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Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
© 2010 Klaus Bung
Berkshire Hunt invades BBC Radio 4
Millions of listeners to BBC Radio 4 were surprised when, on Monday, 6 Dec 2010, at 7.58 a.m., they heard radio presenter James Naughtie inadvertently introduce his guest, Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt, as Jeremy Cunt. How one letter can make such an enormous difference! Vive la petite differénce (Long live the little difference!). Some listeners laughed it off. Others e-mailed: "We are not amused." For non-English users of the IDYLL® website, Klaus Bung has written an essay exploring the background of this incident, uses of this and related four-letter words. Attempts of rehabilitating the offensive word by D H Lawrence and Germaine Greer, and a host of related topics which put the radio incident into perspective and give learners of English further insights into English swearing and English taboos. In the essay, you will find links to hilarious YouTube recordings of the incident. This essay is crammed with four-letter words (= slang, vulgar words). If you are likely to be upset by a frank discussion of such topics, we suggest that you do NOT read this essay.
Read more ...
Uses of "cunt"
Latin, Spanish and French
Term of abuse
My father is a fucking cunt
When your boss is a cunt
Rehabilitation of "cunt"
The Satanic Verses
Back to D H Lawrence
Lady, love your cunt
The Vagina Monologues
Trouble in Scunthorpe
A lesson for life
There's no need for that sort of language
Jeremiah, prophet of doom, and Cassandra
Immanuel Kant - honi soit qui mal y pense
2010-12-06 Berkshire Hunt invades BBC Radio 4
Take two words, in the same language, which are different in meaning but are so similar in sound that they differ in only one sound (phoneme). Then you have what linguists call a "minimal pair". Linguists search for minimal pairs to establish and prove that two sounds differ not only accidentally or because of their context, but are significant for the meaning of words.
In Arabic, "qalbi" (my heart, my darling) and "kalbi" (my dog) are a minimal pair since they differ only in the q/k.
In Urdu, "gora" (white man) and "ghora" (horse) are a minimal pair since they differ only in the g/gh.
In English we have pin/bin to establish that p/b are significantly different (are different phonemes), mad/dad show the difference between m/d, height/hate differ only in the vowel (diphthong), /ai/ (in "height") vs /ei/ (in "hate") etc.
In England, we have a well-known radio and television presenter James Naughtie. He is not naughty but as respectable as they come (= very respectable). The "gh" in his name is pronounced
- like "ch" in Scottish "loch" or in German "ach",
- like the "kh" in Hindi-Urdu "khargosh" (rabbit).
- or like the "j" in Spanish "joder" (to fuck) (that's what rabbits do) or in Spanish "conejo" (rabbit).
By contrast, the "gh" in "naughty" (adjective for a badly behaved child) is silent, i.e. "naughty" is pronounced as if it were spelt "nawty".
Linguists have to work hard to find all the minimal pairs they need to underpin their systems. I tried to find minimal pairs rhyming with "hunt", went through the whole alphabet and found very few which were well-known enough to quote (hunt, punt, runt) and one which was unspeakably common, too common for words.
But Lucky Jim, James Naughtie, stumbled on a minimal pair by sheer accident, or by a stroke of luck for everyone who witnessed his discovery, his eureka moment.
It was on Monday, 6 Dec 2010, at about 8.00h, on BBC Radio 4, when James Naughtie had to introduce British Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt but mistakenly called him Jeremy Cunt.
"cunt" is a taboo word, a slang word, for the female sexual organ, a word absolutely banished, not to be said, not to be printed, not even to be thought, in the view of some people, - or very common and used for a great variety of purposes by others. Learners of English have to treat it with extreme caution until they know what is and what is not acceptable in certain situations. To "respectable" people the word causes even more offence than "fuck", but this was not always the case.
The BBC News website tried to report the incident without printing the word (even c*** would not have been acceptable). This is what they wrote:
"Naughtie inadvertently used the first letter of the Culture Secretary's title to replace the 'H' in Mr Hunt's surname" (i.e. Naughtie said C instead of H).
Rumour has it that 13 elderly ladies had a heart attack and died when they heard the word (for the first time in their lives), but that sounds like an urban myth.
