I hinted last week that I would be blogging about “the C-word” and I mentioned yesterday my mislike for the word Cunt. Now I’m going to go into some glorious detail…
The word itself I do not like. It spits itself out like an expletive, hatefully. Cunt: cock, cut, kit, kick, cack, catty, crap, crock. The sound is completely wrong for a thing of slow power, a thing of deep longing, a thing of soft, warm invitation. Even when there is speed, it is not the crick-crack whip-crack of “Cunt”, but a rushing, wheeling, pressing, spiralling, urgent exhilaration.
But more than that, I do not like the negative meanings of the word. It is the last remaining Unspeakable of sexual slang: “a nasty word for a nasty thing”. This horrible obscene power of the word is something I do not like. These connotations of nastiness I do not like: for many people calling someone a “cunt” is the worst abomination possible, the very worst insult they can muster. I do not wish to liken, even indirectly, my vulva to this kind of cunt.
Jane Mills quotes in Womanwords (1989) from The Slanguage of Sex (1985) to the effect that the word “reflects the deep fear and hatred of the female by the male in our culture. It is a far nastier and more violent insult than ‘prick’ which tends to mean foolish rather than evil. This violent usage is a constant and disturbing reminder to women of the hatred associated with female sexuality and leaves women with few positive words to name their own organs.”
Some women say that we should reclaim cunt. To be frank, I don’t really want it back. If they want it so badly they can keep it! Although, I have to say, I think I’d prefer it if the word just died out of usage, an obsolete obscenity.
Jane Mills also says (this time talking about use of the word “feminine”): “Freda may mean something wonderfully positive when she utters the phrase ‘feminine intuition’ but when Fred utters it he may be implying something totally derogatory.”
Similarly, no matter how many times we pro-woman, pro-femalia feminists might shout about our cunts at workshops, in the theatres and on our blogs – when a man utters that word with a spitting hiss of venom, it will still be a hateful word: and a reminder of the contempt with which we and our big, wonderful, amazing personalities can so easily be reduced to filthy holes.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not precious about hearing the word when a sister says it in a celebratory manner. But I’m sure as hell not mad keen on reclaiming it for myself.
Now, some boring cunt stuff:
1. the vulva or vagina.
2. Disparaging and Offensive. a. a woman. b. a contemptible person.
3. sexual intercourse with a woman.
“Female intercrural foramen,” or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, “the monosyllable,” M.E. cunte “female genitalia,” akin to O.N. kunta, from P.Gmc. *kunton, of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with L. cuneus “wedge,” others to PIE base *geu– “hollow place,” still others to PIE *gwen-, root of queen and Gk. gyne “woman.” The form is similar to L. cunnus “female pudenda,” which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps lit. “gash, slit,” from PIE *sker– “to cut,” or lit. “sheath,” from PIE *kut–no-, from base *(s)keu– “to conceal, hide.”
First known reference in Eng. is said to be c.1230 Oxford or London street name Gropecuntlane, presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Avoided in public speech since 15c.; considered obscene since 17c. Du. cognate de kont means “a bottom, an arse.” Du. also has attractive poetic slang ways of expressing this part, such as liefdesgrot, lit. “cave of love,” and vleesroos “rose of flesh.”
Alternate form cunny is attested from c.1720 but is certainly much earlier and forced a change in the pronunciation of coney (q.v.), but it was good for a pun while coney was still the common word for “rabbit”: “A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers’ wives, ‘No money, no coney.’ ” [Massinger, 1622]
Some similar words in other languages
Choot (Urdu) Chut (Hindi) Chutha (Punjabi) Con (French) Cona (Portuguese) Concha (Spanish) Cono (Spanish) (NB the “n” has a squiggly thing over it, don’t know how to make those here!) Cunnus (Latin) Cunte (Middle English) Kotte (German) Kunda (Czech) Kunta (Swedish, Old Norse) Kunte (Danish) Kunton (proto-Germanic) Kusse (Danish) Kut (Dutch) Queynte (Middle English)
Sources: various, none reliable!