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October 19, 2012 11:48 AM   Subscribe

212” (nsfw) was voted Pitchfork’s no. 9 track of 2011, propelling Banks to the top spot on NME’s 2011 “Cool List” and earning her a coveted endorsement from Kanye West—all before she even landed a record deal. But some listeners just couldn’t get past that C-word. In a December 2011 cover story for self-titled magazine, the interviewer asked Banks a question that no one would have asked, say, Lil Wayne, who was three years younger than Banks when his debut album dropped: “Is it weird to play these songs for your mother?”

Bitch Magazine uses Azealia Banks' underground hit "212" (previously) to talk about the use of "cunt" in popular culture and music and how one of the few remaining truly taboo slurs is slowly being reclaimed:
Banks is right: For at least two decades, in the queer subculture centered around voguing, drag houses, and ball culture, “cunt” (and its variant, “kunt”) has been used as a slang term meant to describe something beautiful, delicate, and soft. Recently, underground rappers like Cakes Da Killa and Antonio Blair have begun to use “cunt”/“kunt” to describe the music they make: a gritty-yet-glossy, sexually charged microgenre of queer rap. (A search on Soundcloud for tracks tagged “kunt” yields more than 500 unique results.) In music and in life, queering “cunt” expands and redefines the word’s meaning once again—it becomes an embrace of the liberating notion that one needn’t have a biological cunt to be feminine or female. Banks has repeatedly noted ball culture’s influence on her music and style, which means that the most famous lines of “212” showcase a young artist not responding to the word’s derogatory meaning so much as sidestepping it completely; “212” is perhaps the first example of the queer definition of “cunt” going mainstream.
Azealia Banks herself has come out as bisexual, somewhat noticable in her lyrics.
posted by MartinWisse (68 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
In case it's not obvious, everything above the fold is a quote from the main article.

Also, as a Dutch person, where "kut" is a mild swear word on the same level of bloody, I've never quite grokked the offensiveness of "cunt".
posted by MartinWisse at 11:51 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


LOVE the word cunt. And that song is great.
posted by agregoli at 11:55 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Words carry different freight within different cultures and particularly across different languages.
posted by psoas at 11:56 AM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


are we headed to having no words that are taboo? one of the joys of growing up is daring to use forbidden words. boundaries are sometimes arbitrary but they can still have value. i'm curious what the next bad words will be. i disliked her use of "bitch" far more than "cunt" (when a word is used anatomically is it still offensive?) but I'm old and bitch is only derogatory and insulting in my mind, i wasn't able to come along on the reclaiming of it to something less mean. (and the reclaiming of the N word is something I support but probably will always think of it as the worst word)
posted by sineater at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Culture shock, back when I was 19 and living in London: the fact that everyone said "cunt" all the time, but my coworkers (at the Hard Rock Cafe) would burst into paroxysms of laughter every time an American tourist wanted a "fanny pack."
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:08 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


my coworkers (at the Hard Rock Cafe) would burst into paroxysms of laughter every time an American tourist wanted a "fanny pack."

Heh.
posted by jaduncan at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


are we headed to having no words that are taboo?

Doubt it. Rather, I think you might see a lot of taboo words becoming, like the n-word, context sensitive: some people can say it, others not so much.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:17 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


212 is apparently one of Samantha Cameron's (yes, wife of David) favourite tracks... oh the perils of only hearing a radio edit...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:20 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As Liz Lemon explains in a classic episode of 30 Rock, the word demonstrates a frustrating lingual gender imbalance. “There’s nothing you can call a guy to come back. There is no male equivalent to this word.”
Dickhead, prick, knob, bellend, bollix.

Funny how any word for any vaguely sexual or scatological body part of either sex is considered insult territory. Related to how Mark Arm of Mudhoney got his stage name - a stoned thought experiment of a world where instead of 'dick' or 'cunt', words like 'arm' or 'elbow' were considered serious insults.

