Mail Men: The Unauthorized Story of the Daily Mail – The Paper That Divided and Conquered Britain

Andrew O’Hagan writes:

The word cunt was invented by the Norwegians. At first the OED wouldn’t have it in its pages and even today the dictionary describes it as the most taboo word in English. Norsemen said kunta and the Danes said kunte, as did ninth-century Germans, though not, seemingly, in anger or spite. Apparently, the first known use of the word in English was in 1230, when an Oxford street was named Gropecunt Lane. Paul Dacre, that nice man who edits the Daily Mail, has become famous in recent times for ‘double-cunting’: a colleague, usually male, will be ticked off via a thunderous, compound deployment of the Old Frisian. ‘You call that a good cunting headline, you cunt?’ might be a typical start to the afternoon. ‘Dacre would call us a “load of cunts”,’ the former Mail crime reporter Tim Miles told Adrian Addison, ‘or a “shower of cunts”. It was always “cunt this” and “cunt that”. He did like the word cunt.’ And yet, in the natural way of things, over time the editor was to grope for other words. According to one source, ‘he would drop words such as Schadenfreude and hubris into conversations without, apparently, fully understanding their meaning.’ He came to show a weakness for phrases such as bien pensant, sine qua non and au contraire. Every day it seems was a growth day for baby Dacre as he crawled towards full suburban manhood. ‘Imagine the joy of putting together 96 pages from nothing!’ he said on Desert Island Discs, before choosing a Bing Crosby number called ‘That’s What Life Is All About’, written by his father.

(LRB 1 June 2017)