The 'C' word. Something of alinguistic Lord Voldemort, it is the
Word that Shall Not Be Named. Germaine Greer described it as one of
the only words that has retained its power to shock and whilst it
seems to be the adjective of choice for a lot of my friends, in
many situations it does have an inexplicable gravitas that renders
it seemingly unspeakable.
But why? Of course there are some words that when uttered are
construed as an act of hatred on account of their socio-historical
context but the 'C' word isn't one of them. Generally, the people
who are offended by it can't offer a reasonable explanation for why
they find it so objectionable, and this is a concern.
Why? Because if theimpact of the word isn't on account of some
sinister history, it must be to do with the designation, implying
that the taboo could be a manifestation of a widely held discomfort
with female genitalia. Consider counterpart pejoratives that
refer to male genitalia. Whilst they aren'tdelightful, there is no
stigma attached to the simple annunciation of them. In fact I could
write them here without fear of reproach whereas if ''the'C' word''
didn't sufficiently convey the meaning I'd have had to adopt an
alias for it - I May have gone for Theresa- but that's beside the
So whilst I'm not suggesting carpet 'C' bombing, we should
challenge the idea that the word is somehow off-limits. Any
pejorative that refers to genitalia it seems will be offensive
(although I can't quite work out why 'you cock' is more offensive
than 'you arm-pit') but for society to find the assimilation with
the feminine so horrendous that it becomes unmentionable we should
question whether there's something ominous under-lying.
Because as we learnt from the boy wizard, 'fear of the word
increases fear of the thing itself' and that would never do. See
you next Tuesday.