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Kids Dancewear From bun tops to happy toes, in the classroom or on stage, Dance Direct has everything your little ones need. Dancewear you'll Love! Sometimes it's the simple things View All. With other swear words notably 'fuck' gradually losing their potency, 'cunt' is left as the last linguistic taboo, though even the c-word can now be found adorning badges, t-shirts, and book covers.
Its normalisation is now only a matter of time. Martin Samuel calls it "one of the best words" Our taboo surrounding the word ensures that it is rarely discussed, though, when it is, the superlatives come thick and fast. Accordingly, Zoe Williams writes: "It's the rudest word we've got, in the entire language" , and Nick Ferrari is outraged by it: "[it's] the worst word in the world [ Jacqueline Z Wilson also writes in superlative terms: "'Cunt' is the most confronting word [ In her study of Australian prison graffiti, Wilson writes that 'cunt' is "the most confronting word in mainstream Australian English, and perhaps in every major variety of English spoken anywhere" [b].
Sarah Westland calls it "the worst insult in the English language", "the nastiest, dirtiest word", "the greatest slur", and "the most horrible word that someone can think of". Peter A Neissa describes it as "the most degrading epithet in English speaking culture" Sara Gwin calls it "the most offensive word for women" and "one of the most offensive words in the English language, if not the worst". Specifically, she problematises the word's reductivism: "It objectifies women by reducing them down to their body part that has been defined by male usage [ She cautiously acknowledges the potential for feminist reclamation: "Women have every right to reclaim the word for themselves or for a particular group.
However, there has to be the acknowledgement that this word is still incredibly insulting to many and we have to respect that". Naomi Wolf's book Vagina includes a chapter on the c-word titled The Worst Word There Is , in which she calls 'cunt' "the word considered to be the most derogatory, the most violent, the most abusive". M Hunt [no relation] calls it "the most taboo word in the English language" Peter Silverton describes it as "the most unacceptable word in the language", "the worst word in the language", and "a hate word of unparalelled force".
Zoe Heller calls it "the worst of bad words" Libby Brooks views it as "the most shocking word in the English language [ Andrew Goldman calls 'cunt' "the mother of all nasty words" and "the most controversial word of all" Victoria Coren calls it "the word which is still considered the most offensive in the language" Deborah Lee, Alex Games sees it as "still the ultimate taboo utterance" Geoffrey Hughes calls it "the most seriously taboo word in English" For Tom Aldridge, it is "unarguably the most obscene [and] most forbidden word in English", "the ultimate obscenity", and "the nastiest four-letter word" Jack Holland notes that "the word 'cunt' expresse[s] the worst form of contempt one person could feel for another" John Doran describes it as "The most offensive word in the world", "the worst word that anyone has ever been able to think of", and "[the] most terrible of terrible words" It is, according to Sue Clark, "far and away the most offensive word for the British public.
Beatrix Campbell calls it "a radioactive word [ It is Michael Madsen's favourite word: "I just lke it because it's really mean and at the same time it's really lyrical and colourful and imaginative" Chris Hewitt, Rankin, who wore a mask with an 'I'm a cunt' slogan in , describes it as "an amazing word". Deborah Orr provides a neat summary of the word's central functions, invective and empowerment: "Attitudes to this powerful expression, especially among women, are changing. For many centuries now, the word has been elaborately veiled under the weird and heavy drapes of a disapproval so strong that it has become pre-eminent among forbidden words.
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For others, though, its use is a mark of worldly and liberal sophistication" The programme, presented by Will Smith, acknowledged the omnipresence of 'cunt' in contemporary life and culture: "every language needs its single, ultimate taboo swear word, and ['cunt'] has become ours. But for how much longer? You see, the more you hear it, the more you become immune to its power". The etymology of 'cunt' is actually considerably more complex than is generally supposed. The word's etymology is highly contentious, as Alex Games explains: "Language scholars have been speculating for years about the etymological origins of the 'c-word'" A consensus has not yet been reached, as Ruth Wajnryb admits in A Cunt Of A Word a chapter in Language Most Foul : "Etymologists are unlikely to come to an agreement about the origins of CUNT any time soon" , and Mark Morton is even more despairing: "no-one really knows the ulterior origin of cunt" In Cunt , a chapter from the anthology Dirty Words , Jonathan Wilson notes the word's etymological convolution: "The precise etymology of cunt, yet unresolved, continues to engender the most arcane and complex disputes" Greek Macedonian terms for 'woman' - 'guda', 'gune', and 'gyne' - have been suggested as the word's sources, as have the Anglo-Saxon 'cynd' and the Latin 'cutis' 'skin' , though these theories are not widely supported.