The GUARDIAN newspaper (2010-12-06) was less afraid of the c-word than the BBC. They wrote: "Everything on radio yesterday was eclipsed by that naughty Naughtie moment in which the H-word became the C-word. "First up after the news," James Naughtie told the audience listening to the Today programme (Radio 4), "we're going to be talking to Jeremy Cunt. Hunt. The Culture Secretary"."
When James Naughtie tried to interview Jeremy Hunt an hour later, he made the same mistake again. Both he and Mr Hunt thought it was very funny, but in their respectable environment, and with their respectable audience, they were not allowed to laugh out loud, or rofl (rolling on the floor laughing), or roflmfao (rolling on the floor, laughing my fucking arse off), they had to suppress (stifle) their laughter, keep a straight face, continue with the programme, but they found it virtually impossible. They were biting their lips (and therefore could not talk normally), so was their audience, and the embarrassment caused and their inability to continue with the programme was a joke in itself.
Here you can hear James Naughtie saying it on Radio for the first time and then coughing to hide his embarrassment and finally apologising.
Here you can watch police Commandant Eric Lassard listening to James Naughtie's amazing performance. The Commandant is flabberghasted (= very surprised, perhaps even appalled, horrified). You must watch this clip, even if you have time for nothing else before you meet your maker (= before you die). It is priceless.
Uses of "cunt"
"Cunt" denotes the female sexual organ. It is slang, taboo, many people consider it to be offensive, even more offensive than "fuck". But for that very reason also many people use it with great gusto for a variety of purposes. You should not use it unless you know whether and how it will be accepted by the people who hear you say it.
Keep this warning in mind when I say, in this essay, "You can say xyz, containing the word "cunt"." I am only telling you in which sentences it is grammatically or idiomatically correct to use the word "cunt". But I leave it to you to find out in which company it is ***socially*** acceptable to use this word.
For example: If you do not like a woman, you can call her a cunt. If you do not like a man, you can also call him a cunt, even though he does not have one.
If you do not like a man, you can call him "a prick" (slang word for "penis"). but, strangely enough, you cannot call a woman "a prick". That simply doesn't make sense since it is never done.
Trinidadians, native speakers of English (Trinidad dialect), have an endearing expression. If they want to annoy you, insult you, get you really angry, they call you "You mother cunt!" (which, as a result of Trinidadian grammar, means "your mother's cunt" = "you are your mother's cunt"), something that insults the mother as much as the offspring, something that is never said in England, except by Trinidadians who live here and try to enrich our language. Try it on a Trinidadian, but make sure you have an ambulance or a doctor standing by.
You can say that TO a Trinidadian, but not ABOUT a Trinidadian, i.e. you can NOT say "His mother cunt" (He is his mother's cunt).
If you want a Jamaican (also native speakers of English, with their own dialect) to murder you, you must call him "You rass-clat", which is, by metathesis, arse-cloth (a euphemism for "cunt-cloth", needed once every month). Obviously you must take out life-insurance before you try it - you do not want to leave your widow and her bastard (yours?) children destitute or a burden on the state.
When you have said "You mother cunt" to your Trinidadian mate, he/she could, of course, disdainfully (haughtily) retort: "My mother does not have a cunt," but the offender is probably not educated or sensitive enough to understand the implication of this remark.
Some centuries ago, people were much more sensitive to anything remotely associated with intimate parts of the body. At the time when silk stockings were first invented (15th century) and were objects of extreme value, it is reported that the British ambassador to Spain sent a pair of such stockings as a present for the Queen of Spain. The present was returned by the Foreign Office in Spain with a curt and frosty note saying: "The Queen of Spain has no legs," i.e. even when merely thinking of a highly respected person like the Queen of Spain, you do not think of any part of her body that is covered by her dress, not even of her ankles, but only of her dignity and the honour of the country she represents. It would be as offensive and tactless as today sending a pair of panties to the First Lady of a country as an official present.
At that time even legs and ankles were considered an intimate part of the body and hotpants or Jesus jeans would have been unthinkable.