I'm moving from Ireland to America in January to start a new job, so my daily vocabulary is gonna need some serious adjustment.
posted by kersplunk at 12:23 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was a pretty good post on this song almost a year ago, too.
posted by koeselitz at 12:25 PM on October 19, 2012


Hence the previously...
posted by MartinWisse at 12:27 PM on October 19, 2012


Dickhead, prick, knob, bellend, bollix.

In American vernacular, while those are insults (well, some of them are a bit British specific already) none of them carry the weight of the c-word.
posted by kmz at 12:29 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Totally sorry, MartinWisse – I missed that bit somehow.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2012


MartinWisse: “Also, as a Dutch person, where ‘kut’ is a mild swear word on the same level of bloody, I've never quite grokked the offensiveness of ‘cunt’.”

kersplunk: “I'm moving from Ireland to America in January to start a new job, so my daily vocabulary is gonna need some serious adjustment.”

I think the best way to appreciate the seriousness of the word in the US is to realize that, for decades, it was pretty much unheard of to use the word for any meaning except as a blatantly sexist slur on someone's gender. It's like the n-word has been for us; on the face of it, yeah, it just means "black" (with some southern drawling thrown in) but it has been such a strong signifier of the most vulgar kind of racism for so long that any reasonably aware (white) adult would only use it in that frame of reference – so that, pretty much the moment you hear it come out of a white American's mouth, you know that person intends it as a racist slur. It's the same with "cunt;" that word has never meant (as it did in some other English-speaking nations) "buddy" or "random person" or "derogatory term thrown into this sentence as a humorous substitution," etc. Most people in the US have only heard that term used as the harshest sexist slur, and as such it's a signifier and identifier for sexism. I gather in some places the term "spastic" is the same – only used as a derogatory reference to disabled people, whereas in the United States it (arguably) has some extended meanings.
posted by koeselitz at 12:40 PM on October 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


That track is fantastic.
posted by exogenous at 12:43 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, as a Dutch person, where "kut" is a mild swear word on the same level of bloody, I've never quite grokked the offensiveness of "cunt".

As an American living in the Netherlands, thanks for the heads up!

As to the special place that "cunt" holds in the English language: I guess the only adjective I can come up for its particular brisance is "violating." It's a word that does more than just imply that someone/something is 'feminine' or sexually transgressive; it goes that one step further and dehumanizes the entire concept of femininity. It's one of the few words that doesn't get thrown around on a regular basis on /b/. It's a word so foul that my web browser flags it as a typo. It's a word that burns your mouth when you say it, and makes you look over your shoulder just in case someone heard you.

I honestly can't think of another word in any language that's as nasty.

In short, it's precisely the sort of word that's desperately in need of reclamation and a positive makeover: the simple fact of its existence in its present form comes off as a slur against women.
posted by fifthrider at 12:51 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dickhead, prick, knob, bellend, bollix.

I can't say I've ever met a guy who felt intensely violated when a woman called him a bellend...
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:52 PM on October 19, 2012


212 is apparently one of Samantha Cameron's (yes, wife of David) favourite tracks... oh the perils of only hearing a radio edit...

Wait- radio edit? How the hell could such a thing exist for this track?
posted by fifthrider at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


are we headed to having no words that are taboo?

Ask a liberal who supports welfare for the poor, is concerned about pollution, global warming and the chemicals in our food supply, who thinks locking people up for taking drugs is sadistic, and who wants justice for the black communities devastated by crime, lack of opportunity, and the legacy of slavery.

There are still plenty of taboos these days. They just aren't connected with genitalia so much anymore.
posted by R. Schlock at 1:07 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Wait- radio edit? How the hell could such a thing exist for this track?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfrVEt4EvFU
posted by flatluigi at 1:10 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, as a Dutch person, where "kut" is a mild swear word on the same level of bloody, I've never quite grokked the offensiveness of "cunt".

In North America, we're taught (through the words and actions of Men in Power) that lady parts are a dark an unknowable place, and the source of much evil.

