Can British Expats Get Away With Saying The 'C' Word? Discuss...

Earlier in the week, I attended a media screening of The World's End; the latest British comedy from Shaun of the Dead creators Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright. The film was pretty amusing, but the main thing I took away from it was the repeated utterance of the "C" word. This got me thinking about my British buddies currently living in Australia — to a man (and woman) none of 'em shy away from using this word, which is generally regarded to be the most offensive and misogynistic swearword in the English language. So what gives?

Now, granted, when most Brits utter the "C" word it's usually accompanied by a comedic and/or affectionate tone — but the fact remains that the word still packs plenty of wallop in the English-speaking world, especially in mixed company. (Larry David does a fabulous riposte of this social faux pax in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Swearing ensues, obviously.)

Indeed, even in "C-word friendly" England, the producers of The World's End took the step of contacting the British Board Of Film Classification to see what they could actually get away with.

"We are writing a script at the moment where the word ‘c**t’ appears several times...All very much in a naturalistic, social context rather than an aggressive, threatening one," Edgar Wright explained in a letter to the censors. "Is it the case that using the word more than once would push the film from a 15 to an 18? Love to find out what the guidelines are. Thanks for any help on this one."

The BBFC replied to Wright that extreme language can be passed if justified by the context:

In terms of context, it is more likely that we would pass throwaway, matter-of-fact, or comic uses than uses that are aggressive, personally directed, or accompanied by complicating factors such as violence, threat, racism, or a power imbalance.

In other words, jokey use of the word is acceptable even if a film has been classified as suitable for 15-year olds.

Call me a prude, but the pseudo-gentrification of this word upsets me a little. Whenever I travel next to a bunch of rowdy teens on the way home, it seems to pepper their language to an off-putting degree — even in the "quiet" train. I can't help but feel that the "lovable" geezers in British movies and TV shows are at least partially responsible for this. Not to mention our British mates down the pub.

We want to hear what our readers think, especially if you originally hark from Britain — is it perfectly acceptable to pepper your speech with this vile epithet? Or is it a telling sign that moral values are slipping to a point where nearly anything goes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

NOTE: Lifehacker reserves the right to backflip on social mores as they relate to language as it suits us. You c-[snip! — Ed.]

[Via: Edgar Wright Here]


Comments

    As a non-expat australian, the term "pseudo-gentrification" gets my hackles up more than the c-bomb :p

    I hate this word, not because I find it any more offensive than other swear words (i.e. not very), but because 9/10 the person using it is a feral bogan with a southern cross tatt poking out of a Tapout t-shirt.

      What sort of Stupid Cunt asks the questions around here?

        I love how you capitalise it, as if being a stupid cunt was an appointed position or a proper noun describing a particular thing. Like a royally appointed Stupid Cunt lol

      lol - next time i call someone a c*** i'll be sure to remember i'm being less judgmental than the above comment

        I don't mind being judgmental towards feral bogans :)

    The C word is basically interchangeable with the word mate for the under 25s in Australia regardless of how bogan or upper crust they are. It's not uncommon to see a well-dressed girl in her teens greet her friends with "sup c**t!"

      under 25's haha. everyone uses it willy nilly age unrestricted.

      Ergh, the only thing worse than hearing a bogan say c**t is hearing a bogette say c**t. It might be sexist, but there's something about a woman saying the word that makes it even more cringe worthy.

    To avoid confusion as to my sentiment, I will make it quite clear; Fuck being against swear words. The thought that certain syllables of words can be more insulting than others is beyond belief to me as a logical person..

    I think most of the time people kind of think "what does society expect me to think about this?" without realising that they ARE society, and should probably only worry about the reality of the situation. However! I also think this response plays an important part of what swear words ARE for, which is attempting to reserve certain words with an implied purpose - for intense or extreme responses with absolute clarity.

      +1
      "Swear words" are still only words, and some reserve them to express a level of emotion or response that other words just aren't powerful enough for.

      People can quite easily be far more disgusting and vile without uttering one swear word, than the word c*** on its own. The context and intent with which something is said, is far more important than the word itself!

      This. It doesn't matter if someone is calling you a c**t, a f**kwit, a s**thead, or even if they don't swear at all and just call you a dog-rapist. The fact is, they don't like you very much and their opinions can now safely be ignored.

      Someone you've never met, in a bar, calls you a fuckwit and a tool and you laugh it off, but then they say they slept with your mother and all of a sudden it's on? Some insults are worse than others because... because?

      Nonsense, all'a it.

      Last edited 01/08/13 6:46 pm

        Right. So in that case - it's about the intent of the words. Personally, i'm an incredibly friendly person - and wouldn't say any of the examples above heh! Hate the intent, not the words, though this does also fit with what I was saying about them being effective for communicating because in that sense - I completely agree.

    Doesn't bother me at all. But I would never use it unless I was 100% sure everyone around wouldn't be bothered by it.

    Bogans have absolutely no issue with using the word any time, any place!! I personally believe it's the nastiest thing that a human can utter in a public place. Then again Britain is probably the birth place of the original cretin to be branded "Bogan"... :)

    Last edited 01/08/13 5:46 pm

      Really? I think racial or homophobic slurs are much nastier. The user of those words rarely have ambiguous intentions. Profanity can be used sarcastically, ironically, humorously etc.

        The "C" word is a swear word, as apposed to slurs etc which, although I grant you are worse aren't actually swear words... :)

        Last edited 02/08/13 7:35 am

    I'm all for swear words and everything else all the way to dead baby jokes, but I hate the word c**t in all of its uses, I dont specifically know why. But The word just makes me cringe, is so god damn crude, above everything else.

