Sunday, September 07, 2008

Twit for Twat

It seems political correctness is being taken to silly new levels in the UK. First there was children's writer Jacqueline Wilson who decided to remove "an offensive" word from her latest novel My Sister Jodie.

Daphne Lee writes about it in this morning's Starmag but is too polite to tell you that the excised word is "twat" which has now been replaced by "twit".

In a recent interview, Wilson said she didn't know what "twat" meant. Honestly, neither did I! I think most British people use it quite innocently as stronger form of "twit", a nice little insult for a complete idiot. Why can't we all accept that the word has two meanings - one of them vulgar, one of them not?

The woman who complained in my opinion is the twat for not bothering to open a dictionary. If she had looked in the OED she would have seen that there are two distinct meanings of the word.

If you are going to ban "twat" then you should also take the word "pussy" out of children's books next, because (shock! horror!) it doesn't always refer to cats, y'know. And don't get me started on Fun with Dick and Jane!

The other case Britain's biggest exam deciding to pulp a collection of poems by poet Carole Ann Duffy ... because it contained a poem with a reference to a bread knife! By the same token Shakespeare should suffer the same fate, of course, as he has knives and swords all over the place : Duffy gets the last word in, in a rhyming ripost.

I am worried that the UK which I have always considered much more rational in these things is getting as bad as the US, where the smallest complaint gets a book pulled from syllabuses and library shelves.

By the way, on the subject of silly censorship, I read The Freedom Writer's Diary. Didn't find too much in the way of swear words but something there shocked me far more and I wonder whether it was the real reason for the censorship. The book shows just how kids with great potential can be written off as failures in the US education system (and lets not stop there - probably in all education systems). To suggest that teachers have the power to redress things by giving learners a voice is dangerously revolutionary. (The film is showing on Astro later this month.)

26 comments:

Puteri Kamaliah at-Tarawis said...

...and to think that Robert Browning mistook it to be a piece of headgear for nuns in "Pippa Passes" (1841)

Then owls and bats,
cowls and twats,
monks and nuns in a cloister's moods,
adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!

Madcap Machinist said...

Insane.

(I learned both meanings of twat -- also, "beaver" -- the first week I was in the UK.)

Anonymous said...

Wilson didn't know what Twat was??? I find that hard to believe!

We must bring bck the use of the word QUIM.

- Poppadumdum

Madcap Machinist said...

ppdd, i like quim.

Madcap Machinist said...

i mean i'll definitely use it. useful scrabble word wot!

Puteri Kamaliah at-Tarawis said...

OOOhh, I likle QUIM! The word, I mean....been yonks since I last heard it used..

Anonymous said...

My raunchy 55 year-old aunty taught it to me years ago when I was an innocent teen. She said HER RAAF boyfriend stationed in Butterworth in the 1970s taught it to her (she was coy about the context in which she learned the word, but I could guess!).

I love the word!!! Last time I heard it was in the terrible movie Gangs of New York - Daniel Day Lewis asked Leo: "Is your mouth still stuck with (Cameron Diaz's) quimmy juice that you can't speak?"

Anonymous said...

Oi Sharon, you didn't finish your sentence:

"I am worried that the UK which I have always considered much more rational in these things than the US where the smallest complaint gets a book pulled from syllabuses and library shelves."

:-)

And it's not just Dick and Jane, but Peter and Jane, too. It seems those reading series writers had a rule about only giving the boys penile names :-) .

-- Preeta

caving liz said...

Sharon are you so niave to not know the 'vulgar' form of twat :-) I've been aware of it being used since the 1970s in England.

Jordan said...

That's hilarious, I wasn't aware of the more innocent use of twat. First time seeing the word quim as well. Back home we use the word quiff. We call it lots of other things too, but let's not get into that.

bibliobibuli said...

yeah sorry preeta but i was having a terrible time trying to blog this morning despite pages hanging all the time so i'm not surprised the proofreading went amiss a bit. the line seems to be a bit better now but still slow.

yes, i AM an innocent.

puteri - love the browning quote. it puts such a funny picture in the head.

Yo. said...

i said "fanny pack" once. everyone either fell into what i felt was a morbid silence or laughed like a bunch 12 year-olds.

hmph.

Anonymous said...

Once I asked a graphic designer whether the pictures in magazines etc. really had enhanced cleavages. It was a fairly innocent quesiton if you ask me, but all I got for it was a shocked silence.

Abdullah said...

My,my, that was a fun entry! ;)
I haven't heard that word in a looooong time...

Anonymous said...

As Dickens wrote, 'Twat the night before Clit-mas...'

- Poppadumdum

Jordan said...

Since we're on the subject: back when I still lived in Canada, a Malaysian friend had just got a new cat (I think it was a cat anyway) and wanted suggestions for an appropriate name. Not yet aware of all the worst Malay swear words, I promptly (and quite innocently) suggested she name it Pookie. At the time, I couldn't understand why everyone looked so shocked by that.

Madcap Machinist said...

Garfield's teddy bear is Pookie. It's great source of amusement.

Anonymous said...

Aiyo kadavalai Poppadumdum, I think you have crossed a line!!!! :-)

Jordan -- of course it would've HAD to be a cat, wouldn't it? Haha!

-- Preeta

Anonymous said...

I forgot about Garfield's dear sweet soft and strokeablepokeable Pookie!!! Hahahahah!!!

Now, what would Pookie's mother be called hahahahah!!!!

- Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard the joke of what a graduate of National University of Singapore is called?

A NUS

:-)))))))

- Poppadumdum

Puteri Kamaliah at-Tarawis said...

err... speaking of Pookie, there is a Thai pop singer by that name..honest! Don't think she will ever perform in Malaysia..hehehe

Puteri Kamaliah at-Tarawis said...

A NUS??

oboyoboyoboy....hahahahaha

Anonymous said...

There are people here called "Poo Kee". There are also people called "Shit". There's a doctor in PJ called "Panicker".

Jordan said...

The children's hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia is called the Isaac Walton Killam hospital. Most people tended to shorten it to 'the Killam'.

Now imagine a child has just chased a ball out into the street (tsk tsk) and has been hit by a car and is now lying on the street with a broken leg. The ambulance arrives; as the paramedics place the child onto a big stretcher, the child's mind races. Everything is a blur. He is in pain, but what's worse is that he knows he will be in trouble for doing such a stupid thing, something his parents always told him not to do. Now don't forget: Always look both ways before crossing the road! As the stretcher is being loaded into the back of the ambulance, the driver, noting the close proximity of another hospital, asks, "Hey, where should we take him?"

"Killam," replies the other paramedic, slamming the back doors shut. Bystanders will later say they swear they could hear the child's screams for several minutes after the ambulance rounded the corner.

Now I think I know why the hospital is referred to these days as the IWK (actually it's IWK Grace, I believe, because it's merged with Grace Maternity).

Anonymous said...

LOL.. Australians still say "to die" when they mean "today". Think of the possibilities... "Are you coming over to die ?" :)

Anonymous said...

Oh and, anyone remember hearing someon sing "I love little pussy"?

I love little pussy,
Her coat is so warm,
And if I don't hurt her,
She'll do me no harm.
I'll sit by the fire
And give her some food,
And pussy will love me
Because I am good.