I wish that was more satirical then true.
posted by dry white toast at 1:10 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love this song, but she seems to use every other "taboo" word out there anyway, so what's the big deal?

kids today, I tell ya....
posted by freakazoid at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2012


That track is fantastic.

Isn't it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2012


fifthrider: “Wait- radio edit? How the hell could such a thing exist for this track?”

flatluigi: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfrVEt4EvFU”

No. That is not the radio edit. That is the instrumental track by Lazy Jay. It isn't even the same song; it is under a different title, and frankly couldn't be confused with "212." Nor did Samantha Cameron hear that one. As the article in question clearly states: "Radio 1 had to make more than 50 edits before it was deemed suitable to play even after the watershed."

Note, fifthrider, that that is pretty much the answer to your question. A radio edit exists for this song because BBC Radio 1 made one so they could play the song. It wasn't made by Azealia or even a record company or anything like that.
posted by koeselitz at 1:23 PM on October 19, 2012


No. That is not the radio edit. That is the instrumental track by Lazy Jay.

Somehow, I think that was meant as a joke.
posted by fifthrider at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait- radio edit? How the hell could such a thing exist for this track?

"I guess this tea could be sweetened"?
posted by Elmore at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


</humorlesspedant>

sorry, forgot to close my tag
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reminds me of my total misreading of Zebra Katz' "Ima Read." I didn't know what "read" traditionally meant in vogueing culture and I thought the song was confusing and bafflingly misogynistic (although I knew enough to realize I was probably missing something). Then, through a Metafilter post actually, I learned it mean something along the lines of "trying to say the worst possible stuff about another vogueing competitor." The whole song, once it is understood to be referring to that world, stops sounding potentially offensive and starts sounding really awesome.
posted by Falconetti at 1:35 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A woman recently explained the etymology of "vagina" to me; essentially Latin for "sword sheath" - that is, and object whose purpose is defined purely by the sword that goes into it. "Cunt", she felt, carried less baggage, and its offensiveness was a relatively recent invention.
posted by Jimbob at 1:38 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate pitchfork with the fury of a thousand suns (I have an occasional segment on my podcast called 'what are the f*(&tards at pitchfork up to now?')

But this track rules. And people are going to be upset by it. I get it. I don't use this word, but I don't use the other one that occurs in rap all the goddam time either.

I'm white, I'm a man, I don't feel comfortable being part of the reclaiming of any slur. She's free to push those boundaries however she feels.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A woman recently explained the etymology of "vagina" to me; essentially Latin for "sword sheath" - that is, and object whose purpose is defined purely by the sword that goes into it. "Cunt", she felt, carried less baggage, and its offensiveness was a relatively recent invention.

Which would be relevant if English were Latin, and if the etymology of words determined their meaning. I don't get people who think like this.
posted by smorange at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2012


It always just sounds weird when said with an American accent, like, it seems to come out all awkward. In an Australian or British accent 'cunt' seems to roll perfectly off the tongue. Also, in Britain or Australia it carries a completely different meaning. It is not a sexist slur, although it is a strong swear word. It is an insult directed toward men, never women, and is closer to the meaning of 'asshole' or 'dickhead' than 'pussy' or 'bitch', as in, it doesn't suggest emasculation or anything, just contempt (either that, or jokey male affection).

In the US it really seems to be a sexist slur, directed at women, or men that you're suggesting are unmanly (as per the CYE episode). Totally different, and the comparison with the n word is one that a British/Aussie visitor probably wouldn't appreciate.

But I think Banks seems to be using it more in the British/Australian sense, so maybe the word is evolving or being used differently in different subcultures.

1991 is a pretty great EP by the way.
posted by nikodym at 1:47 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Watching Deadwood was probably the best/worst thing for me to get more comfortable with the work "cunt". Now, I still appreciated it's offensiveness, but I'm no where near as likely to be stunned into silence if I hear it. Unfortunate side effect is I've had to stop myself from using it on more than one occasion because it is such a powerfully offensive word and as angry as I might be at the person I want to sling it, I don't want to be laying down that kind of oppressive language towards women. Even calling a man a cunt is saying he is less than because he's being reduced to a woman's sex parts.