    I don't use the C word, but it has no affect on me in any way, where as when i hear the word facebook or twitter my brain rages for a few seconds and then dismisses that person and anything else they ever say, and no that's not a joke.

    Cunt is such a great word. Would any other word get it's own blog posts like this.

    The hell are you talking about? Expat here...

    Australians say "the c-word" FAR more than any Briton.

    Sincerely,

    Winston Cumberpatch.

      Yeah it's kind of equal but I think the Brit's like to say it. Not in an everyday situation but when you mean business. In other words when your angry the word is a sign to others, your really upset. Also in the context of comedy it gives it some kind of edge which can make or break the joke. But with me coming from an English working class background, people I know say it without realizing it and also without malice. I personally think it's good to have words that stir the emotions but only used in the right situation. " Hitler, what a **** ".

      The only time I've heard this word in public is when there are Bogans around. I've worked all around Australia in various jobs and a good long stint in the Army but I've very rarely heard it in a public place by your regular non thong/plaid shirt waring decent human being... :)

      Came here to say the same - I always thought Aussies say it a lot more than us Poms over here! Mind, perhaps it's just the bogan-stereotype impressions that people tend to trot out occasionally.

    Stubbed my toe? I say "Cunt".
    Nearly had a car accident? I say "Fuck".
    There ain't many better single syllable words that you can shout and instantly feel better.

    Sometimes working out the best way to live my life in a complex social world can be immensely confusing. As a short cut I simply don't do what bogons do. Since they swear like sailors I have chosen not to ever swear.

    I might be a cunt, but I'm not a fucking cunt.

      Just wanted to let you know that didn't fly over everyone's head. :)

    just think of the c-word as a describing word; an adjective!

    for example... "there was this fuck of truck riding my arse today on the freeway"... "there was this cunt of a truck up my arse"

    in other words.. "there was a big truck tailgating me today"

    fuck this shit, you're all a bunch of pansy cunts.

    Being of a certain nationality doesn't make it any more acceptable, it just shows how vulgar the place they're from is. They can swear all they want back where they came from, but they should atleast respect the locals where they're visiting instead of calling everyone c**t.

    Can someone please explain this logic to me?
    A: Hey! C**t!
    B: What did you just call me?
    A: Oh no, it's fine! I'm British!
    B: Oh ok then, all good.

      i dont think anyone anywhere walks up to complete strangers and calls them cunt.

    Seriously... as a 40-something expat-Brit living in Australia for over 7 years now I have been been staggered at the excessive use of the "C word" in Australia. I can't explain it's use in Pegg's (awesome) film, but it's use in the UK is rare in my experience. You seem shocked by it, but I hear it used flagrantly day-upon-day by 20-something Australians.

    Nah, we Brits say it far more - but I have noticed it's more likely to be used in "a naturalistic, social context" by Southerners, as in the film (also think the Inbetweeners - which was basically my adolescence)

    Conversely you can freely say sh1t on tv here (but I'm assuming not in kids' tv, having never watched any), and f*** is the bogan's preferred adjective/verb/noun in all sentences, but I've found the C word to be very rare

      id come visit australia if you reckon brits use it more. we would use it at least as much. i do like that its common there too so im not claiming ownership for australia.

    I would much rather know how to reclaim said star constellation back. Bogan subculture doesn't own the southern cross anymore than gay people own the rainbow.

    What always surprises me is that c$&t and fuck are less socially acceptable than racist words like n#gger and co0n. This is highlighted by the fact that those racist words are used on the radio and on TV news, and not just in rap songs. I hear talk back hosts using those words and have even heard them in their promos

    Prude.

    Particular words are only offensive because you decide they are.

    mate, i reckon australians use the word at least as much if not more than the british.

    Call me a prude, but the pseudo-gentrification of this word upsets me a little.

    I used to feel the same way, until I realised it meant I was giving a particular combination of four letters far too much power over the way I thought and felt. In the right context, it can still be the vilest of generic epithets, but otherwise, it's just a word. I've now progressed my usage of it to a routine application in games that are giving me hell and drivers who are pissing me off. I still get a slight reaction when someone uses it at me, but nowhere near as much as the jolt I used to get.

    I've also noticed a lot of woman taking ownership of the word in recent times, which frankly is long overdue - it's their body part whose name is being taken in vain, after all. A lot of the power comes from the misogynist undertone, so I think if there's an opportunity for women to claim it as "their word", go for it. Of course, in that context, there was the case last year of a state representative in Michigan who was censured because she "violated decorum" when she used the word "vagina" during a debate about abortion, so there's a lot of work still to do before women can claim the big word.

    On reflection, my favourite cinematic uses of the 'C' word are Ron Pearlman's in Blade II and Chloë Grace Moretz's in Kick-Ass. I can't think of a British usage that I've enjoyed as much as those ones - I think the Poms treat it far more matter-of-factly, which to me says the answer to your question is "yes". Though I've got this feeling Timothy Dalton once used it very, very well, but I can't remember where.

    Definitely words with intent are harsher than just swearing. We can say some pretty nasty stuff without ever swearing.

    But I like Terry Pratchetts view in The Last Continient. "All Bastards are Bastards, but some Bastards are BASTARDS!"

    or to tie it back to the article: All Cunts are Cunts, but some Cunts are CUNTS!

    Frankly if someone walked up to me and called me a cunt, i would be less worried about the name calling and more worried about the star pickett he was carrying. (I grew up in Armadale)

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