I’ve just got on to the The Allusionist, the best words-related podcast I’ve found. I highly recommend it.
I decided to start from the beginning and the fourth episode from back at the start of 2015 is all about profanity. Host Helen Zaltzman takes a poll on what people think is the rudest word in the language and the winner by a long way is “cunt”.
It got me thinking about what I consider to be the most offensive item in the modern Australian lexicon.
It’s definitely not “cunt”. I wouldn’t say it in front of my parents, but it has special connotations and uses in Australian English – “Geeze, I love that silly cunt” – and they blunt its edges.
Other traditional insults and pointed adjectives aren’t even close: fuck, shit, motherfucking, corporal javelin. Pff. My grandma uses all of them. And she’s dead. She just shouts them from her grave as an animated skeleton.
Of course, if you add in the language of bigotry, the options flow fast and free, but that’s too easy. So I kept thinking.
And then, out of the blue (because I certainly never taught it to her) my two and a half year old daughter ended a conversation she was having with me with “Whatever…”
The red mist descended and I’d found my word.
Inane, thoughtless, dismissive, “whatever” is hardly a more sophisticated conclusion to a discussion than rolling backwards with your hand behind your knees and expelling wind with trumpeting force. It’s a vile word, viscerally loathsome, and if it’s not the one I hate the most in the world forever, the one that usurps it will be hideous indeed.
Here’s the Allusionist podcast episode on swearing, by the way.