But truthfully, even if I only say it to myself, sometimes calling someone a cunt really feels right.

I am certain though if we become desensitized to it, that humanity will find a way to an equally offensive word. We need taboo language as a way of "breaking the rules" and a way of expressing the most powerful of emotions.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:51 PM on October 19, 2012


1991 is a pretty great EP by the way.

Agreed.
posted by inigo2 at 1:55 PM on October 19, 2012


I love the title of this post.
posted by book 'em dano at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Having now actually heard the song (HI, I HAVE JOINED THE OLDS AND AM UNAWARE OF 2011'S TOP ANYTHING), what strikes me about it is that it seems so effortless as to give the impression of being unremarkable, but in that difficult, natural way. Sort of the way Dolly Parton said "it takes a lot of money to look this cheap."

Dickhead, prick, knob, bellend, bollix.

In American vernacular, 60% of those aren't recognizable as insults (and barely as words).
posted by psoas at 1:57 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


sineater: are we headed to having no words that are taboo?
R. Schlock:
Ask a liberal who supports welfare for the poor, is concerned about pollution, global warming and the chemicals in our food supply, who thinks locking people up for taking drugs is sadistic, and who wants justice for the black communities devastated by crime, lack of opportunity, and the legacy of slavery.

There are still plenty of taboos these days. They just aren't connected with genitalia so much anymore.
Apples & oranges. In fact, you don't even seem to be describing taboos, much less taboo words; you're describing "much-hated social failings".

So, to answer sineater's question: not likely. There have been swear-words since the first cunning linguist stubbed his or her toe.

In the medieval period, foul language tended to be religious in nature. "Gods balls!" is documented. "By Saint Peter!" is a much lighter one. But words describing body parts and bodily functions don't seem to carry social shock in those days.

Today, religious oaths are pretty tame - "Sweet Jesus!" - while of course body parts & functions hold the low end of the scale.

But, what we are reaching is an age where the hate-filled epithets aimed at marginallized or minority groups are being reclaimed as proud self-labels, draining them of much of the original power. Political activists and groups have grabbed hold of "faggot", "cunt", "dyke", nigger", ... and "bitch" is almost reduced to a generic word at this point, as likely to be self-praise (see: numerous coffee cups and clip art comics) as to be insults - almost regardless of who is speaking the word.

Almost. But, the movement is really encouraging. Let's move away from using humans and pieces of humans as the vilest things we can say, when we want to express negative emotion.

I personally began excising insults using body parts from my language when a then-girlfriend corrected me for calling someone a "dickhead". "Hey! I like dick heads!" Good point.

So now: I only say "cunt" to mean "naughty phrase during sexy time", depending on the partner's reception... or during classes on the evolution of word meanings.

Cunt: from the Proto-Indo-European root "ku-", meaning "hollow, or cave-like area". Other words sharing this root are cottage and (hay)cock; one is "home", and the other is "harvest".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:04 PM on October 19, 2012


I have no problem with the word cunt or pussy to describe my nether regions. But I don't like either applied to a person. Or dick/prick/etc.
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:05 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just want to know where these albums keep dropping from. Maybe think about installing a guardrail?
posted by scrowdid at 2:18 PM on October 19, 2012


Also, as a Dutch person, where "kut" is a mild swear word on the same level of bloody, I've never quite grokked the offensiveness of "cunt".