Jay Griffiths , for example, links 'cunt', 'germinate', 'genital', 'kindle', and 'kind' to the Old English 'ge-cynde' and Anglo-Saxon 'ge-cynd' extended to 'ge-cynd-lim', meaning 'womb' ; to this list, Peter Silverton adds 'generate', 'gonards', and 'genetics', derived from the Proto-Indo-European 'gen' or 'gon'. Perhaps the clearest method of structuring the complex etymology of 'cunt' is to approach it letter by letter, and this is the approach I have taken here. I have examined the Indo-European, Latin, Greek, Celtic, and Dutch linguistic influences on 'cunt', and also discussed the wide variety of the word's contemporary manifestations.
The prefix 'cu' is an expression of "quintessential femineity" Eric Partridge, , confirming 'cunt' as a truly feminine term.
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The synonymy between 'cu' and femininity was in place even before the development of written language: "in the unwritten prehistoric Indo-European [ Mark Morton suggests that the Indo-European 'skeu' 'to conceal' is also related. Thus, 'cu' and 'koo', both pronounced 'coo', were ancient monosyllabic sounds implying femininity.
Other vaginal slang words, such as 'cooch', 'coot', 'cooter' inspiring the Bizarre headline Cooter Couture in , 'cooz', 'cooze', 'coozie', 'coozy', 'cookie', 'choochy', 'chocha', 'cootch', and 'coochie snorcher' are extensions of them. Also, heterosexual pornographic films are known as 'cooch reels'. The feminine 'cu' word-base is also the source of the modern 'cow', applied to female animals, one of the earliest recorded forms of which is the Old Frisian 'ku', indicating the link with 'cu'.
Other early forms include the Old Saxon 'ko', the Dutch 'koe', the Old Higher German 'kuo' and 'chuo', the German 'kuhe' and 'kuh', the Old Norse 'kyr', the Germanic 'kouz', the Old English 'cy' also 'cua' and 'cyna' , and the Middle English 'kine' and 'kye'. The prefix has also been linked to elliptical thus, perhaps, metaphorically vaginal terms such as 'gud' Indo-European, 'enclosure' , 'cucuteni' 'womb-shaped Roman vase' , 'cod' 'bag' , 'cubby-hole' 'snug place' , 'cove' 'concave chamber' , and 'keel' 'convex ridge'.
The Italian 'guanto' 'glove' and the Irish 'cuan' 'harbour' may also be related, as they share with 'vagina' the literal meaning 'receptacle'. RF Rattray highlights the connection between femininity and knowledge: "The root cu appears in countless words from cowrie, Cypris, down to cow; the root cun has two lines of descent, the one emphasising the mother and the other knowledge: Cynthia and [ Indeed, there is a significant linguistic connection between sex and knowledge: one can 'conceive' both an idea and a baby, and 'ken' means both 'know' and 'give birth'.
It also has vaginal connotations: "['kin'] meant not only matrilineal blood relations but also a cleft or crevice, the Goddess's genital opening" Barbara G Walker, The Latin 'cognoscere', related to 'cognate', may indeed be cognate with the sexual organ 'cunt'. Knowledge-related words such as 'connote', 'canny', and 'cunning' may also be etymologically related to it, though such a connection is admittedly tenuous.
Less debatable is the connection between 'cunctipotent' and 'cunt': both are derived from the Latin 'cunnus'. Geoffrey Chaucer's 'cunt'-inspired term 'queynte' is yet another link between sex and knowledge, as he uses it to mean both 'vagina' and 'cunning'. In Celtic and modern Welsh, 'cu' is rendered as 'cw', a similarly feminine prefix influencing the Old English 'cwithe' 'womb' , from the Welsh 'cwtch'.