Jesus Jeans were made in Italy in 1971.
- Chi me ama mi segua:
If you love me, follow me.
- Non avrai altro jeans all infuori di me:
Thou shalt not have other jeans beside me.
Latin, Spanish and French
"cunt" looks similar to Latin "cunnus" and can mean the same, but it is NOT related to "cunnus".
From "cunnus" we have French "con" and Spanish "coño" (pronounced conyo). Both words mean literally "cunt" but are much less offensive in France and Spain, than "cunt" (one of the worst words you can possibly use) is in English.
You use French "con" to call someone an idiot, an ineffective person, perhaps also a selfish person or a fraud. "Une connerie" is a great stupidity, or possibly a fraud.
You may use Spanish "coño" for a wide variety of purposes, for example as an exclamation of unpleasant surprise or anger: "Coño!", like English "Fuck!" or "Fuck it!", when your burn your hand with boiling water, hit your thumb with a hammer, or drop the baby into the baptismal font in church. But if you actually do that, the priest won't like it. He would call such language "profane", and you should not use profane language in a sacred building. The baby wouldn't mind whether you swear in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic or Sanskrit (it is too stupid to know the difference), but it doesn't like the water, even if it is holy.
By contrast, you can not use "cunt" as an exclamation of surprise.
There is a story about the aged and learned members of the Academie Française, the official body which watches over the continued purity of the French language. One evening, as the members of the Academie left their venerable building after a meeting, they noticed that someone had sprayed "Ils sont des con" (They are an idiot) on the portals of the building. Two ancient professors read that, looked at each other and sadly shook their heads: "Ils ont oublié le s" (They have forgotten the s). The sprayers should have sprayed "cons" (idiots) instead of "con" (idiot).
Term of abuse
"Cunt is one of the so-called "Anglo-Saxon four-letter words": fuck, cunt, shit, piss, fart, wank, arse, etc
It is also one of the "seven dirty words" (in alphabetical order): ass, balls, cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits, largely banned (or used to be banned) from American radio and TV.
As a term of abuse you can call anybody a cunt whom you intensely dislike, e.g. an oppressive boss, male or female. You can also call a woman a cunt if you mean that she is a slut.
I remember quite a few years ago a staff dance at an institution then called "Woolwich Polytechnic", now part of the University of Greenwich, London. One of the middle-aged lecturers attended with a young French woman, of whom he said that he employed her as an au-pair girl, even though his colleagues thought there was more to the relationship than that. On the dance floor, the lecturer and the French girl, obviously a gifted student of English, had a tremendous row, and she screamed at him at the top of her voice: "You bloody fucking cunt!" That is highly idiomatic English and well worth imitating when you are in the mood. Somehow it comes off better when used by a woman against a man since nobody can accuse the woman of sexism in such a situation.
My father is a fucking cunt
In a blog on the Internet a girl writes: "My father is a fucking cunt".
She is very angry and is letting off steam (= she is expressing her anger). Her English and her swear words and expletives are "as good as it gets" (ie very good, very colloquial, very strong, very colourful). She writes like she would speak. So I suggest you have a look at this juicy piece of prose before it is deleted from the web. All human life is here.
Here are a few samples from what she says: "I grew up in a christian family, but my dad is a fucking hypocrite who thinks that I am his main enemy in the house. I'm a female but he treats me like a bag of shit. ... He is a crock of shit who reacts to the smallest word. He also made my family pray for his piles. I'm sick of his neediness and when I withdraw, he accuses me of being a selfish bastard. ... He talks about his piles, his constipation, his ibs and his medicine all the fucking time. Even at dinner. ... He came into my room and accused me (its a shitty accusing tone fuck it) of not putting the dvd wire in the right way. WHAT THE FUCK??? if it bothers u so much just fucking do it yourself. When I said I didn't do it, he started shouting at me and threated to beat me up (yeah, i would like some fucking scars so I can get a protection order against this fucker). ... When I lost weight a few months ago, the bastard attitude started becoming better. Now I put on weight, he treats me like shit again. I put on weight when I fucking came home after staying away. ... I smoke a fucking cigarette every once a few months after this shit. He gives me shit almost every month. It's like he's a fucking period, anything can trigger his shit, the bloody fucking cunt. ... Sometimes I try to think of God cause at least God is the only one who loves me. I don't feel so awful. Or I find a site like this. I know you are supposed to honor ur family but I don't think I can. ..."
