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Home > Culture and Society

I'm a cunt, get me out of here

6 February 2004

The magic happens or it doesn't. With Tara and Darren, we got purest platinum television: one of the greatest and purest dramas, real or fictional, ever to have been played out. When Craig confronted Nick, we were glued. When Feltz went into meltdown, we raised our champagne glasses to the screen. But this year?

John Lydon said cunt.

Oooh missus!

That's what we’ve got to make do with: the small thrill of a seeing a pointless squawking tosser with all the gravitas of Andi Peters calling the viewers 'fucking cunts' (and then trying to pass it off with this beyond-feeble excuse: "I was talking about being in the country"?)

The 'cunts' incident (hereafter to be known as 'cuntgate'), witnessed by around 12 million viewers, garnered only 73 complaints. Some have taken this to suggest that Britain has become inured to the word. The cover story on the Guardian’s G2 section showed four Scrabble pieces: CNUT, and asked coyly: 'Is it OK to use the C-word now?' Clearly not. Although they did manage to get one cunt on the cover - the piece is by Mark Lawson.

Lawson suggests that large sections of society have become "desensitised to the c-word" -

Guardian readers are very lucky indeed if they have never heard a man in a pub greet a friend with the salutation: "Come here, you old cunt." If you stop to listen, the level of obscenity is astonishing.

What the cunt Lawson seems to have overlooked is that obscenity has been a rich part of language since man first descended from the fucking trees. There is nothing new to this rudeness. As the saying goes, there were rude men before Agamemnon. (Agamemnon was notoriously foul-mouthed, once telling Achilles that he could shove his sword "right up his arse.")

The Bible is full of rudity. In the Old Testament, Samson taunts the Philistines by calling them "bugger faces" and "soft dicks." And King David, when he welcomes the Ark into his city, warns the bearers of the Ark to "watch their fucking step."

Galileo swore like a linebacker. Particularly if anyone dared get near his precious biscuits. And the poet Andrew Marvell, when elected to parliament in 1659, concluded his maiden speech with the declaration that religious tolerance should be extended to "every last cunt of us."

Children swear, old people swear, Elizabethans swear, Danish people swear, we all swear. It’s amazing that Lydon’s outburst should have elicited any response at all. We’ve heard it all before. As Ecclesiastes says: there is nothing new under the fucking sun.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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