Is ‘Cunt’ Such a Bad Word?

I’ve been wondering about this for a while now.

Why is it that a woman can quite happily call someone a ‘dick’, then blanch at the mere mention of ‘the c word’?

What the hell?

Dick = piece of male genitalia, often used as an insult against someone greatly disliked

Cunt = part of the female genitalia, often used as an insult against someone greatly disliked

So why is ‘cunt’ such a horrible, nasty word?

The only explanation I can think of is that women are still being taught to think of their own sexuality with repugnance.

Damn. That’s nasty.

But, hoping I was wrong, I decided to delve a little deeper. The quotes below are from Online Etymology Dictionary, with a little editing by me – extended abbreviations and bolded some words to make it easier to read.

Cunt

“female intercrural foramen,” or, as some 18c. writers refer to it, “the monosyllable,” Middle English cunte “female genitalia,” akin to Old Norse kunta, from Proto-Germanic. *kunton, of uncertain origin. Some suggest a link with Latin cuneus “wedge,” others to Proto-Indo-European base *geu- “hollow place,” still others to Proto-Indo-European *gwen-, root of queen and Greek gyne “woman.” The form is similar to Latin cunnus “female pudenda,” which is likewise of disputed origin, perhaps literal “gash, slit,” from Proto-Indo-European *sker- “to cut,” or literal “sheath,” from Proto-Indo-European *kut-no-, from base *(s)keu- “to conceal, hide.”

First known reference in English is said to be c.1230 Oxford or London street name Gropecuntlane, presumably a haunt of prostitutes. Avoided in public speech since the 15th century; considered obscene since the 17th century. Dutch cognate de kont means “a bottom, an arse.” Dutch 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.’ “

Quaint

c.1225, “cunning, proud, ingenious,” from Old French. cointe “pretty, clever, knowing,” from L. cognitus “known,” pp. of cognoscere “get or come to know well” (see cognizance). Sense of “old-fashioned but charming” is first attested 1795, and could describe the word itself, which had become rare after c.1700 (though it soon recovered popularity in this secondary sense). Chaucer used quaint and queynte as spellings of cunt in “Canterbury Tales” (1386), and Andrew Marvell may be punning on it similarly in “To His Coy Mistress” (1650).

Huh.

There you go.

I’m far more educated on the possible sources of the word ‘cunt’, but still mystified as to why it’s such a bad word. So I’m going to fall back onto the other form of research. I’m going to ask YOU (if you’re still reading). Is it worse than dick and prick? And if so, why? What do YOU think is the main reason that it’s considered the worst of all four-letter words?

Tell me all about it. And, if you so desire, ask your own blog readers to wander over and offer their own opinions.

22 Responses

  1. This is a good one.

    Hmm, for me, I think it’s not so much the word, but the delivery of the word. Dick and prick do not have the same tone, I suppose. And for me, personally, I think I avoid using the word (that’s not to say I haven’t used, ‘cos I have) because in my native tongue it is one of the most repugnant words you can use.

    A very, very good topic. I will bring this up on my blog.

  2. I use the word cunt. Not often, I save it for special occasions (like dropping a lump of wood on my foot or breaking a toe) or for special people who go out of their way to deserve it.
    A word only has the power we choose to give it and I choose to use it to empower me and express my considered opinion ;)

  3. I don’t like the word.

    I don’t like cock either.

    Dick, prick and fanny are fine as words, but here we use penis and vagina if we are actually talking about genetalia.

  4. Never said it, never will. I just think it’s much more derogatory than dick, prick or whatever.

  5. I use it only very rarely – for effect, to let people know I’m really pissed off about whatever they/someone has done. But it is weird how its considered worse than dick, prick, fuck, shit etc. Its sort of like there’s 3 tiers of swear words …. (1) dick, prick, shit, etc (bloody, bum etcx hardly count as swearing these days) (2) fuck, (3) cunt, for the really special occasion.

  6. I’ve said it once in my entire lifetime. After I said it, there was silence for a beat and then Phill said “Wow. You MUST be pissed off.”

    I don’t like it, I think it’s mostly about the delivery. And the fact that it’s still just not very accepted. I’ve actually got Phill and his friends to stop saying that particular word when I’m around them, which is pretty cool. And I’m not a non-swearer – in fact, I swear waaay too much, but it’s the “tame” ones like shit, fuck, crap. But I can’t use them on my blog because my Dad reads it. :P

  7. Anja – want to tell us about the connotations of the word in your native tongue (German, isnt it?)

    Jayne – LOL

    WS – Mature people tend to use ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ over here to discuss the actual genitalia. Although ‘down there’ and ‘pee-pee’ do seem to be in disturbingly common usage among Aussie adults.

    Suze – any insights on why it’s more derogatory?

    Ian – tis weird indeed. And I haven’t received any illumination from comments yet ;-)

    Katie – delivery, eh? Anja mentioned that too. But surely any word can be delivered in a derogatory, nasty way…

    *ponder* THanks heaps for the insights, folks. I’m not trying to be argumentative, honest! I’d really like to work this one out. See, I’m very bad at accepting standards ‘because society says so’, y’know? I like to think these things through and work out for myself whether they make sense… and rope others in to discuss it til their heads hurt :-)

  8. In my circles, I think it’s because nearly any other word can get used in both a put down or a joking manner. But cunt just isn’t. It only ever has bad connotations.

