Mewling quim

It started with an e-mail in 2012 from a Londoner named John Stewart. He was writing to me because I conduct a blog called “Not One-Off Britishisms,” which deals with British words and expressions that have gained currency in the U.S.

Stewart directed me to a post on the Bleeding Cool website about a moment in the then-current film The Avengers, written by the Americans Joss Whedon and Zak Penn. Loki (a bad guy) addresses Black Widow with the two-word epithet that’s the title of this post. The site said:

This is possibly the most offensive line in the film. … It is just that some people aren’t too familiar with the derivation. In more modern English, this would be “whining cunt”. In American English, “cunt” is generally used as a misogynistic insult, mostly used against women, insulting their very nature of being female. British English doesn’t use the female-specific aspect of this in an insult, which loses much of the misogynistic tone. Indeed, it’s more likely to be used against a man, an exaggerated form of “wanker”. But “quim,” though rarely used, is done so in a misogynist fashion. It’s only used about women, and is very much about reducing them to their gender, as if that by definition, reduces their importance. And that’s how Loki uses it in Avengers.

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