Warning, this post contains words that some people may find offensive
Unmistakebly the Sex Pistols, today’s title works on more than one level as it happens. I have just returned from Dubai where a lot of people spend their holidays in the sun. I spent a few days working out of the sun when I could help it as it was extremely hot. And today I am going on a holiday, to Prague in the Czech Republic, where we don’t expect to be too troubled by UV rays except in the hot nightspots we intend to frequent most evenings.
The other level on which it works is that I really wanted to talk about language. Not so much foreign language, though one of the things I did whilst in Dubai was to install an Arabic translation of our client’s software. This went about as well as I expected it too though my grasp of Arabic is so poor the screens could have said anything in the world and I would be none the wiser. Interestingly the abbreviation for the install started ‘ars’ which it turns out is the start of something rude in both Arabic and English.
I find it very interesting what language or words are acceptable to people and what they take offence at. Obviously this is a developing area, What was once totally taboo is not even bleeped out of our TV programmes now, indeed it is much more noticable when it is. There is still one last no-no, cunt, the only completely banned word on British TV, why is that?
When I was younger and I first heard Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols I was amazed at the language they used. Most notably on the song Bodies where one part goes:
fuck this and fuck that
fucking little fucker, fucking brat
That song is fairly offensive on a number of levels but not because of the word fuck.
I had a jokey exchange with a colleague at work the other day where we both did the ‘whatever’ W gesture with our hands, I followed it up with the inverted M meaning ‘minger’. “Oh I don’t like that word” he said ” I don’t like the word it’s based on”. He’s no prude but he doesn’t like to refer to a ladies bits as a minge. Fair dos. When I was courting my wife I satyed at her house one new year at which they had a party. The next day at breakfast I nearly choked on my museli as they all discussed how such and such had called someone a twat. Over and over they kept repeating this word, a word that I had always been brought up to consider a ‘swear’ word. They didn’t know though, they thought it meant a twit.
Going back to the word cunt, it stems from the german word kunton, meaning ladies front bottom. It has only been used as a term of abuse in the 19th/20th century, prior to that it was just a word to describe the femail genitalia. It was replaced with vagina in the same way that crap was replaced by excrement and urine ousted piss as the victorian words of choice to describe those particular bodily functions. Knowing people of that time it was no doubt an act of snobbery to add some syllables to words to make themselves appear more learned than the hoy poloy.
So if you went back a couple of centuries, or forward I should think, you will probably be both offended by others use of words and you will offend by yours. Indeed the same could be said of travel to places where the language and culture is different.
So I will go to Prague today and be very careful what I say, still as there is only one word I know I had better keep my mouth shut and open it only to imbibe a pivo or two.