As an American, I agree. On the other hand, I've been bemused by non-Americans who are incapable of getting past the word "motherfucker." Strangely, they just can't bring themselves to not take it so damn literally. And I'm talking about Australians for fuck's sake, the undefeated champions of swearing in English for the last century or so.
posted by Edgewise at 3:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, Banks is a terrific rapper, and whoa daddy those are some explicit lyrics (a couple months ago, had to quickly switch away in mixed company), but nothing worse than you hear from Ghostface (with a lot less violence).
posted by Edgewise at 3:07 PM on October 19, 2012


All I've got to say is that the mermaid game on her home page is not easy. It's distracting to swim around collecting stars while you're being brashly challenged to account for "what's your dick like". In other news her twitter feed is one crazy stream of consciousness.
posted by nanojath at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


As Liz Lemon explains in a classic episode of 30 Rock, the word demonstrates a frustrating lingual gender imbalance. “There’s nothing you can call a guy to come back. There is no male equivalent to this word.”

If we're talking about pure hurtfulness as a measure, I don't think it comes quite as close, but the male equivalent is in fact pussy, as in probably the worst thing you can call a male American in nearly any context. Obviously, though, it's pretty much normative emasculation/feminization as far as insults go, so it's nearly exactly the same semantic process. I don't know what else comes close except probably cocksucker (and note again it's part of the same semantic process).

At the same time, there are plenty of contexts in which men can call each other that and it's more of the usual male-to-male ribbing, which is part of the reason it falls short on the hurtfulness scale.
posted by dhartung at 3:26 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


As to the special place that "cunt" holds in the English language: I guess the only adjective I can come up for its particular brisance is "violating." It's a word that does more than just imply that someone/something is 'feminine' or sexually transgressive; it goes that one step further and dehumanizes the entire concept of femininity. It's one of the few words that doesn't get thrown around on a regular basis on /b/. It's a word so foul that my web browser flags it as a typo. It's a word that burns your mouth when you say it, and makes you look over your shoulder just in case someone heard you.

I understand that this is your subjective response to the word, but it's hardly an objective statement about the word's meaning.

When Chaucer has the Wife of Bath say:

"What aileth you to grouche thus and groan?/Is it for ye would have my queynte alone?" who exactly is being violated and dehumanized?

And when the BBC screened Jerry Springer: The Opera a few years ago, far more people complained about Christ's character singing he 'might be a bit gay', than the bit where 'the chorus or American trailer trash sings 'what a cunt, what a cunt, what a cunting, cunting cunt' about the devil. Apparently, the line would regularly knock the audience dead during the Opera's run at the National Theatre.

So obviously your subjective response to the word isn't universally shared
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:34 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's pretty well established that the word has a different resonance to present-day Americans than to people in England or in Chaucer's day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:38 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a word that does more than just imply that someone/something is 'feminine' or sexually transgressive; it goes that one step further and dehumanizes the entire concept of femininity. It's one of the few words that doesn't get thrown around on a regular basis on /b/. It's a word so foul that my web browser flags it as a typo. It's a word that burns your mouth when you say it, and makes you look over your shoulder just in case someone heard you.


Yeah um this is certainly not the case in Australia, where "cunt" is widely used as a synonym for "guy" (or "bastard" in the neutral sense). As in "what are you cunts up to tonight, want to catch a movie".

Still rooted in misogyny but yeah hardly a word you need to look over your shoulder to say.
posted by peter1982peter at 4:04 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Living in a city where a municipal employee had to resign for using "niggardly" in conversation to describe funding, I resent tremendously having to use workarounds such as "n-word" and "c-word" in conversations about language or music or anything else. Tell me again why I should conform my speech in form and content to your sensitivities, intolerances or ignorance?

I'm v. glad for Azealia Banks' song not only because it's a bangin' tune, but also because it's generating this sort of dialogue. Because I really don't get how people continue to empower words by prohibiting their use. Too much Lenny Bruce as a kid for me, I suppose.
posted by the sobsister at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh please, let's not go the thirteen year old wannabe libertarian who's read just a little bit too much free speach rants on the internet route, shall we?

Most adults without their head up their own arse know that certain words are a bit dodgy, can be incredibly hurtful or dangerous when used in the wrong circumstances and that a desire to use them even when others have made you aware that it's not a good idea, makes you look a prize c...
posted by MartinWisse at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


The track is great. See you next tuesday!
posted by parmanparman at 4:55 PM on October 19, 2012


Hi, MartinWisse,

Thanks for your nonconfrontational and respectful response.

