Is the C*** word now safe to use? Azealia-Banks goes one step further on her brilliant '212' single
Is the C*** word now safe to use? Azealia-Banks goes one step further on her brilliant '212' single

It was the last bastion of swear words. The one that when you go on the radio you always get warned about. The one that we jokingly use the asterisks for in this blog so you don’t know what we are saying, because no-one swears do they!

Is the C*** word now safe to use? Azealia-Banks goes one step further on her brilliant '212' single
Is the C*** word now safe to use? Azealia-Banks goes one step further on her brilliant '212' single

But it seems like ‘c***’ is sneaking in to the mainstream. It’s almost safe to say in public, like the way the word ‘f***’ will only bring out a titter and not total outrage.

The latest and raved about wonderful Azealia Banks single, ‘212’ uses the ‘c***’ word. (We tried it out on a Goldblade song a couple of years ago but we are not mainstream).

She uses the word in the single and it’s flashed up on the screen of the video as well to make sure we didn’t miss it.

It’s raised eyebrows but not brought down Western civilisation.

It all seems along way from the outrage of the Sex Pistols expletive strewn Bill Grundy appearance all those years ago. Watching that now seems like a bunch of naughty kids on a school trip- it all looks so innocent!

Does it matter?
Is it a sign of the times?
Are there worse things to bother about?

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. It’s a brilliant word when used in the non-anatomical sense; it has no synonyms that convey such a level of disdain and contempt for someone, nor does it have a positive antonym. When used well it really does add something.

  2. We should ask Gilbert and George. Their 1977 work Cunt Scum still manages to shock people.

    Personally I hate the word when it’s used flippantly and without any forethought about the damage it actually can do.

    Words do hurt and this one more than most. There’s no quicker way to open someone’s eyes to how you truly feel about them than to direct this word at them in the most cutting way possible.

    I’d like to think I’d never do that. I know people who have. They have all immediately lost any respect I had for them. If you call someone a cunt, well then you are too – only more so.

    On a record though, I think it’s safe to use. Laughable almost if it’s directed in the first person and mildly embarrassing in the third person if grandma is sat with you.

  3. In this day and age, you SHOULD have to say or do something a bit cleverer than “cunt” to get noticed…

    Unfortunately, this is not the case. I’m not attacking Azealia Banks, who clearly has talent, but its a shame that the marketing suits around her thought it necessary to make profanity her USP. Or rather, I suppose, it’s a shame that we (the market) are so pathetic that that ploy still works, thirty years after the Pistols…

    Ten years ago I was driving my ten-year-old sister and her friends somewhere, and they all broke into a chorus of “I’m horny” in the back of the car… “horny” isn’t even a swear word but its not one I want to hear from young children! You can imagine around the country, that playgrounds are now ringing with the sounds of kids rapping Azealia’s lyrics…which to me at least, is an uncomfortable thought.

    I don’t think we should all stop saying it. I say it. I just think that if you’re selling something to kids then its a cheap shot which corrodes society.

    • I agree. That Pistols clip was so set up you can almost here the director saying, “get them to swear at’ll make good tv.”

      And now another lot of marketing people are in a boardroom saying ” ok, being shocking sells, so we will put this word in and make that the pivotal point of our campaign…whats-her-name, y’know thingy…the singer..breaking the boundaries put in the c-word. A woman degrading women…ah…works on levels…”

  4. Robin,

    The brilliant thing about the Pistols clip is that it was NOT set up. The only set up was that they tried to make fools of the band and they failed and the band told them quite literally to fuck off. The director was probably panicking and Bill Grundy lost his job and the Sex Pistols manager initially panicked. It’s a great pop culture moment.

    Also with the C word. I guess you don’t mind people saying cock or prick ?

  5. Bill Grundy ended up living in Compstall near my gran. He became a sorry sight in later years, permentantly drunk and followed by hoards of kids whenever he was walking his dog shouting “Dirty fucking rotter” or whatever it was at him. He endured about 25 relentless years of that. It drove him into severe alcoholism and ultimately to his death. He was literally bullied to his grave for that Pistols show. I wonder if Lydon and co are even aware of that. There was nothing “brilliant” about it at all.

    • I agree Paul. Grundy was clearly set up to get kicked out of his job, and using the Pistols was probably just a convenient way to get a reason to get rid of him. It looks scripted to me…he tries it on with one of the girls, in order to get the Pistols to react. He was following orders. Probably so were they.

