I’ll be honest. One of my favourite things about Britain may surprise you. No, it’s not the scathing wit or cutting edge music - although that's up there - or even the quaint old buildings (some of them are just old, and could use with a little upkeep). To be perfectly frank, as I know you can handle it, it’s the widespread use, and general acceptance of the C word. Yes THAT C word. Fine, the Queen doesn’t say it, but you know Charlie boy lets it roll off the old tongue once in awhile.
It took me about a month to really register that was indeed the word I was hearing. But alas! Do my subversive little Yankee ears deceive me? You people are saying the forbidden word of all words. Where I come from, this little nasty gem is up there with the most reviled words in the English language. In the mighty land of free speech, [stop laughing], this word could actually get you incarcerated. It must be said that I grew up with a Father whose profound embrace of the F word meant that I learned to use it as a noun, adjective and verb by the age of seven, so you can understand my excitement. [My mother, thank god, was the picture of refinement and elegance so I turned out fairly balanced].
So there I was, virtually skipping through the streets of London shouting it from the rooftops like Dick Van Dyke’s alternate gendered evil twin: “C----!” I’d combine it, “F----- C----!” Use it in a sentence, “Could you believe that f------ c---!” [My English granny was definitely rolling over in her grave]. Just feeling it roll off my tongue would send me into liberated hysterics. I started hearing it films, not Merchant Ivory of course, but you’ve seen one you’ve seen em all, on talk shows, at dinner parties ‘Hey, c---, could you pass the Camembert’. (Fine, I may be exaggerating now).
It’s hard to forget the time I returned to the States and used it in front of my mother, my English mother, for that matter. (Yes she’s been Americanized, but the woman still drinks tea like it’s water). She about barred me from returning to London, ‘that was not how we spoke when I lived there!’ I of course, bathed in my new uber cool anglophilia, told her to chill out, assuring her that everyone says it now. “I promise Mom, It’s like her majesty’s version of ‘have a nice day”. My English friends finally had to burst my euphoric bubble and tell me that NOT everyone said it, and yes, it was still deemed offensive...I suppose some of the reactions I received started to make a bit more sense.
Fine. I’ll save it like a precious piece of Parisian chocolate only to make an appearance for the very deserving. You’re out there, and know who you are!
C u next Tuesday.