I still remember all the times I have uttered the C word. All of them. Because every time I have used the word Cunt I have been in a profound state of rage. The kind of rage that fills your belly and makes you completely unable to breathe. The debilitating kind of anger that keeps you up all night plotting revenge. The kind of rage that starts wars and ends relationships. And pretty much every time I used said C word, that is what has happened. For if I dare to call you a CUNT, it's pretty much over between us. I've already crossed that bridge. In that moment I have decided: you are dead to me. It's over: cunt.
But why? Why is the word cunt so vile? So fatal? So socially unaccepted? What makes cunt so bad?
n. Vulgar Slang
1. The female genital organs.
2. Sexual intercourse with a woman.
3.a. Offensive Used as a disparaging term for a woman.
b. Used as a disparaging term for a person one dislikes or finds extremely disagreeable.
[Middle English cunte.]
The etymology of cunt is somewhat debatable (1). However different forms of the word have been used to describe the female genitals in a range of languages. Cunt is said to most likely be derived from the Latin Cunnus (meaning vulva) and the proto germanic word kunto (meaning stem). Both words together loosely meaning: vulva stem. As in, growth; life; creation. There's nothing vulgar about that, is there? The word (cunnus/Kunto) then progressed into old norse (Kunta) old english (Cunte) middle low German (Kunte) modern dutch (kont - meaning arse) and of course modern day English as CUNT (2).
Prior to 1230 neither forms of the word cunt were offensive. Cunt and its international variants were simply used to describe the female genitals. Not just the vaginal passage itself but the whole Shebang! Vulva, labia, the lot.
The word vagina has been hauling a large load. Vagina simply refers to internal passage to the womb. Not, all the other parts of the female genital area that is seems to have been lumbered with. When a woman refers to her vagina in context, she is rarely referring simply to her passage (3).
In fact, the etymology behind the word Vagina is far more offensive than that of cunt any day. Vagina derives from Latin simply meaning sheath (4). As in a covering for a sword. In other words, a place for a man to put his "sword". How do you feel about having a "vagina" now? I'm pretty sure I'd rather have a cunt.
Don't get me wrong. I like swords. They are quite nice on occasion. But my cunt is mine. It does not belong to a man. He doesn't own the rights. And my cunt's sole purpose is not to sheath his "sword". It has other things to do like plop out babies and cause me pain each month. (She's really quite busy).
So when did cunt become a four letter word? Well the answer perhaps lies in the former names of streets all throughout England. During the middle ages the term Gropecunt was used to name the streets where prostitution took place, to reflect the economic activity in that area. As in; to grope cunt. This name was used in many variations: Grapcunt, Gropecunte, Gropecuntlane and Gropekuntelane. These terms tainted the word cunt with the negative connotations of prostitution in the day (5).
As cunt became more synonymous with sex, specifically prostitution, it began to be considered a dirty term. And as prostitutes were usually uneducated women from low social standing, the word cunt was used to describe a stupid woman. A woman who had no use but her vagina. A woman who was simply considered a (dirty) cunt. It was used as an insult.
As this negative term became more common, the streets formerly named for their function and the "goods" they offered, were bowdlerised and renamed to things like Grope Lane, Dark Lane or Grape Lane - in the city of York (6).
By the 18th century cunt was well and truly tainted. The word as well as the body part were considered something to be ashamed of. Francis Grose lists the word cunt in A Classical Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue as: a nasty name for a nasty thing (7).
Since then, cunt has been resurrected in literature like D.H Laurence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and Henry Miller's shocking and banned Tropic of Cancer which mentioned the cunts of his lovers in plentiful detail. In Erica Jong's classic novel Fear of Flying, the word cunt is used no less than 50 times. Though never in vulgarity. A woman's cunt was just that. A cunt. Pure and simple. Jong used the word to describe her own cunt with no negative connotations. Her wanton use of cunt and her tales of her own cunt's escapades sparked a furore that helped to fuel the fires of the second wave of feminism in the 70s.
But what of cunt for today's girl? For despite all of this information, despite the misconceptions and despite the maladies that have tainted this once simple word, cunt still remains a four letter word. A gasp inducing curse word, the harshest of insults reserved for the worst kind of people, that just also happens to represent the most intimate part of the female anatomy. How can we even pretend to be okay with this?
Much like the word gay, cunt has been bastardised. Taken out of context and colloquialised to mean something it does not. But in doing so it becomes hugely offensive. It is not okay.
No more shall cunt be a curse word. No more shall it be used to describe a foolish, stupid or useless person. From now on we are taking it back. Cunt shall simply mean cunt. A woman's cunt. It is ours. Our cunt is far more ours than our vagina ever was. C'mon ladies, reclaim your cunt!
1) Wajnryb, Ruth (2005). Language Most Foul. Australia:
2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunt - etymology
4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vagina - etymology
6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunt - Usage pre-twentieth century
7) Grose, Francis. A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. London 1788