So if you are learning English and you are looking for someone who speaks English fluently, a native speaker of English, here you have one. Poor sod! (= literally: "poor sodomite, poor bugger", but it is generally used as an affectionate expression of compassion; that's my intention too). Another way of expressing your sympathy would be to say: "Poor thing!", "Poor little thing!", Pobrecita (Spanish), Armes Wurm (German), Pobre animaletto (Italian, literally: Poor little animal), Kawawang nilalang (Tagalog), etc
When your boss is a cunt
Some people maintain that if the organisation, the business, the country is big, then the person on top of that organisation, the boss, will not only be a cunt, like all bosses, but a big cunt, i.e. a very unpleasant person. In brief: The bigger the organisation, the bigger the cunt on top. I am sure this is not always true, but it is a funny way of putting it, especially when you are angry because they have just fired you or failed to pay you compensation. These remarks will help you understand the story at the end of this essay. (It was unavoidable to make this point *** here *** since one must not conclude an essay with the explanation of a joke.)
Rehabilitation of "cunt"
Attempts have been made to rehabilitate some Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, i.e. to bring them back into normal respectable use.
One famous attempt is D H Lawrence's novel: "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (1928), that was once considered obscene but has by now become entirely respectable. When it was first published in paperback in England by Penguin Books (1960), the publisher was taken to court under the Obscene Publications Act. It was a long drawn-out, famous and very funny case (the prosecutor making a fool of himself), and an interesting book analysing the trial and its absurdities in detail has been published about it (C H Rolph: "The trial of Lady Chatterley", 250 pp, Penguin Books, Harmonsworth, England).
More recently the GUARDIAN newspaper has written retrospectively about the long-term significance of this trial and that fact that Penguin Books were acquitted (Geoffrey Robertson, QC: "The trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover", in: THE GUARDIAN, 22 October 2010)
The prosecutor made an issue of the frequency of the four-letter words, having carefully counted them and expecting the jury to be duly shocked: "The word 'fuck' or 'fucking' appears no less than 30 times . . . 'Cunt' 14 times; 'balls' 13 times; 'shit' and 'arse' six times apiece; 'cock' four times; 'piss' three times, and so on."
This statistical approach to literary criticism had its imitators.
The Satanic Verses
The Penguin trial was in 1960. Almost 30 years later, in 1989, a pious and learned critic of Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses", also published by Penguin Books (1988), Ahmed Deedat (1918-2005), produced an extraordinary book with a profound analysis of Salmon Rushdie's novel. This is: Ahmed Deedad: "How Rushdie fooled the West", 24 pp. Islamic Propagation Centre, Birmingham, UK, 1989.
When launching the book in a northern English town, he advertised the launch with posters carrying the warning the warning: "Not for bashful women or children." There are, of course, no more bashful women in England, and, I am given to understand, that about 50% of all newborn English children are bastards (i.e. illegitimate, born out of wedlock, born to parents who are not married) and are perfectly happy that way, but Uncle (God bless his soul!) was so far removed from the realities of daily life in this country, so absorbed in his scholarship and his debates about the Bible and the Holy Koran, that he was not aware of how much manners, marriage and morals had changed in Great Britain.
So he must have been surprised when he found that 50% of the 2000 people in the hall where bashful Muslim women, most of them wearing a headscarf or veil, crowding the galleries that had been reserved for them, eagerly craning their necks over the balustrade and their eyes popping out of their heads, anxious to learn from the venerable white-bearded Uncle Deedat which words and expressions (which they had never heard) to avoid, which pages of "The Satanic Verses" to skip in order to avoid being offended or corrupted.
So this is what the bashful ladies heard from Uncle Deedat: "one can't help agreeing that "The Satanic Verses" is a masterpiece for fucking-up the English language. He has conjoined his word "fucking" with every letter of the alphabet. ...