Interestingly, 'cwtch' also 'cwtch', with modern forms 'cwts' and 'cwtsh' means 'hollow place' as a noun and is thus another vaginal metaphor and 'hide' as a verb. Giovanni Boccaccio's term 'val cava' makes a similar association, as he used it to mean both 'cunt' and 'valley' as Jonathon Green notes in From Gropecuntelane To Val Cava , part of the 'cunt' chapter in his Getting Off At Gateshead.
Sharing the 'cw' prefix is 'cwe', meaning 'woman', influencing the Old English 'cuman' and 'cwene'. Anglicised phonetically, 'cwene' became 'quean', and is related to the Oromotic term 'qena', the Lowland Scottish 'quin', the Dutch 'kween', the Old Higher German 'quena' and 'quina', the Gothic 'quens' and 'qino', the Germanic 'kwenon' and 'kwaeniz', the Old Norse 'kvaen' also 'kvan', 'kvenna', and 'kvinna' , the Middle English 'queene' and 'quene', and the modern English 'quean' and 'queen'. In fact, this topographical definition is clearly a vaginal metaphor, as valleys are as furrowed and fertile as vaginas although the Welsh slang words for 'vagina' are 'cont' and 'chuint' rather than 'cwm'.
Viz magazine William H Bollocks, punned on the sound of the Welsh phrase 'pobol y cwm' 'people of the valley' with 'pobolycwm', defined as "people who like quim". Alternative etymologies for 'quim' include possibilities such as 'cweman' Old English, 'to please' and 'qemar' Spanish, 'to burn'.
Variants of 'quim' include 'qwim', 'quiff', 'quin', and 'quem', and it has been combined with 'mince' to form 'quince' 'effeminate'. There is a lesbian magazine titled Quim , and related to the term are the portmanteau words 'queef', 'kweef', 'quiff', and 'queefage', all meaning 'vaginal fart' and derived from 'quim' in combination with 'whiff'.
In addition to the clumsily Anglicised 'quim', 'cwm' was also adopted into English with the more accurate phonetic spelling 'coombe', from the Old English 'cumb'. In America, 'combe' appears in the name of Buncombe County, from which the slang term 'bunkum' is derived. Congressional representative Felix Walker, ending a long-winded House of Representatives speech in , insisted that he was "bound to make a speech for Buncombe" Jonathon Green, Thus, 'buncombe' became synonymous with nonsensical speech, and was later simplified to 'bunkum'.
We have seen how 'cu' originated as an ancient feminine term. In the Romance languages, the 'cu' prefix became 'co', as in 'coynte', the Italian 'conno' and 'cunno', the Portugese 'cona', and the Catalan 'cony'. This 'co' prefix may also suggest a possible link with the Old English 'cot', forerunner of 'cottage', and with 'cod' as in 'codpiece' , 'cobweb', 'coop', 'cog', 'cock', 'chicken', 'cudgel', and 'kobold', though this is not proven.
The 'co' prefix is found most abundantly in Spanish, which provides 'concha' 'vagina' , 'chocha' 'lagoon', a vaginal metaphor , and 'cono' 'vagina'. Suzi Feay finds 'cono' preferable to the coarser-sounding 'cunt': "I must say, 'cono' is a much nicer word than its English equivalent" There is also a Castilian Spanish variant 'conacho' , and a milder euphemistic form: 'cona' and 'conazo'.
In Mexico, Spaniards are known colloquially as 'los conos', indicating Mexican surprise at the word's prevalence in Spain. The transition from 'cu' to 'co' can be seen most clearly in the progression from the Old French 'cun' and 'cunne', to the Middle French 'com' and 'coun', and the modern French 'con'. These terms contain the letter 'n', and this is a clue that their evolution from 'cu' was indirect. The missing link is the Latin term 'cuneus', meaning 'wedge'.
Euphemistically, 'coin' means 'conceive', and 'coiner' can refer to a man who impregnates a woman, thus the word has a demonstrably sexual, if not explicitly genital, connection. Thus, 'cuneiform', 'coin', and 'cunt' share the same etymological origin: 'cuneus'. The connection between 'cuneus' and 'cunt' is 'cunnus' Latin for 'vagina'; perhaps also related to 'culus', meaning 'anus' , and this connection is most clearly demonstrated by the term 'cunnilingus' 'oral stimulation of the vagina'.
