Fu*k! C*nt! Twa*! Why are some words so offensive?

Words are essentially sounds on a frequency, only given meaning through the concept of language – So why do people get so offended by the use of some of them? Dom Kureen investigates.




It would be almost impossible to explain to a non-English speaker why the word carried such weight and offends so many.

Referring to either female genitalia or a derogatory term for a person, where the ‘c’ word differs from a myriad of others is in its general offensiveness regardless of context.

To use ‘fuck’ as an example: “Fuck yeah!” can carry positive connotations as an expression of unadulterated joy, whereas “fuck you!” is more likely fighting talk.

Take a trip to the other side of the globe and ‘cunt’ is generally deemed far less objectionable, in fact “throw us a beer ya cunt” can even be assumed Aussie endearment at a stretch.

How will language evolve further? Where ‘shit’ was once the height of rudeness, it now packs the punch of a moribund goldfish.


Still, some parents appear keen to protect their young’uns from verbal vulgarity, often whilst dressing them in attire that wouldn’t look out of place in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, or fuelling their bodies with junk food and toxic preservatives.

Words have a more immediate impact though, and once they’ve spilled from lips can’t be undone.

Human beings have the power to create a proverbial hell on earth for other members of the species, sometimes with actions and often with vitriolic vernacular.

The reason ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ offend so freely is for what they imply rather than their actual composition.

There are obviously words tainted with racial stigma that unsettle in a profound manner, yet even they appear to have a diminished status in modern times, with words such as ‘nigger’ or ‘nigga’ now commonplace in society.

That also raises the issue of different rules applying to different ethnicities; an African-American person referring to another as ‘nigger’ appears generally less offensive than a Caucasian using the term, probably due to the implications of slavery attached to the latter.

Other racially sensitive terms include ‘Paki’, ‘Yid’, ‘Yerd’ and ‘Uncle Tom’, all of which can periodically be identified as endearment when used in a non-defamatory context.

Most children are told not to use certain turns of phrase, inevitably curiosity leads to a liberal sprinkling of the perceived profanity further down the line, with adolescents rebelling against statutes that seemingly asphyxiate their youthful free will.

Political correctness is in vogue, people petrified to use the word ‘black’ or attempt to pronounce the nation of Niger in conversation, but will this fear of the abhorrent taint ever bare witness to a wiping clean of the slate?

Will ‘cunt’ become the new ‘crud’ and dwindle into the trifling bi-product of white noise that punctuates every day chit-chat?


It doesn’t really matter that much, certain people will always be offended by particular sounds and will transmit their jitters to their children – and so an unceasing cycle promotes the fruits of its labours.

Likewise, newer jargon will continue to evolve apace, and although the undertones of racist diatribe may never become fully accepted (and rightly so), the poisonous identity of the past is likely to subside further over time.

If you read this article and are offended the liberal use of what are often unspeakably offensive words then that’s understandable, but these are just words, taken out of malicious context they are effectively impotent.

Inevitably those final sentiments propose wishful thinking; so ingrained in our psyche are the values of specific units of speech that the mere notion of them is often enough to unnerve ladies and gentlemen of all races, ages, shapes and sizes – proof perhaps, if needed, that the English language retains potency…

But only if we allow it to.



Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

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