Author and journalist Rod Liddle – who recently gave what was described as the “political speech of the year” at the Freedom Dinner in the City of London – has written for the Sunday Times this weekend, discussing the efficacy and stigma around “the c-word”.
The word, known to most Americans as just about the crassest thing someone can say, has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance in Britain over the past decade. It has, as Mr. Liddle writes, lost some of the undeserved scorn previously aimed in its direction, and is increasingly used as a term of endearment.
It is enormously cheering to see that one of my favourite words in the English language is beginning to lose some of its undeserved stigma. Of venerable Germanic origin, the word “c***” has for a good 150 years endured a rather crepuscular existence — and almost always appears in a burqa when its presence is required in a family newspaper.
And yet it is so resonant, so ripe and, indeed, so versatile a term. It can be used abusively, for sure. But feminists argue that it can also be empowering, when deployed by them in a radical way. And it can be utilised as a term of genuine affection too, as in: “Archbishop Welby! How’s it going, you old c***? Shall I get them in? What’s it to be — the usual vodka and Red Bull?” And yet some narrow-minded people still consider it obscene.
Luckily, its rehabilitation is at hand. The word has now been used deliberately by a judge, in court. I say deliberately because not so long ago a different judge in a different court also used the word — in reference to the former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik. The judge had got his notes mixed up and had meant to refer to Opik instead as a “f****** dickhead”.
The judge in Lembit’s case had made an error. Whereas in the case of John Hennigan, 50, Judge Patricia Lynch knew exactly what she was up to. Hennigan had just been sentenced to 18 months in prison for breaching an Asbo by “racially abusing” a black woman, and upon hearing his tariff remarked of the judge that she was “a bit of a c***”. Patricia promptly replied: “You’re a bit of a c*** yourself.” As a consequence, she has been praised throughout the land. Gave as good as she got. Stood up to a lumpenprole, white-trash scumbag.