- A: fucking A. (skip page 245)
- fucking allies (269)
- fucking Americans (280)
- fucking Argentina (268)
- B: fucking Beatles (163)
- fucking bedpan (169)
- C: fucking class (270)
- fucking creep (178)
- fucking clowns (101)
- fucking commandos (80)
- Etc, up to letter I (fucking idiot) (526)
Deedatji had to do a lot of work to compile this list, and he does it with great systematicity. Perhaps his wife or his daughter helped him. It is a form of computational linguistics.
Back to D H Lawrence
D H Lawrence felt aggrieved by the fact that words like "fuck" and "cunt", words referring to normal and pleasant human activities, which should be associated with love and pleasure, were only used as terms of abuse or as obscenities. He therefore created characters who used such words as terms of tenderness as part of their love-making.
Many language taboos were removed or reduced because of that book and because of the outcome of that trial.
Lady, love your cunt
In 1969, Germaine Greer, famous feminist author of "The Female Eunuch", published a magazine article entitled: "Lady, love your cunt - for, if you don't, nobody will."
The word "cunt" was not always as offensive and unmentionable as it is now. It occurs with various spellings in Chaucer and Shakespeare. There were several towns in medieval England with streets called "Gropecunt Lane". They all were renamed in more sensitive or prudish centuries.
to grope = to feel for, try to touch, try to feel
When you grope, you are feeling for something with your hands, try to find it. In a dark room you can grope for the light switch. If someone asks a politician a difficult question, and the politician obviously hesitates, trying to find an answer which will not get him into trouble in one way or another, you can say: "Mr Smith was groping for an answer". If the politician answer quickly, perhaps unexpectedly quickly, you can say: "Mr Smith was not lost for an answer."
"The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, had to grope with his hands." (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol)
- "groped for an answer": 13,000 hits
- "lost for an answer": 71,000 hits
- "not lost for an answer": 16,000 hits
So groping in itself is quite a respectable activity and a respectable word. But there is one particular activity and meaning of the word which is not respectable. Sometimes women complain (not only in England, but frequently in hot countries with crowded trains and buses) that a man or boy has been touching intimate parts of their bodies: breasts, buttocks, etc. Of course, in a crowded bus the woman cannot see who has done it and is defenceless.
The name "Gropecunt Lane" means a street (lane = a small street) where you can grope cunts, i.e. touch cunts, that means a street in which many prostitutes live and work. In the Middle Ages this street name was common in England, and the word "cunt" was not as offensive as it is considered today.
The Vagina Monologues
The medical term for cunt is "vagina", from the Latin term for "sheath" or "scabard".
It is remarkable that there is a play with the title "The Vagina Monologues", which has been shown in the West End of London, in America and in several other countries, including Muslim countries, e.g. Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Pakistan.
One episode of this play is described by Wikipedia as follows: "Reclaiming Cunt, a piece narrated by a woman who illustrates that the word 'cunt' itself is a lovely word despite its disconcerting connotations."
There are innumeral slang terms in existence, such as "pussy" (which also means "cat / pussy cat") (cf French "la chatte", which can mean both cat and "pussy") and snatch.
An alternative term of abuse is: "you bastard", i.e. you can say "You bastard" or "He is a bastard", instead of saying "You cunt" and "He is a cunt".
"Bastard" is not as offensive in England as in some other cultures, e.g. India and Pakistan. Indians speaking English in England are often very coy about the word "bastard" (almost like English people are about "cunt"). If they are angry, they do, of course, call each other "bastard", but when not angry they often do not even want to MENTION the word. They will not say: "This man was very rude and he called me a bastard". Instead they might say: "This man was very rude, he started swearing at me."
"Well, what did he say? Did he say something about your sister?"
"No, he used the b-word, imagine! Isn't it horrible!"
If "bastard" is the b-word, then "cunt" is the c-word and "fuck" is the "f-word". All three of them are x-words, where x can stand for any letter of the alphabet. I will deal with x-words in a separate chapter because this one is getting too long.
But I do have to mention the t-word here because it has been in the news recently.
