“I’d rather be a poly than a cunt”

In the world of male sports clubs, ritualistic chants are a form of bonding. The slogan above is chanted by Sheffield Hallam football supporters when playing their local rivals, Sheffield University.

And the Uni followers’ retort? “I’d rather be a cunt than unemployed”. These are blokes chanting at each other. So who really is the cunt here? And what exactly is a cunt, nowadays?

From the days of Chaucer, “cunt” has had both a literal and a metaphorical meaning. The latter was “crafty”, hence the word’s evolved meaning of “a nasty piece of work”.

After various merry Shakespearean jokes (“Twelfth Night”, “Henry V”), soldiers’ difficult lives in the trenches in WW1 popularised the use of the word to mean a thing – anything from one’s kit to the Sergeant Major.

East End slang has long used “cunt” in a familiar sense, as in the expression “you dozy cunt”.

And who can forget the hapless Hatton Garden heist lookout, described by his disgruntled fellow defendants as “Kenny, that wombat thick old cunt”?

When D H Lawrence wrote his lightly fictionalised memoir (1928) of his elopement with the German aristocrat Frieda Von Richtofen, whose nude frolics with lovers amongst bluebells were legendary, he used the word in a tender, if literal sense.

The UK’s belated attempt to prosecute Penguin Books, the publishers of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, for obscenity in 1960 failed. In fact, the word “cunt” only appears about a dozen times in the book.

In a criminal case in 2017, a defendant told the judge HH J Patricia Lynch QC, “You’re a cunt and I’m not”. She replied, “Well, you’re a bit of a cunt yourself”. Cue some harrumphing.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office decided to take no action, although the judge had decided to apologise and not to do this again.

So does English society operate double standards when it comes to prominent women using the C-word?

Are women still supposed to be more “ladylike” in the 21st-century, when it comes to the exercise of free speech?

Recent research has shown that women are ten times more likely to say “shit” than men, and more likely to say “fuck”.

And research has suggested that women find slurs imputing promiscuity (“slag”, “slut”) more upsetting than a word like “cunt” which, by comparison, is neutral when used in a sexual sense.

Some high-profile women evidently do not agree with the regressive idea that women should be more constrained in their choice of vernacular. Thus, the high-profile gay Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins let rip as she presented the 2017 Baftas:

I live for live. Give me a seven second delay and I will use it, you blustering cunt-faced fuck-trumpets.

Nowadays, what a previous generation may have deemed unsayable in polite or genteel society is the new normal.

Indeed, as far as I can report, “cunt” nowadays in the UK has a somewhat watered-down meaning, ranging from “mate” to “asshole”.

Judging from my own observations of the use of the word “cunt” on public transport, by and to women, it’s a word that women are comfortable with.

And there I shall leave it. For now.

One Comment

  1. It can also be used as a term of endearment.

    I often call my grandmother this under breath…because she’s so lovely, of course.

    Brilliant to see you’re blogging now 🙂

    Never let the Nutterbus mob ruffle you!

    Take Care.


Comments are closed.