I've been reading a few books on early 20th-century American music, post-ragtime, etc. And one of the themes (and a topic of interest for me) is the rise of what was known as the "coon song" and its various shades of meaning when sung by performers of one race or gender versus another.

I know that I cannot discuss this in public.

Perhaps with a close colleague with whom I have some connection, intellectual or cultural, and only then behind a closed office door. A single word has been given so much power that I can't contextualize it enough in a public conversation before any sort of audience. Whether with African-Americans or non-African Americans. The idea that one would say "coon song" in professional company is unheard of unless you're a musicologist by trade. I could be reprimanded for my insensitivity.

So, yes. That's what I mean.
posted by the sobsister at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2012


Incidently, for the Americans in the audience, I'd be a bit wary about the whole "oh, cunt is just a strong swear word in British English and not at all so offensive or sexist as it is in the US" argument. Because a) cunt is very much a fighting word in the wrong situation, about as much as calling somebody a tory b) it's still a gendered insult, no matter its current usage as an insult amongst blokes and quite a few British women feel as strongly as an American woman would about this (my wife for one) and finally, c) there is this unconscious tendency amongst our Poundland friends to act the geezer when in yank company, to act as if language use is a exclsuively American obsession.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


the sobsister: “Tell me again why I should conform my speech in form and content to your sensitivities, intolerances or ignorance?”

Because, leaving aside intolerance and ignorance, conforming our speech in form to the sensitivities of our audience is what every single one of us does every single day if we care about the people we're talking to. Because, while it's not necessarily something that should be regulated by law, it's something that ought to be regulated by good manners. Because, above all, those words often hurt people, and because we might prefer not to hurt others. Political correctness won out; it is the custom now, and I believe we're better off for it.

Personally, I've discovered through actual experience that I've hurt people even just by using those words in conversations about language; even when I wasn't making a crude or heartless argument, they served to heighten tension, to make people feel as though there might be an attack even when there wasn't one. And that doesn't serve me very well. Generally, I'd rather not make my friends even feel like I might be lashing out at them.

But by all means, use whatever words you choose to use. I'm not telling you what to do. I do, however, have a certain amount of healthy skepticism for the old hand-wringing people do about the word "niggardly" and "political correctness."

“Living in a city where a municipal employee had to resign for using ‘niggardly’ in conversation to describe funding...”

Incidentally, in point of fact, if you're talking about the David Howard incident in Washington, DC, you should know that that's not precisely what happened. David Howard resigned voluntarily; he was even publicly offered his job back, and told he'd done nothing wrong, but he refused to take it.

And he stated without any rancor that he was glad the incident had happened, because it taught him something about the effect of his words on the way people feel; he said: "I used to think it would be great if we could all be colorblind. That's naïve, especially for a white person, because a white person can afford to be colorblind. They don't have to think about race every day. An African American does."

“I've been reading a few books on early 20th-century American music, post-ragtime, etc. And one of the themes (and a topic of interest for me) is the rise of what was known as the 'coon song' and its various shades of meaning when sung by performers of one race or gender versus another. I know that I cannot discuss this in public.”

As a lifelong student of ragtime and post-ragtime, and as a white dude who plays jazz piano, this is utter hogwash. There are no laws against freedom of speech in America, and I can point you to Supreme Court decisions demonstrating it. I talk about this kind of music all the time, both in public at the New Mexico Jazz Workshop and privately with friends. I can tell you, without equivocation, that if you can't figure out a way to discuss these things without hurting or offending people, you probably ought to think a little about how you communicate with others.
posted by koeselitz at 5:01 PM on October 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Koeselitz,

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

My follow-on anecdote was intended to illustrate what I consider unreasonable restriction on my expression. I don't mean that I should realistically have the right to go around saying "Oh my cunting God!" at the least provocation with no penalty. Although, really, it's one or the other, isn't it? Either you can say whatever you want (and, in this Utopia, people recognize it as neutral discourse) or we'll always have a sliding scale--Lucille Ball couldn't be "pregnant" on her show, but now "penis" has its obligatory airing on primetime sitcoms--and yet still feel compelled to hold a few words back. Lest Civilization crumble.