    Oh and Anja is Croatian

  9. Unless one puts a really nasty modifier on it, I find it no worse of a curse word than cock or dick or any other. Like any curse word putting just the right modifier to it makes it far more offensive. A word like dripping, stinking, or slimey would put it over the top and make it truly disgusting.

  10. I use it in the bedroom a fair bit, but I’d NEVER use it to flame someone like I would the words d!ckhead or bastard or whatever.

    To me, it’s a rather nice word, about a pretty decent part of my anatomy that I like and enjoy – so it seems a bit of a waste to use it on someone who annoys me… :D

    Good topic Nomes – although I almost passed out when I saw the word in all its glory right here… :D

  11. Bettina – good point!

    Evyl – oh, the imagery… *snort* :-)

    Sasch – nice thought there :) Sorry for the near-fainting… *snicker*

  12. as one who studied the english language in depth before pursuing a career in Corrective Phrenology (behavior modification through kinetic modification of the skull), I would say that it isn’t so much that Cunt is extra foul as that Dick has been denatured as profanity – there is Dick the diminutive for Richard, “dick around” as a synonym for “play around,” dickey the false shirt-front, Dickies the clothing brand-name, and dicker as a synonym for haggle.

  13. Good point, Dok!

    What do you think, people, do we treat the noble Dick too lightly these days?

  14. I use the word ‘piss flaps’ instead because some girls are offended by the word ‘cunt’

  15. Okay. It’s a fucking sound. It’s in the sounds “continue,” “country,” “contagious,” etc. Who the fuck decided it was wrong. I’m guessing it has something to do with religion and superstition or some other bullshit corruption of our petty excuse for a language.

  16. I find that just as many men are as mortified at the use of the word cunt (seemingly more so when a woman says it), and I find it offensive that I am almost always judged more harshly than a male who uses the word, purely based on the fact I’m female (and am not supposed to swear, shit, smell bad, etc).

    Cunt seems to be on the same tier as nigger in terms of the ability to offend people (and similar to the way the word nigger often offends those who aren’t even black more, cunt seems to offend those who don’t even have one more, heh).

    As to why it’s such a bad word – (mostly) seems to be only because it’s considered a bad word, with no other reason of substance (thus there’s no definitive rule to be found as to why it’s bad). There’s articles etc that suggest the negative reaction to cunt stems from the belief that the word is used as a disparaging term for a woman. Though the Macquarie Dictionary defines the word as “a despicable man”.

    Wanker, arsehole etc, seem to lose their abrasive punch in the second syllable (or something). The only reason cunt seems to remain a “bad” word is due to all the people who claim it is. I read of a culture ages ago who consider it a beautiful word (can’t recall specifics at the moment).

    I love the word cunt (my favourite), bonus that it challenges people to hear it – some of us are continually ‘challenged’ by societal norms and behaviours/actions/thoughts/achievements expected of or imposed on us. And for no reason of substance other than something like “that’s just the way it is”.

    Here is a useful strategy for helping those who dislike the word:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/c_word

  17. P.S. Forgot to link to this interesting fathom:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gropecunt_Lane

    “Gropecunt Lane ( /ˈɡroʊpkʌnt ˈleɪn/) was a street name found in English towns and cities during the Middle Ages, believed to be a reference to the prostitution centred on those areas; it was normal practice for a medieval street name to reflect the street’s function or the economic activity taking place within it. Gropecunt, the earliest known use of which is in about 1230, appears to have been derived as a compound of the words grope and cunt. Streets with that name were often in the busiest parts of medieval towns and cities, and at least one appears to have been an important thoroughfare.”

  18. The word ‘cunt; is quite possibly the best and only word I would personally use in certain situations due to how direct and how blunt it sounds. I love it!

    The fact that people still dislike it make it more effective… with words such as ‘fuck’, ‘shit’ etc for most we are desensitized thus making the word so much more efficient in provoking a reaction or merely describing something.

    Like you’ve said though, it makes no sense as to why the word is disliked more than most as it is a crude way of naming a females genitals, much like ‘dick’ is a crude way of naming a males genitials.

    Cunt.

  19. Your all stupid bloody loose cunts!! Cunt is not a bad word it is just a fucking word!! Cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt, cunt!!! There go cry to your cunt faced mommy’s you whiny little cunt creatures!!

  20. Yeah, personally the word cunt is much worse than dick or prick. One of the reasons for this is because of combinations of words for example “you lazy prick” is better than, “you mother fucking tosser cunt”. It also goes back to childhood calling someone a dick would get you in a lot less trouble than calling someone a cunt. Also in society cunt is considered “the worst word”. But people need to reflect on what words mean so calling someone a cunt is like calling someone a vagina.(Kind of…)

  21. I think it may have to do with feminists.

  22. Depends how word is used. My love, he uses the word with me to reflect it in a positive sexual way. It can be positive or negative depending on how its used no different then us using the word dick against men in a negative or positive manner.

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