In this combination of 'cunnus' and 'lingere' 'to lick' , we can see that 'cunnus' is used in direct reference to the vagina, demonstrating that the 'cun' prefix it shares with 'cunt' is more than coincidental. The adjective is 'cunnilingual', and cunnilinus is performed by a cunnilinguist. Another link is shown by the 'constrictor cunni', one of the muscles of the vagina.
Euphemistic variants of 'cunnilingus' include 'cunnilinctus', 'cumulonimbus', 'cunning lingus', 'Colonel Lingus' t-shirt slogan , 'dunnylingus' incorporating the slang 'dunny', meaning 'toilet', suggesting cunnilingus performed in a bathroom , 'cunnichingus' cunnilingus performed with the chin , 'conulingus' a contraction of 'con you cunnilingus' , and "Canni langi" Michelle Hanson, Viz has created the convoluted euphemisms 'cumulonimbicile' a combination of 'cumulonimbus' and a mis-spelling of 'imbicile', referring to a man who cannot perform cunnilingus , "cumulously nimbate", and "cumulonimbulate" Roger Mellie, There are many terms derived from 'cunnus' that have either literal or metaphorical vaginal or maternal connotations: the Roman goddess Cunina, the pagan goddess Cundrie, the Welsh 'cunnog', 'cuniculus' 'passageway' , 'cununa', and 'cunabula' 'cradle'.
Also from 'cunnus' is 'cundy', which means 'underground water channel' and is slang for 'vaginal fluid', a vaginal metaphor in the manner of 'cwm'. The Greek 'kusos', 'kusthos', 'konnos' 'tuft of hair' , and 'konnus' perhaps related to the Egyptian 'ka-t' , all emerged in parallel with 'cunnus'. Along with the Hebrew 'kus' and 'keus', they share an initial 'k' in place of the Latin 'c'.
In modern Czech, 'kunda' 'vagina' is an invective equivalent to 'cunt', and is also found in the diminutive form 'kundicka' the closest English equivalent being 'cuntkin'. In the Volga region of Russia, 'kunka' is a dialect term for 'cunt' related to 'kunat'sja' 'fuck' and 'okunat' 'plunge'.
The Norwegian 'kone' 'wife' provides a further variant form, related to the 'ku' and 'cu' feminine prefixes already discussed. Modern Norwegian includes a broad lexicon of related terms, including 'torgkone' 'market-woman' , 'vaskekone' 'washer-woman' , 'gratekone' 'female mourner' , and 'kvinne' 'woman', also spelt 'kvinner' and 'kvinnelig'. Like Norway's 'kone' and its variants, there are are many other words with similar meanings, also belonging to Scandinavian languages: 'kunton', the Old Swedish 'kona', 'kundalini' 'feminine energy' , 'khan' 'Eurasian matriarch' , the Hittite 'kun' and 'kusa' 'bride' , the Basque 'kuna' also 'cuna' , the Danish 'kusse', the Old Norse and Old Frisian 'kunta' and 'kunte', the Middle Lower German 'kutte', the Middle Higher German 'kotze' 'prostitute' , and the Icelandic 'kunta' or 'kunt'.
The Old Dutch 'kunte' later developed into the more Latinate Middle Dutch 'cunte' and 'conte', and the modern Swedish 'kuntte', though the modern Dutch term is 'kutt'. Also spelt 'kut', and extended to 'kutwijf' 'cuntwife' , 'kutt' has been used as the title of the porn magazine Kutt , leading to Lee Carter's 'uncut' pun "live and unKutt" It is interesting that these Dutch examples include the suffixes 'te' and 'tt', as the final 't' of "the most notable of all vulgarisms" has always been "difficult to explain" , according to Eric Partridge, who included 'cunt' in his Dictionary Of Slang And Unconventional English.
The complex etymological jigsaw of this "most notorious term of all" can now be broadly pieced together: the 'cu' is Proto-Indo-European, the 'n' is Latin, and the 't' is Dutch. The Middle English 'kunte', 'cuntt', 'cunte', 'count', and 'counte' bear the marks of each of these three influences.
We have seen how the Celtic 'cwm' was influenced by the feminine prefix 'cu', a topographical vagina metaphor comparing the shape and fertility of valleys and vaginas. Other water-related terms also have similarly vaginal connotations, such as 'cundy' 'underground water channel' , which is a hydrographical vaginal metaphor derived from 'cunnus'.