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Talking Like a T***

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Warning, this blog contains language which some may find offensive.

"I looked like a twat."

On Graham Norton's TV show this past weekend, he interviewed actor Ewan McGregor. McGregor was talking about his most recent film role and the outfits he wore early in the film. That's when he said, in a self-deprecating tone of voice, "I looked like a twat."

Up until that point in Norton's generally entertaining show, I had been enjoying the interview with McGregor. But as soon as he made that comment, I lost interest.

Why? Because McGregor was implying that there is something wrong with twats and how they look. He looked like a twat and thus he didn't look good.

Whenever someone says, "He's such a dick" or "Don't be a pussy" or "That guy's a cunt", what is being suggested is that genitalia is wrong. It is repulsive. It represents weakness or a bad personality or a cruel streak. It's disgusting or disturbing in some way.

Personally, I find such language offensive, and I'm always quick to announce that whenever I hear a "cock" or "cunt" casually referred to. It's not that I'm the language police and that I'm eager to tell people how to speak. It's simply that I fear that people aren't always aware of what they're implying when they employ words in this way and I want them to consider their word choices a bit more carefully.

Out of all the possible genital-related words, I'd say the one I hear most often by far is "twat", a la Ewan McGregor. By referring to female genitalia in such a denigrating way, we're saying that women's bodies are unacceptable, weak, filthy, and worthy of being disparaged and belittled.

When we say someone is acting like a twat, we're suggesting that there is something wrong with being a twat. By logical extension, that implies that there's something wrong with having a twat, i.e. with being a woman.

Often, when I point this out to someone who is abusing twats in this manner, the person rolls his or her eyes and moans, "But you know that's not what I mean." I shrug; how can I know what that person actually means? And how can that person assume that anyone who hears him/her speak knows what's going on in his/her mind? That's not how communication works. I think it's better for us to try to be as clear as we can when we're talking to other people, and this means not making assumptions or guesses or expecting others to do so.

Also, of course, we can't act as though words have no relationship to their original meanings or etymologies. We can't call someone a "twat" and then pretend that we weren't referring to "twat", the part of a woman's body, but rather "twat", some new word that means "obnoxious" or "impolite" or "annoying", and that the former has no connection to the latter.

Language changes, obviously, but we can't pretend that it has changed when it hasn't, and we can't pretend it doesn't have meanings that it does actually possess. It's rather sneakily disingenuous to casually announce "that's not what I meant" when the association is quite clearly there. It's a way of not taking responsibility.

How much better it would have been if McGregor had said, "My clothes suggested that I was uptight and closed-minded", rather than, "I looked like a twat."

Or, indeed, if he had said, "I looked like a twat" and he clearly had meant, "I looked fantastic, because twats are gorgeous and strong".

It's time to reclaim our language. Let's praise people by calling them "dicks" and "twat". Let's proudly say, "Today, I'm going to be a real cock", when we mean we're going to behave politely and kindly, or "I felt like a cunt at the party", when we mean that we looked and felt our absolute best.

Do I feel like a twat for writing this?

You bet I do.

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