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The Drum Opinion Australian Broadcasting Corporation Editor s note: This article, on how words come to be regarded as obscene, may offend some readers. We ve seen some fascinating tousles over complicated moral boundaries in contemporary Australian life lately. The dramatic closure of Bill Henson s photographic exhibition raised the question of the lines between postmodern art and child pornography. Linguistic censorship is on the table too: last week, a one day senate inquiry into swearing on free to air television was held because TV chef Gordon Ramsey recently called someone a ct on television. South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi moved the motion to hold the inquiry due to the increase in foul language on our screens, and Ramsey is the catalyst for the debate. Cultural boundaries are stretched, pounded and knocked around like bread dough. Saucy, compelling muppet baby chef Gordon Ramsey is renown for saying fk every five minutes. He even hosts a show called The F Word. With all the intensity and drama of a kitchen, using fk to express discontent or amazement is a necessary short hand for Ramsey, and it s all part of his signature dishiness. But another chef calling him a ct on his tv show, it seems, is a whole other kettle of filth. Ct, it seems, is the new fk. Four letters, one syllable. To utter a decent obscenity, it needs to be one syllable, doesn t it. It needs to fill and explode in the mouth. Maybe this is why fk is the new bugger . The word ct is so crisp and satisfying to say, and has much more erotic potential than the three syllable, wingy, bored sounding va gi na , just as cock is much more satisfying than penis (although we encourage children to use avoid euphemisms and pet names for genitals for very good reasons, it s just more fun for adults). Like fk , ct has those solid u sounds, like some kind of primal grunt. Perhaps the phonetics of these words reflects that we re all really still in the cave, uttering guttural growls at each other when displeased. In the English language, we have always had words that are the ultimate swear word, and much has already been written about the history and origins of ct (for example, that it originates in the middle ages and wasn t really a terrible obscenity until around the nineteenth century). It is one of those words that some of us save for best. You need a good solid obscenity to let someone know you mean business, so the c word has for a long time, been one to save for a rainy day, if ever uttered. We re always going to have one word that oversteps the mark, but why that word in particular? I think I can safely say that women don t call each other cts very often. But men call each other cts much more comfortably. Why is it so very deeply insulting? It s not so damaging, not so criminal to be called a penis. In fact, in Tasmania, there s a tradition of men calling each other cock as a term of affection ( g day cock , instead of g day mate ). I know quite a few men from mainland Australia who, upon being greeted as cock , haven t known whether they were being propositioned or insulted. It takes a while to realise that these Tassie blokes are just being straight and matey. Is the ultimate Moncler Kids Dark Blue Clothing - Fall-Winter insult for a man to be called a vagina? Is this just another (un)subtle piece of misogyny floating about that we don t really think about (like boys in fairy dresses?). When a man is insulted, he is usually feminised. He s a pussy, a sheila, a wuss, a big girl s blouse, a ct. Okay, we have dickhead, and bastard, but they re fairly low grade, 6.30pm timeslot insults. Women, on the other hand, are not phallicised through insulting language. They too can be cts, but they can also be bitches, sluts and whores, just more vaginal focused terms. The horror of the vagina in Western culture isn t just present through the ultimate in insults, but it s also present in many horror films. Australian film theorist Barbara Creed has been writing for years on the symbolic presence of the vagina and womb in horror films such as Ridley Scott s Aliens series, in vampire films, and in that sensation of the uncanny that we experience in spooky stories. French feminist Julia Kristeva writes about one sense of the uncanny being associated with feelings of being lost, of losing one s way. Freud links something known of old to female genital organs: the place, the home of all human beings. So often in horror films we are presented with the real or symbolic mother figure threatening to engulf the hero back into the womb, losing that separateness gained when one s cord was first cut. So whether we acknowledge it or not, the monstrous feminine is ever lurking in the back of our minds, threatening to absorb us all. Some people believe that the use of the word ct is insulting to women, but I just don t see why, when people casually call others dickhead all the time. The vagina is no more sacred and mysterious than the penis, is it? Or do we still live in a world where we think ladies are affronted by dirty words? Many feminists, from Germaine Greer to third wavers, embrace and reclaim the word ct . In the book Ct: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio argues that the word used to be used positively in ancient times prior to patriarchal, saviour centred religions. A fear of women s power, it seems, is bound up in our fear and loathing of the big C. HBO television throws cts around like the latest Chanel quilted purse. The women in Sex and the City talk about it and celebrate it, it s used on The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but the real drama for politicians is when it s on reality tv. When it s a word said unscripted, from the bottom of someone s authentic heart, when it s really meant, then it seems to be more of a problem. Oddly enough, when the first person to say fk on Australian television (news presenter Kevin Crease on the Graham Kennedy show (he accidentally uttered fking hell )) in the late 1960s there were apparently no complaints. The word ct is the catalyst for drama in Ian McEwan s Atonement. It is such a shock, such a scandalously erotic word that typed by Robbie in a letter that he never intends to send to his untouchable Celia. When twelve year old Briony reads the note, it marks the beginning of the end. That word on the page is almost as confronting as those figures she sees moving together in the library. That word on the page changes and destroys the course of everybody s lives. Just one four letter word. Whilst I m all up for celebrating the ct, do I want my kids saying it when they make a mistake? Of course Moncler Uk Stockists not. Like most parents, I want my kids to have control and mastery over their word choice, and to expand their vocabulary to express how they really feel rather than just grunt out an expletive. The one word, blunt, unintelligent insult can wait until they are adults. I don t know if they even know about the c word . They re excited and awestruck enough when they hear the f word . I suspect they will know about it soon enough, but it will be because it has been whispered about amongst friends, and explained as the worst word anyone can use. What I m really curious about is what that word will be when their children are in the playground, and whether or not it will be vulgarly vulvic. 01 Jun 2008 1:50:16pm This article does bring up some interesting points, however, does language of this manner really matter that much? I belive if the words still portray the same meanings and feelings within context, then it shouldn t be a problem. I think some people are in the politically correct phase of there life.cough "lack of self identity?". On the matter of correct language skills, I belive people should be focused more on our schools and what our kids are being taught, not on the matter of adults and their casual obscenities. 29 May 2008 7:32:30pm Actually men get called dckheads more often. By women too. Just as insulting. Actually I think the vagina is the most beautiful piece of art in existence. In fact when you think about, the "Go and get fcked !" insult realy isn t. If you wanted to emotionally harm someone, why would you wish upon them the very act that most humans would rank as the number one pleasurable thing they could possibly do ? So next time someone calls you a cnt , thank them for likening Moncler Jackets Outlet Store you to the most beautiful thing on this planet. Cheers.
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