And you miss my point about "coon song." Of course you can talk about it without penalty in a jazz workshop or privately with friends. I'm talking about being in a cafeteria or an elevator or a hallway with others present at a law firm or a government building and saying "coon song" or "nigger ballads" without facing a shitstorm of bad consequences. I don't consider that an unreasonable hope to have even as I recognize how far away that moment is.

Needing to use this sort of language in pubic is not a situation I regularly face, but this posting collided with my recent readings to generate a very real scenario for this topic and a more personal realization of its impossibility in this country at this time.
posted by the sobsister at 5:20 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doctor Freud, pick up the white courtesy telephone...

Para.4, l.1, "public" vice "pubic"
posted by the sobsister at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2012


kersplunk: "
As Liz Lemon explains in a classic episode of 30 Rock, the word demonstrates a frustrating lingual gender imbalance. “There’s nothing you can call a guy to come back. There is no male equivalent to this word.”
Dickhead, prick, knob, bellend, bollix.

Funny how any word for any vaguely sexual or scatological body part of either sex is considered insult territory. Related to how Mark Arm of Mudhoney got his stage name - a stoned thought experiment of a world where instead of 'dick' or 'cunt', words like 'arm' or 'elbow' were considered serious insults.

I'm moving from Ireland to America in January to start a new job, so my daily vocabulary is gonna need some serious adjustment.
"

Yay bellend! Tragically neglected.
posted by Samizdata at 6:02 PM on October 19, 2012


A woman recently explained the etymology of "vagina" to me; essentially Latin for "sword sheath" - that is, and object whose purpose is defined purely by the sword that goes into it. "Cunt", she felt, carried less baggage, and its offensiveness was a relatively recent invention.

That point is made in the fourth paragraph of the article, referencing Betty Dodson and others. Maybe the woman who explained that to you had read the article?

I think it's pretty well established that the word has a different resonance to present-day Americans than to people in England or in Chaucer's day.

I think people here are both underrepresenting the word's impact in the UK (as mentioned above, said in the right tone at the right moment, it will produce exciting results) and overrepresenting its impact in the US. I've had girlfriends who casually used the word, I've seen it used many times in writing (feminist and otherwise), and I've heard people say it all my life without every seeing anyone react any more strongly than to any other swear word.

It is clearly a hot-button word on Metafilter, but I'm not comfortable agreeing that this represents a universally American response to the word. Even assuming that I'm living in Delusionalville and in my linguistic ignorance missed the word's exceptional offensiveness in the contexts where I've heard it, the article details (including in the pull quote above) how the word has acquired a different layer of meaning in at least one context.

Again, knowing it's a hot-button word here I don't use it here (and virtually never in the rest of my life), but I'm glad to see this FPP not just because she's a kick-ass musician but also because it helps add nuance to our discussion of the word.
posted by Forktine at 6:20 PM on October 19, 2012


Only one person has said it so far, and it needs to be reinforced: this post has a fantastic title. I literally had the clichéd reaction where my face began to assume a quizzical expression and then I burst into (actual, IRL) laughter.

Now to read the actual post and thread. This was probably my favorite song of last year.
posted by valrus at 6:22 PM on October 19, 2012


I fucking love Azealia Banks.

Her flow in Liquorice is fantastic. The subject matter is aggressively sexual but empowered by being dismissive (beanplating: you figure it out). And again, the flow. Just lovely.

And 212? She ranges from playful rhyming to deep-chested singing through whatever it is she does in the refrain. And so playful! She's obviously enjoying herself to death, and the video is charming, showing her young side almost in spite of how precocious she is.