I do not think every English person knows what the t-word is, unless you tell him that it is the word "twat". (After all, "tits" is also a t-word.) "Twat" does in fact mean the same as "cunt", is very colloquial but is far less offensive. It was used recently during an interview by the current Prime Minister, David Cameron. But he used it more like the French word "con" in the sense of "ineffective idiot", similar to the word "twit": "He is a twit".
After the interview, Mr Cameron pretended not to know that the basic meaning of "twat" is "cunt".
An article on the BBC website (30 July 2009) ("Is the t-word offensive?") explores the uses of "twat" and some related words in some detail. It is worth reading.
Yet another word whose meaning is close to "cunt" or to "stupid arsehole" is "prat". In its figurative sense it can also mean a person who is stupid and ineffective, but also somebody who is wicked, like an unsympathetic or hostile boss.
Trouble in Scunthorpe
Some years ago Internet service providers, e.g. AOL (which is NOT short for "ArsehOLe" but stands and falls for "America On-Line"), introduced obscenity filter programs in order to intercept messages containing offensive words, such as: cunt, prick, well all those listed and discussed above. That was to put a stop to pornographic messages and to emails trying to sell
v1ag?a to women, and new spellings of these words were invented in order to beat those filter programs.
Unfortunately the upstanding citizens of respectable towns such as Scunthorpe and Clitheroe were deprived of their access to the Internet because messages to them were blocked, since like "Hell is in Hello", cunt is in Scunthorpe (pronounced scun-thorpe) and clit (clitoris) is in Clitheroe. This is not a joke. It did happen. See the link. It is known as "the Scunthorpe problem".
Here are some of the places affected by the Scunthorpe problem.
Let us return to the minimal pair with which I started this essay, hunt / cunt.
James Naughtie had every reason to step on this banana skin with a guest called Hunt. Not only do "hunt" and "cunt" rhyme and their initial letters can be exchanged, but there is a well established tradition for this particular substitution.
Mike Hunt (pronounced as "my cunt") is a well established gag name (google for it).
In rhyming slang (a slang developed in the East End of London and part of the cockney dialect), "Berkshire Hunt" stands for "cunt", in the sense of "idiot" (like French "con"), a sense which is not normal for the full word "cunt".
In rhyming slang there is an underlying rhyme which is known to speaker and listener, but not to outsiders. The rhyming word is not spoken, but the word preceding the rhyming word is uttered instead.
This would yield the equation: Berkshire = cunt. But in this particular case, the first word itself is not used in full but abbreviated. The postal abbreviation of "Berkshire" is "Berks.", e.g. in the address "Reading, Berks." (say "redding", not "reading").
From "Berks" you get "berk". "berk" rhymes with "to smirk", "to lurk", "the Kirk of Scotland", etc). So you can say: "He is a berk", meaning "He is a cunt", an idiot, or one of the other meanings of this word, but this is much less offensive than saying "cunt". However, "berk" describes a person in a derogatory way. You can not talk about "her berk" (as you can talk about "her cunt") and you can not exlaim "Berk!" (as you can exclaim "Fuck!" or Spanish "Coño") when you are suddenly upset, at least I have never heard it.
Many rhyming slang words are not known outside cockney circles. New terms are constantly developed. There are several dictionaries of rhyming slang, e.g. a famous one by Eric Partridge.
One of the best known examples of rhyming slang in the non-cockney world is the expression "He gave me a butchers", meaning "He gave me a look". Everybody understands that expression but I could imagine that many people even in England do not know that it is rhyming slang. Its origin is the rhyme: "butcher's hook - look". I will write more about rhyming slang on a later occasion.
A lesson for life
The incident on the radio this morning reminds me of my friend Mike Hunt, Senior Lecturer in Flea Sociology at the world-renowned University of Central Oswaldtwistle (Lancashire). On 31 November this year, Mike visited a primary school for fleas in Berkshire. Berkshire is a county west of London, and its capital is Reading (pronounce redding, not reading!).
