The word ‘twat’ has a checkered history in the English language. Originally coined to mean ‘female genitalia’, although famously misued by Robert Browning in his poem ‘Pippa Passes’ (1841), it has recently been used to refer to an ‘obnoxious or stupid person’. However, its use in British discourse, especially on national radio, is still questionable as the following transcript highlights.
Charlie Mullins, a Conservative party donor, clearly felt the term was appropriate when he cued himself up for an answer in line 01 ‘ask me the question Martha’. Martha Kearney, the host of discussion, was unsure of whether that was a good idea or not (line 02) but before she could pass judgment, Mullins jumped in and called Jeremy Corbyn a ‘twat’ in line 04. (Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader, was not part of the discussion panel but had indicated recently that the UK should pull out of the EU single market, a position which Mullins opposes.)
... 01 CM: ask me the question Martha 02 MK: hhh er hh well er 03 CM: well course we should be staying in 04 (the the) Jeremy Corbyn’s a twat in’ he 05 MK: well we’ll leave 06 definitely leave it there 07 on on that xx 08 ((indistinct)) 09 er apologies to Jeremy Corbyn for the language used 10 er Dave Prentice 11 Charlie Mullins 12 thank you both CM=Charlie Mullins; MK=Martha Kearnery
Kearney (MK) appeared somewhat taken aback by the use of the term on air and felt the need to apologise, not to the listeners, but to Jeremy Corbyn. She quickly closed the interview. The BBC apologised for the use of the term, and Mullins did later but it appears that for some its use in discourse is uncertain. The word ‘twit’, just one vowel removed, however seems to be more generally accepted.
The World at One, 26th July 2017