Acceptable alternatives. (Or: Please stop insulting my genitalia). (And yes: Here be curse words). Thatcher has died. I have a lot of opinions about Margaret Thatcher (aside from anything else, bear in mind that at the height of the AIDS crisis, I had friends who were sick and dying) but I have a pretty firm rule about not speaking ill of the dead in the immediate aftermath of their deaths. May those who loved Margaret Thatcher be comforted in this time of mourning.

However, lots of other people on my side of the political map will have lots to say, and one of the things they have already started to say is the word “cunt.”

And so I hereunder re-up my piece about using *ahem* certain words as insults (with a small edit or two to make it au courant). It might make you laugh! Who can tell.


Ok, I’ve said it before, and I’ll likely say it againandagainandagain. But.

Insulting someone with a word that is meant as a rude descriptor of female genitalia is





You know why it’s not ok?

Because it’s misogynist and lazy and unkind and sexist and dehumanizing and fucking wrong.

No, you may not call that right-wing nut-job a cunt just because she is a right-wing nut-job. Not even if you feel that she is an evil right-wing nut-job, not even if you feel that she is beneath all contempt and should be treated as naught but a grease stain on the fabric of life.

Because it is always wrong to insult someone by dehumanizing an entire class of human beings. 

Furthermore you may not call someone who is lacking in courage, or is perhaps weak, or is perhaps unwilling to face an unpleasant reality, or is just, bottom line, someone you really detest, a pussy. Not only because doing so indicates a gross misunderstanding of the relative fortitude of the various human genitalia (here, let Hal Sparks explain it for you), but mainly because it is always wrong to insult someone by dehumanizing an entire class of human beings.

I realize, however, that habits being what they are and human culture being a slow-moving thing, it may be hard to think outside the dehumanizing-women box.

“Why Emily!” you declare. “How can I insult the memory of a once powerful British Prime Minister and/or Ann Coulter without access to my words?! I need my words!!1!”

And to that I say: Heck, this is your lucky day!

The English language is positively chockablock with words! It’s so full of words, some folks have made dictionaries to hold ‘em all. No, I mean it!

Thus, as a public service, I offer hereunder a smattering of acceptable alternatives to the words “cunt,” and “pussy,” for all your insult needs:

Cunt – may I suggest: Asshole, assclown, asswipe, fucker, dung-beetle, bunghole, imbecile, putrid waste of human skin, reprehensible sociopath, evil-doer, psycho-hack, lying sack of filth, human dregs, piece of shit, or, indeed: naught but a grease stain on the fabric of life. If you’re on Twitter and character-count is an issue, may I suggest: Ass (not only does this simple yet elegant descriptor convey contempt, it even saves you an entire character!).

Pussy – here I humbly offer: Wimp, weakling, coward, quitter, failure, rat, gutless, gutless rat, worthless piece of spineless trash, fraidy-cat, scaredy-cat, feeble, or, if you’re feeling particularly fancy that day: Poltroon.

There! /dusts off hands/

You may want to print this out and carry it around in your wallet for easy reference; you may also find that a thesaurus is your friend. Either way, now you know: There are many acceptable alternatives to “cunt” and “pussy” out there. Go, fly, be free! Go find new words!

But if you call yourself a progressive and still want to cling to words that demean and belittle me, my daughter, my mother, my sister, and every single woman you know (including those who may not have been born with female genitalia but are nonetheless women)?

Then you had better check not your dictionary, but your own damn self.

/ellaesther out


  1. SiubhanDuinne

     /  April 8, 2013

    But may I call Dick Cheney by his first name?

  2. Lise

     /  April 8, 2013

    There are even lots of words that are not profanities. Words that indicate that one has some understanding of the cultural or political context in which the person lived and worked, and that one is not simply so lazy that one must revert to profanity to show how very hip one is.

  3. Gonzai

     /  April 8, 2013

    Heck, we’re in full Game of Thrones mode…


  4. I got to this list for all my well-heeled insult needs. That Shakespeare – he had a word for everything!

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