She's the future. Irreverent. Empowered. Awesome.
posted by flippant at 6:29 PM on October 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


You could always desensitize yourself by reading a few Irvine Welsh novels.
posted by yoHighness at 7:06 PM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


That song was pretty good and the video way better than i was expecting. thanks for posting.
posted by milarepa at 7:51 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Esta Noche is another good Azealia Banks track.
posted by dydecker at 7:53 PM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


212 is an awesome song, but I came here to say that it doesn't account for even 50% of what makes the song so great.
Azelia Banks drips (pardon) presence in ways that I'm certain make Gaga at least a little nervous (her marketing team be damned). And thats why that osm song is over the top.
Now all she has to do fight her way out of 1hitwonderland
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:49 PM on October 19, 2012


I have to support the notion that language does get played up when Americans come to Australia - recently my partner was part a of a large comp where a bunch of Americans were hosted here in Oz and he remarked on just how ocker most of the Australian crew got. And a lot of that is through using the word 'cunt' where in reality, that's a subcultural thing. It isn't a 'suburban housewives go around calling each other cunt' where they do use the word fuck a fair bit (from my own experience).

I love the song, don't much like using the word cunt in general. It's a measure of how upset/pissed I am if I do, or if I find myself wanting to. It isn't as accepted as fuck, that's for sure. And in my circle motherfucker sits somewhere between fuck and cunt - it's certainly not used terribly often, but more often than cunt.

But get an American in here? I know most of the general public get pretty out there with language and consciously so.
posted by geek anachronism at 9:20 PM on October 19, 2012


Wow – so, because I'm totally out of the loop, I had no idea that Azealia Banks had released a mixtape back in July. But she did. And - it seems pretty damned good. That "Esta Noche" track dydecker is from that mixtape, which is called "Fantasea." (Check the mermaid artwork.)

Here are all tracks on her SoundCloud page – they're all downloadable, too:

01 Out of Space
02 Neptune [ft Shystie]
03 Atlantis
04 Fantasea
05 Fuck Up The Fun
06 Ima Read [remix]
07 Fierce
08 Chips
09 Nathan [ft Styles P]
10 L8R
11 Jumanji
12 Aquababe
13 Runnin'
14 US
15 Paradiso
16 Luxury
17 Azealia Skit
18 Esta Noche
19 Salute

She has clearly got skill. And I don't think she'll only have one major track to her name when the dust settles.
posted by koeselitz at 10:27 PM on October 19, 2012


212 comes up fairly regularly on our Friday office Spotify playlist (along with a thousand other things), which might give you an idea of the British/Scottish attitude to explicit lyrics. The first time someone added it I saw a couple of raised eyebrows, but that was about it.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:54 AM on October 20, 2012


Here are all tracks on her SoundCloud page – they're all downloadable, too:

Thanks for linking those, though a few of them show up as having hit their download limits, sadly.
posted by Forktine at 1:19 AM on October 20, 2012


212 is apparently one of Samantha Cameron's (yes, wife of David) favourite tracks... oh the perils of only hearing a radio edit...
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:20 PM on October 19


Oh great, now I have the mental image of David Cameron munching the melon to ruin my day. There goes breakfast.

Which would be relevant if English were Latin, and if the etymology of words determined their meaning. I don't get people who think like this.
posted by smorange at 9:44 PM on October 19


I don't get people who think etymology isn't, or shouldn't be, relevant to a modern understanding of words.

"The smashers of language are looking for a new justice among words. It does not exist. Words are unequal and unjust."

- Elias Canetti.
posted by Decani at 1:40 AM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Forktine: “Thanks for linking those, though a few of them show up as having hit their download limits, sadly.”

No problem; sorry about that, didn't notice. I downloaded the whole mixtape from this MediaFire link; didn't mention it above because MediaFire is a little skeezy (ads, popups, etc) but if you want it, it's there. Also now I see it's at the equally-skeezy DepositFiles.
posted by koeselitz at 5:11 PM on October 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


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