Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Update on "Wanker v. Tosser"

A response from a native speaker of the Queen's English, R the Royal, on the earlier "Wanker v. Tosser" question:

This is the kind of question I like having a go at. My views:

Basically, your man Munger is spot on that 'wanker' is stronger. While almost everyone would agree that 'wanker' is full-on swearing, I think some people would place 'tosser' into that grey area (alongside words like 'nob' and 'dickhead' that seem somehow gentler and more like slang even if their sexual connotations are, shall we say, unambiguous). But, although 'tosser' may not be as strong, I think it's almost equally harsh. That is, while it may be more acceptable to use it in company (whatever that means), I'd be careful who I used it about. I'd be readier to use terms like 'twat' or 'cock' to rebuke a friend who was being, well, a twat or a cock. To hiss 'tosser' at him would really sound like I'd lost my rag. Which underlines the key point for me, viz. that it's not what you say but the way you say it, and I think there are few words into which you can inject as much cold contempt as you can into 'tosser'. As such, if anything the Lansley-Bieber example works the other way round for me. While I don't have much complaint about AL, people who do would feel more strongly about him and prefer 'wanker', whereas JB deserves only the disdainful dismissal for which 'tosser' is tailor-made. (Though even that's giving him too much credit. I would favour the description "f*cking non-event".)

And thanks to Tommie the Brit, for the assist.

3 comments:

Otto Rock said...

Nice update, 100% agreed with R the Royal.

Another way i thought about this (after commenting last time) was to considering the quantifier that might accompany either wanker or tosser. Although they'd both take "fucking" without too much bother, "fucking wanker" is a much more likely and satisfying combo than "fucking tosser". Something more along the lines of "bleeding tosser" makes for a better partnership. On the other hand "bleeding wanker" just doesn't sit right.

Therefore, as "fucking" is clearly stronger than "bleeding", we can deduce that wanker is stronger than tosser.

dangph said...

Do wanker and tosser have connotations of self-indulgence or pretentiousness?

Shawn said...

are there americanisms that brits are similarly confused about, or have US movies and music made them all nearly universal?