Twat

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For other meanings of "Twat" and similar, see Twat (disambiguation).

The word twat is a vulgar synonym for the human vulva,[1] but is more widely used as a derogatory epithet, especially in British English. The word may originate from Old Norse þveit meaning cut, slit, or forest clearing.[1]

Historical usage

Robert Browning famously misused the term in his 1841 poem "Pippa Passes", believing it to be an item of nun's clothing:[2]

Then owls and bats
Cowls and twats
Monks and nuns in a cloister's moods
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry

Its meaning was in reality the same then as now, Browning's misconception probably having arisen from a line in a 1660 satirical poem, Vanity of Vanities:

They talk't of his having a Cardinalls Hat
They'd send him as soon an Old Nuns Twat

Another mistaken (or perhaps dialectal) use was in Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1870 science fiction novel The Coming Race, in an apparent satire on Darwin:

Among the pithy sayings which, according to tradition, the philosopher bequeathed to posterity in rhythmical form and sententious brevity, this is notably recorded: "Humble yourselves, my descendants; the father of your race was a 'twat' (tadpole): exalt yourselves, my descendants, for it was the same Divine Thought which created your father that develops itself in exalting you."

It is commonly thought that a "twat" is a noun to describe a pregnant goldfish.[3] However, this is disputed by some and may be an urban myth.

Modern usage

Road sign pointing to Twatt, Shetland which was rated no. 4 of the most vulgar-sounding names in Rude Britain, along with its Orkney counterpart.

Although sometimes used as a reference to the female genitalia, the word twat is more often used in various other ways:

In August 2008, the publisher of a children's book, My Sister Jodie by Jacqueline Wilson, decided to reprint the word twat as twit in future editions of the novel so as not to offend readers or their parents.[6]

In a radio interview on 29 July 2009, the leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron apologized for any offence caused after he used the word twat on live radio during a breakfast radio show interview on Absolute Radio:

The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.

He attempted to play down the incident, and added: "I was doing a radio interview and I'm sure that people will understand that."[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Dictionary definition and etymology of "twat"
  2. ^ Mark Liberman (19 January 2005). "Twat v. Browning". Language Log. Retrieved 30 July 2005. 
  3. ^ http://www.dictionary.co.uk/word/Twat
  4. ^ The Origins and Common Usage of British Swear-words
  5. ^ Red Dwarf: Polymorph scene 10 (transcription link)
  6. ^ Floot, Alison (21 August 2008). "'Offensive' word to be removed from Jacqueline Wilson book". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2010. 
  7. ^ "David Cameron apologises for Twitter radio swearing gaffe". Telegraph Media Group. 29 Jul 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Siddique, Haroon (29 July 2009). "David Cameron says sorry for 'twat' comment during radio interview". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2010.