As part of their coming-of-age ritual, all the fleas (I call them baby fleas) were taken on an excursion to Reading Zoo. Each baby flea was accompanied by his mother. They hopped on a local bus, didn't pay for their tickets and made themselves comfortable. There was a lot of scratching of heads because nobody could figure out why they were itching all of a sudden. Mike Hunt followed them. He paid for his ticket, with money from his research grant.
He followed one of the mother-and-son pairs into the zoo. The pair stopped behind a dog.
"Today I will teach you the ways of the world and the laws of politics and big business. Do as I tell you, observe carefully, remember everything, and then report to me."
"Yes, Mother," said Baby Flea.
"Go to that dog, walk up its left leg, go as high as you can, walk over to the other side, walk down, and then return and report to me what you have seen."
"Your obedient servant," said Baby Flea with a smile, but he did as he was told.
"What did you see?" asked Mother Flea when he returned five minutes later.
"Well, climbing was a bit rough, there were lots of bushes and branches in the way. When I came to the top, there was a little hole, it didn't smell nice, but going down was much easier than going up."
"Well observed," said Mother Flea, "remember that and follow me."
They walked up to a cow, Mother Flea gave her son a few drops of blood, which she carried in a baby bottle: "You need some sustenance for your next excursion. Now go to this cow, walk up one side, come down on the other, and report what you see."
"OMG (= Oh my God!)," said Baby Flea when he returned 15 minutes later, "that was hard work. Climbing was very hard and slippery, it went on and on, and I thought I would never get to the top, I started sweating, but then, higher up, there was a pleasant breeze. I had a good view from there, and I took a leak (= urinated) on some of my class mates (but you mustn't tell them, I was so high nobody could see I was doing it). When I looked to the right, I saw a big hole, there was a wind coming out of it and the stench was bloody awful."
"Mind your language!" (= Don't swear), interrupted Mother Flea, for she ran a very respectable family.
"Well done, my son," said Mother Flea, "one more experiment, and you will have learnt the most important lesson you will ever need to know in your life."
They walked to the elephants' enclosure and stood behind a huge female.
"Now walk up there, on the left, and don't give up until you have reached the top, however hard and tiring it may be."
Thirty minutes later Baby Flea returned: "Fuck me, that was fucking hard."
"Do I have to wash your mouth with Persil? Where did you learn such foul language!" said Mother Flea.
"Sorry, Mother, all my mates say that, especially the girls, they are worst."
"I don't care what the girls do, you are a boy, and I want you to be a good boy, and tomorrow you will be a man, a man of the world, and I want you to be respectable."
"All right, carry on."
"Well, it was very hard. The ground was all grey and dusty, I had to cross mountains and valleys, up and down it went, I thought it would never end. It was so high, I felt dizzy, but I had a wonderful view. Unfortunately I couldn't leak again, there was nothing left in my bladder. Then I felt a wind blowing above me, and the wind turned into a storm, and the storm turned into a tornado, and then I saw this huge hole, it was so big I have no words to describe it, a whole army of flea taliban (may they rot in hell), ten million of them could have been hiding in there (and perhaps they were), but the worst was the fucking stench coming out of that hole, it was the fucking worst I have ever smelt in my fucking life ..."
Mother Flea did not reprimand her son again. Perhaps she felt he had a point, and this was the only way of making it.
"Well done, my son, and what do you conclude from what you have observed?"
"I don't know, Mother, you tell me."
"This is the lesson, and you will not forget it for as long as you live: The bigger the organisation, the bigger the cunt on top."
There's no need for that sort of language
When you want to tell somebody off for swearing, there are many ways of doing it. Mother Flea is using some of them.
- Mind your language. (= Be careful and cautious when you formulate what you want to say)
- Do I have to wash your mouth? (only parents can say that to children)
- Don't swear.
- Do you HAVE to swear every time you open your mouth? (long suffering wife to foul-mouthed husband, or mother to son/daughter)
- There is no need for that sort of language
Five days after the fatal Monday, I heard two comedians on Radio 4.
A: "I am going to meet the Culture Secretary."
B: "Jeremy Hunt?"
A: "There is no need for that sort of language."