  6. I wonder if Bill Grundy was aware that his patronizing goading of the band would ruin his own career?

    Blaming the Pistols for the presenters eventual alcoholism is pretty petty don’t you think.

    • Namone, Grundy’s first words were that he was drunk…and right at the end he mouthed “oh shit” so I think he knew he was on his way out, and the Pistols (who were dutifully following orders to be shocking…bless…)were a reason to sack him.

  7. Bryan, we are going to have to agree to disagree. Bill Grundy was probably following orders given to him via his ear-piece from the director, to “get them to be shocking.”
    It was part of the Sex Pistols marketing campaign and they went along with it. Its just showbiz.

    Similarly,any marketing campaign that gets a young female singer to use the word cunt, is planned, promoted, part of the “get her to be shocking” selling point.

    In both cases, the aim is to get rich. Whether the artist gets any of the money, is another matter. The ones who use them to plan the “shock the public” campaign, probably do very well out of it all. Thats why the do it.

    • The trouble with the internet is ill informed opinion.
      The Sex Pistols were not told what to do on the Bill Grundy Show.
      The way they behave points to this. They were reacting to the arrogant bumbling interviewer, it was a fantastic moment- one of the few chances anyone gets to answer back.
      They were given the slot at the last minute because Queen dropped out. The TV company phoned up Queen’s label EMI and asked for another band and the Pistols were dragged out of their rehearsal room and sent to the studio.
      There was no way of knowing there would be a national outrage- afterall it was only a show available in London. The people running the show will not have told the band to swear, the whole thing had a energy of its own, it’s fantastically out of control, there is no-one pulling the strings- that was the beauty of it.
      Sex Pistols manager famously panicked after the show and told the band they had blown it changing his mind 24 hours later and claiming he was the mastermind.

      • Bryan, like I said before, we have to agree to disagree.
        “The Sex Pistols weren’t told what to do on the Grundy show” Of course they were. It was a brilliant opportunity to promote their brand of (fake) anarchy, and they did very well. Doesn’t matter if they were given the slot at the last minute. They would have been told what to do.

        “The people running the show would not have told them to swear”.. When you are broadcasting there is a delay between what you hear and what goes out. So if there is anything illegal going on, the director quickly hits the button that extends the delay so that it doesn’t go on the air. Get it. The director did not stop ANY of it going out, and s/he could easily have done so.

        When you say “the manager famously got into a panic”…well…the public were TOLD that he did, but..doesn’t that fit into the image that was part of the Sex Pistols marketing campaign? The need to shock people around them was all part of it. The reaction of moral outrage from their manager was add to their publicity campaign.
        The reality is different to what is really going on and leaked to the press.
        I thought everyone knew this stuff.

        • I love this sort of conspiracy theory stuff.

          If you want to believe anything enough then you will. You have convinced yourself the Sex Pistols were told what to do. yeah, I can see it now- they get driven to the TV studio for the local news and there is a meeting, the TV people hand them their scripts which are full of swear words, the band look surprised but go along with it and retreat to the dressing room to learn their lines.

          For the TV people this is great! they will all probably lose their jobs in the next few months but for some reason they think the swearing will entertain people.

          The presenter who is pretending to be a bit worse for wear goes along with it and reads his lines of an auto cue. the band do a great job of delivering their lines, amazing! it’s almost like they are really doing it!

          I laos love this myth of the delay button! I worked in TV and could never find this mythical delay button, I wonder where it was? in a special cupboard? in the fat controller’s suitcase? maybe you know Robin?

          The public were not told that the manager got into a panic, on the contrary they were told he was thrilled at the chaos. It’s only in recent years that we learned it was all quite the opposite, so there was no ‘reaction of moral outrage’ from the manager- please check your facts. ‘I thought everyone knew this stuff’ , well, you obviously don’t!

          What next? the Sex Pistols never existed? they were made up by aliens? they didn’t actually swear atall and the words were edited in by the tabloids? the world is flat and Johnny Rotten was a ballerina?

          • Oh Bryan, calm down. The delay button is there because of the insurance.
            If a guest broke the law and something was broadcast live, that was defamation of character, then the TV company could be taken to court for allowing that to happen.
            So it is a safety device against that happening.

