll”: no, I would not consider calling a heterosexual male a “cocksucker” to be homophobic. In fact, there is very little in this world that I consider to be actually homophobic… that word is grossly overused and usually misused. It is one thing to be afraid of a certain group of people, it is something completely different to just not like them. There is a pretty big difference. But in my experience, most people who use the word are actually referring to people who fall into the latter category, which is incorrect. The dictionary uses the word “unreasonable” in its definition, but it is very much debatable how unreasonable a given person’s dislike may be.

  109. March 10, 2009 at 11:13 am —

    @Jane Q. Public:

    I thought that your question brought up some interesting points worth discussing. Its a shame you think it’s an inappropriate topic to even discuss.

    I am confused as to why you think that my arguments are strawmen. Do you disagree that the intent and usage behind a word are important? My argument is that they are, regardless of what the other definitions of that word are.

    Are they both mean things to say? Sure. But I don’t think that’s what your issue is. If I replaced “dick” with “jerk”, would you have felt I was inappropriate?

    Also, for the record, “cocksucker” is a completely ridiculous insult. How is sucking cock a bad thing? Really, it’s s downright pleasant way to treat another person. Calling someone a “cocksucker” to insult them is as sensible as calling them “breakfast in bed cooker” or “philanthropist” as an insult.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you dislike my style. In charm school, I failed the course “How to speak like a proper lady and not use words others might find inappropriate for a nice girl to use”.

  110. March 10, 2009 at 12:47 pm —

    @Jane Q. Public: If “professional” is part of the job description around here, then I think we’re all in trouble.

    New reality show idea: Skepchick Charm School. Like the Rock of Love sequel on VH1, except with fewer STDs. Rebecca can be Sharon Osbourne and the rest of us can pull each other’s hair and call each other whatever is proper to call someone instead of “dick.”

  111. March 10, 2009 at 1:42 pm —

    @Jen: Something like “you’re a dirty Nixon!”

  112. March 16, 2009 at 5:47 pm —

    Hi Elyse.

    I am not averse to discussing things, but frankly I do not see that there is much to discuss. I felt I had a valid point, and you went out of your way to try to argue your way out of it. But I simply do not acknowledge that your arguments are truly valid in this case. And from the way things have been put so far, I do not see that changing, regardless of how a discussion of the issue might go.

    My mention of the other word was simply a reply to a direct question. I happen to agree that as an insult it is pretty ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the way many people grossly misuse the word “homophobic”.

    In any case, I do not “dislike your style”. I made one minor criticism, and that was all. If I had thought it would start a whole discussion thread, I would have kept my keyboard to myself.

  113. November 10, 2009 at 4:52 pm —

    Hmm… Just got me thinking.

    Perhaps its an unfair comparison between ‘dick’ and ‘cunt’?

    Pussy is to dick as cunt is to cock, perhaps?

  114. November 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm —

    In the UK ‘cunt’ is an insult almost exclusively aimed at men. Women would very rarely get called this. In fact bizarrely it’s a term of endearment among males sometimes (In NZ as well) so I might say- ‘Yeah, sam. He’s a good c–t!’ I had no idea this was different in the US. We always use the c word to describe people who are complete assholes, we use the d word for people who are slightly foolish.

    So Tom Cruise is a dick compared to Hitler who was a massive c.

    You get me?

  115. November 12, 2009 at 1:44 pm —

    Oh yeah, I should have read the thread huh? What a —- I am.

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