In that dialogue "Jeremy Hunt" is now treated as if it were a euphemism, as a way of saying "cunt" without actually saying it.
***If*** that expression were to enter rhyming slang, so much so that everybody in the country has heard and remembers the story, then somebody might say: "The Prime Minister is a Jeremy" (= He is a Jeremy Hunt = He is a cunt).
Jeremiah, prophet of doom, and Cassandra
The name Jeremy is the popular English form of the name Jeremiah, one of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament of the Christian Bible), to whom two books of the Bible are ascribed (The Book of Jeremiah, and, The Lamentations of Jeremiah). Jeremiah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and lamented its destruction in heart-rending language when it had happened. These texts form a moving part of the prayers (rites) of many Christian churches during Holy Week (before Easter). The Lamentations of Jeremiah have also often been set to music for use on this occasion. The Lamentations are also annually recited by Jewish communities bemoaning the destruction of their First and Second Temple in Jerusalem.
If you call somebody "a Jeremiah" (NOT "a Jeremy") you are saying that he predicts bad things to happen in the future (global warming, another awful recession in the economy, the collapse of the Euro (currency), the collapse of the present coalition government (Conservatives with Liberal-Democrats) in the UK, etc, and that you do not believe him or that you think he is exaggerating the danger.
If you call somebody "a Jeremiah", educated people will understand you.
If you call somebody "a Jeremy" (instead of a "cunt"), people will NOT understand you, unless they remember the Jeremy Hunt incident and see the connection (which was the case in the comedy show quoted above and therefore produced a laugh).
Jeremiah, apart from his religious importance as one of the authors of a part of the Bible, is mainly remembered for predicting disaster, but his name does NOT mean instantly that nobody pays any attention to him.
By contrast, there is the Prophetess Cassandra, who appears in the ancient Greek epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The beautiful Greek god Apollo, who loved her because she was so beautiful, gave her the gift of prophesy, but when she did not return his love, he cursed her: nobody should ever believe her prophesies. She knows disaster is coming, she warns the people she loves, they do not listen to her: what greater mental torture can you imagine!
She was the daughter of Priam, King of Troy, an ancient city, whose ruins are in what is now Turkey (Province of Anatolia). She predicted that the Greeks would conquer and destroy her city. Her warnings were not heard, the Trojans behaved foolishly, and the city was conquered by tricks and treachery.
Therefore you can call somebody a Cassandra if he/she warns of disaster, does so repeatedly and with good reason, but is frustrated because people are so foolish that they do not listen.
I used to observe a man in the streets of London, who for many years, day in day out, in all weathers, walked up and down Oxford Street, crowded with shoppers and tourists, carrying a sandwich board proclaiming: "The end is nigh" (= The end is near, The end of the world can come any day, Doomsday is near). He, I am sure, was a true believer, and wanted his fellow humans to convert their morals, and start leading good lives before the imminent day of Judgement. Nobody, of course, listened to him, nobody took him seriously, people smiled and took his photograph, as an example of an English eccentric, or a madman. He was a true prophet of doom, a male Cassandra. But he persisted doing his duty, as he perceived it.
Immanuel Kant - honi soit qui mal y pense
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was one of the most important German philosophers. His surname Kant (Honi soit qui mal y pense = Shame on you if you think something naughty when hearing this name!) is pronunced exactly the same as English "cunt" but does not have the slightest sexual connotation for Germans. English students of philosophy, however, often are at pains to pronounce the "a" in Kant "wrongly" like the "a" in "Canterbury" rather than "correctly" like the "u" in "cunt".
Many streets in Germany are named "Kant-Strasse / Kant-Straße" (Kant Street) after Immanuel Kant. I googled "kantstrasse" and got 52,000 hits.
One of these Kant Streets is in Berlin. By fortunate coincidence Kantstraße is also the site of the multi-storey Erotikmuseum, run by Beate Uhse, the largest chain of sex shops in Germany. Click on the photograph to enlarge it. In the forground right you see the street sign and can faintly recognise the name of Kantstraße. Regrettably Kantstraße was not designed by Berlin-born architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Otherwise it could have been aptly named Grope-Kant-Straße