Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The language of the Gutter Snipe: my real distaste for the 'C Word'

Interrupting the flow of a saga is not something I want to make a habit of, and I can assure you that the next post published will be the concluding part of my trip to Rio, however an article in today’s copy of the Evening Standard vindicated a new and ugly habit that has gripped society and become highly fashionable in the same token. The favourite byword of aggressive comedians, it can be as blasé in use as it is highly unpleasant in construct. Yes dear readers, in this particular post, and for one time only, I am going to be talking about that once dreaded, now accepted, ‘C Word’… C***.

As you can see from the introductory paragraph I can no longer bring myself to write such an unpleasant word that even in its spoken form is so ugly, nasty and spiteful. This is a far cry from the foolish and naïve 17 year old who thought that the use of this word was the height of literary sophistication. I used the word in a particularly literal and unpleasant scene of a short story and on re-reading the said passage, deeply regretted using such disgusting term (so much so that I re-wrote the whole thing, finding something a bit more sensual and creative). It seems so strange that a word I once used quite freely should now make me so uncomfortable, but I guess that is merely a sign that I am getting older!

The offending article that acted as motivation for writing about my intense dislike for this word was one that I had read in today’s Evening Standard when coming home from work. Flicking through pages filled with super-injunctions, royal weddings and why plimsolls are set to dazzle this summer there was a small article about a recent chat show appearance made by Holywood star and rock spouse, Gwyneth Paltrow. We all remember Paltrow from her early days opposite Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in Seven to her propulsion into stardom in the amusing Shakespeare in Love. I have both enjoyed her films and admired her willowy beauty, but on this particular occasion I was left distinctly unimpressed. Chatting to American chat show host, Chelsea Handler in an interview designed to promote her new cookery book, Gwyneth proceeded to refer to her late grandmother as ‘a real c***’. 

Now, I am not saying that her grandmother was not a hideous, malicious and thoroughly unpleasant old battleaxe, having watched the rest of the interview it is not an unreasonable assumption, however I felt that the use of the 'C word' was both unpleasant and cheap shot designed to whip up PR and media attention. Paltrow was once quoted as saying ‘I say what I think, and I stand behind what I say’. I just wish that on this occasion she had reached a little deeper into her internal thesaurus of insults!

It would be grossly unfair of me to say that Gwyneth Paltrow is entirely to blame for the current, and excessive use of this thoroughly vulgar word. I would also be a hypocrite if I said I was above using swear words myself every now and then! But it seems that more and more personalities and influential voices are saying c*** using it in the most derogatory fashion. You only have to look at one of Charlie Brooker’s rants on his BBC show Newswipe to gauge see how this word has become part and parcel of many comic monologues. Ultimately it is a cheap and lazy way of emphasising distain when original and clever critique eludes the writer/performer. I am sure that many of the alternative and edgy crowd who dine out on using the word would be horrified if they realised that they were following in the footsteps of Bernard Manning who was one of the first people to use it on television (incidentally, Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown is also a fan of the word, often using it in his acts).

There is a real difference between s**t, f**k, T****r to name a few than c***. Try saying it to yourself a few time in the mirror and you will see what I mean. With a blunt pronunciation, aggressive emphasis and that it can only be used as a noun it is one of the worst words in the British language and one which I feel should never be used even in the worst of situations. It is once in a blue moon that I agree with anything that Germain Greer has to say, but I support her view that it is one of the only words left in the English Language that still has the ability to shock on exclaimation.  One of my best friends (who may I also add, is an avid reader of this blog) relishes in my dislike of this word and often drops it into a conversation knowing that I will draw him up on it! Cheeky B******!

I fear however, that I am in a minority of people and that over the next few years that this word will proliferate more and more until it starts to receive common usage. Society’s acceptance of the ‘C word’ has never been higher, how quick we all were to overlook and even joke about James Naughtie’s appalling slip on Radio 4’s Today programme (to which I was listening at the time of the incident) when he mispronounced the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt’s, name! An initial hoo-hah was made by the press and the story died quickly, yet no-one thought to question the new found acceptance that the British public now have for the word c***. Perhaps this is cause of some concern to the popular psyche. 

Ultimately, It seems obvious that I am going to receive a backlash of criticism from all quarters, who – I am sure - will feel that I have overreacted. Yet I feel that I have been silent on this topic for long enough, and it is high time that someone said something in criticism of this unpleasant, vitriolic and frankly upsetting word. If however, you feel that you have found some way in which the word can be used in a witty and intelligent way, then please do not hesitate to let me know!

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