            I like your “the sex pistols were made up by aliens” idea. That made me laugh. I think you should go back to TV and pitch that one.

          • I like the way you think marketing/publicity/promotion is “conspiracy theory”
            That makes it seem alot more interesting.
            So…they get a fresh new female talent to use the word cunt, NOT as part of “selling her” as edgy and dangerous.. a “Conspiracy Theory..” Right Bryan…?
            You are funny.
            I gotta question though.. How do the Marketing/Promotion/Agents etc get richer on a Conspiricy Theory?

            Have you read any Pierre Bordeaux, when he talks about the capitalism of “cool?”
            When an artist says “cunt” or whatever, certain people are going to be impressed into thinking that it is “cool” and that makes them buy the record. They buy into the idea that they are “cool” too.

            Have you ever noticed that an older musician will team up with a younger one? That is put together by agents. Its because the “no longer cool” artist can sell a few more records because s/he is associated with the fresh new talent.
            And the fresh new talent gains publicity by being associated with the older artist.
            Either way, its just about making cash from the perception of what is “cool”

            That is why the Sex Pistols/Grundy exchange went well for those who wanted to make money out of Punk. It was perceived to be “cool” Still is by some people.

  8. “I guess you dont mind people saying cock or prick?”
    Bryan, Its not up to me to “mind” what other people say.
    Is the moral question about the individual words that people say?
    Or is the fact that certain people get rich by using young fame-hungry talent as part of a marketing campaign that has “SHOCK THE NATION” at its core?

    What if the nation just isn’t shocked anymore? Too jaded…too weary…too bored by the desperation to upset them? Too aware that they are meant to react by moral outrage, as part of this marketing campaign, and maybe they just dont feel like bothering?

  9. The people who control the money ALSO need to control the talent, to ensure that they get rich from investing in that talent.
    They need people who can be “shocking” on camera and then off the camera, these same people need to follow orders and do what they are told.
    That is how celebrity culture works.
    The celebrities themselves, are just a money making product, and it doesn’t really matter whether the product is marketing under the name “punk” or “ska” or “rap,” everything that is done on screen or accidently “leaked” to the tabloids, carefully planned. And if its planned to look spontaneous, then thats even better. The Grundy/Pistols was obviously planned.

      • Well you could be right there.
        I just think where there is money to be made, then…what is on our screens and in our newspapers is very tightly controlled.

        And if a celebrity doesn’t follow the orders of his/her agents, then they get dropped.

        The SEX PISTOLS seemed to be able to follow orders while at the same time making it look like anarchy, so that was good for them and good for the people who controlled them and got rich from them.

        fake anarchy. brilliant idea. love it.

  10. Who knows? Maybe Azealia Banks decided to use the word cunt all by herself? But I tend to think that a fresh faced youth, all revved up by his MBA from Ashridge, decided that such a “naughty word” should be part of her image, as a selling point, to make her stand out from the other female singers.
    The female singing about a word that is used to degrade other females, might have an “edge” to it so he can tick the “dangerous” box in his marketing campaign for her. Where there is money to be made….this is how things are….

  11. Funny enough, the band that seem to be sparking most debate here, the Sex Pistols, were using the ‘C’ word in their songs and it went largely unnoticed by the masses. Just listen to ‘Pretty Vacant’ to hear how Mr. Lydon stresses the second syllable in the word ‘Vacant’ to shocking effect! Also, Sid Vicious used the ‘C’ word more openly on his mock rendition of ‘My Way’ thusly… “You cunt, I’m not a queer”
    Another notable punk era usage of the word ‘cunt’ was by Ian Dury on his song Plaistow Patricia, although it was spoken as the intro to the song.
    There are probably plenty more examples but personally very little shocks me musically these days, in fact it comes across as being more juvenile than shocking…

    • Thanks Spud-u-hate….I wonder what is more shocking? Use of the word cunt, (pre-organised by the marketing team or not…seems like the jury is still out on that one…) or some well chosen words of pure hate. For example, as a woman, listening to the words and performance of
      Ian Dury’s “If I were with a woman” makes me shake in my stilletoes, for its accurate portrayal of a certain type of man. Now that song really IS shocking, because its very true. No marketing team organised that one. Its an example of words used to shock, that are all, non-swear-words, but much more effective than the use of the word cunt.


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