spacer
      spacer
 

Etymology of Cunt

 

[from Me: I wanted to add in headings to make it more readable for myself, and easily referable and I include this essay by Mathew Hunt because feminists are reclaiming the word Cunt from the patriarchy. We want to be in charge of the meaning of the word cunt and we want to use it in a matter-of-fact, positive way (patriarchs to not use it, since they can't be trusted to use it responsibly.) Here you can clearly see that the patriarchy has always been in charge of meaning, and especially the meaning of words that relate to women. This article clearly shows that words that relate to women become pejorative. I believe this pejoritive process reveals the underlying attitude of patriarchs. Hunt manages to really cover this topic though, and so I appreciate the good stuff he can lend to the reclamation. Thanks Hunt.]

The etymology of 'cunt' is actually considerably more complex and contentious than is generally supposed. In fact, 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'" (2006). A consensus has not yet been reached, as Ruth Wajnryb admits in A Cunt Of A Word: "Etymologists are unlikely to come to an agreement about the origins of CUNT any time soon" (2004), and Mark Morton is even more despairing: no-one really knows the ulterior origin of cunt" (2003). 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. 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.

Indo-European: Cu and Femininity

The prefix 'cu' is an expression of "quintessential femineity" (Eric Partridge, 1961), confirming 'cunt' as a truly feminine term. The synonymy between 'cu' and femininity was in place even before the development of written language: "in the unwritten prehistoric Indo-European [...] languages 'cu' or 'koo' was a word base expressing 'feminine', 'fecund' and associated notions" (Tony Thorne, 1990). The proto-Indo-European 'cu' is also cognate with other feminine/vaginal terms, such as the Hebrew 'cus'; the Arabic 'cush', 'kush', and 'khunt'; the Nostratic 'kuni' ('woman'); and the Irish 'cuint' ('cunt'). 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. 'Coo' and 'cou' are modern slang terms for vagina, based on these ancient sounds. Other vaginal slang words, such as 'cooch', 'coot', 'cooter', 'cooz', 'cooze', 'coozie', 'coozy', 'cookie', 'choochy', 'chocha', 'cootch', and 'coochie snorcher' are extensions of them. 'Coochie snorcher', as in The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could from The Vagina Monologues, is a childish euphemism for 'cunt' that has generated the following elaborate variants:

  • 'hootchy-kootchy'
  • 'hootchie-kootchie'
  • 'hootchie-cootchie'
  • 'hootchy-cootchy'
  • 'hoochie-coochie'
  • 'ootchimagootchi'
  • 'ouchimagooga'.

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'.

Shape of the womb and vagina

The prefix is also been linked to elliptical (thus, perhaps, symbolically vaginal) terms such as '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'. Even 'cudgel' ('weapon') has been suggested as another link, though a cudgel seems more like a cock than a cunt, and indeed none of these terms have the demonstrably feminine associations of 'cunt' or 'cow'.

 

'Cu' also has associations with knowledge: 'can' ('to know') evolved from the Middle English 'cunne', 'cunae', and 'cun', which are in turn derived from the Old Frisian 'kunna', the Old Saxon 'cunnan', the Dutch 'kunnen', and the Old Higher German 'kunnan', all of which contain the 'cu'/'ku' prefix. RF Rattray highlights the connection between femininity and knowledge: "The root cu appears in countless words from cowrie, Cypris, down to cow; and the root cun has two lines of descent, the one emphasising the mother and the other knowledge: Cynthia and [...] cunt, on the one hand, and cunning, on the other" (1961).

 

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'. 'Ken' shares a genealogical meaning with 'kin' and 'kind', from the Old English 'cyn' and the Gothic 'kuni'. 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, 1983).

 

The Latin 'cognoscere', related to 'cognosco', 'cognitum', and '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'.

Cw: The Celtic Cu

In Celtic and modern Welsh, 'cu' is rendered as 'cw', a similarly feminine prefix influencing the Old English 'cwithe' ('womb', from the Welsh 'cwtch'). The 'cw' prefix can be traced back to the Indo-European 'gwen', which also influenced the Greek 'gune' and 'gunaikos', the Sumerian 'gagu', and the feminine/vaginal prefix 'gyn' (as in 'gynaecology').

 

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'.

 

'Cwm' also shares the 'cw' prefix, however its feminine origins seem initially perplexing, as it means 'valley'. 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'). 'Cwm' is found in the title of the traditional song Cwm Rhonnda ('Rhonnda Valley'), the soap-opera Pobol Y Cwm ('People Of The Valley'), and the slang term 'pobolycwm' ('people who like quim'). Taking the vagina metaphor into account, we are all 'people of the valley' through birth.

 

'Cwm' is pronounced 'come', though 'quim', an English slang term for 'vagina', is a mispronounced Anglicisation of it. Variants of 'quim' include 'qwim', 'quiff', 'quin', and 'quem', and it has been combined with 'mince' to form 'quince' ('effeminate'). 'Quimbledon', a combination of 'quim' and 'Wimbledon', is a slang word describing male spectatorship of all-female sports. 'Quimbecile' ('idiot'), is a combination of 'quim' and 'imbecile'. Other extended forms of 'quim' include: 'quim-trim' ('pubic haircut'), 'quimle' ('cunnilingus'), 'quimble' ('male sexual excitement'), 'quimby' ('middle person in a threesome'), 'stretched quimosine' ('elongated vagina', a pun on 'stretch limousine'), 'quimpotent' ('unable to reach orgasm'), 'quim bling' ('genital jewellery'), 'quim strings' ('fallopian tubes'), 'quim pro quo' ('bartering for sex', a pun on the Latin 'quid pro quo'), 'Siamese quims' ('lesbian couples', a pun on 'Siamese twins'), and 'quim chin' ('beard').

 

'Quim' has been extended to form 'quimwedge' (literally 'vaginal wedge', thus 'penis'), which is especially interesting as it utilises 'wedge' to mean 'penis' when, in fact, 'cunt' itself derives from the Latin for 'wedge' ('cuneus'). Dorion Burt's Decunta (197-) provides a further oxymoronic 'cunt'/'penis' connection: a large sculpture filled with whiskey, it blatantly phallic in shape yet vaginal in name. 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'. 'Coombe' and its variants 'combe', 'comb', and 'coomb' remain common components of surnames and placenames. Indeed, so common is the word in English placenames that Morecambe Bay is often mis-spelt Morecombe: as Ian Mayes is at pains to point out, "It is not Morcombe Bay [...] it is Morcambe Bay" (2001). In England, there are four villages called Coombe (one each in Gloustershire and Hampshire, and two in Devon) and three called Combe (in Berkshire, Herefordshire, and Oxfordshire). There is also a song titled Biddy Mulligan: The Pride Of The Coombe (The Clancy Brothers, 196-):

 

"I'm a buxom fine widow, I live in a spot
In Dublin, they call it the Coombe.
Me shops and me stalls are laid out on the street,
And me palace consists of one room".

 

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 1821, insisted that he was "bound to make a speech for Buncombe" (Jonathon Green, 1998). Thus, 'buncombe' became synonymous with nonsensical speech, and was later simplified to 'bunkum'.

Latin: From Cu to Cun

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', 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" (2003). There is also a Castilian Spanish variant ('conacho'), and a milder euphemistic form: 'cona' and 'conazo'. 'Cono' and its derivatives are practically ubiquitous in the Spanish language, as Stephen Burgen explains: "People are often shocked at the shear quantity of conos in Spanish discourse" (1996). In Mexico, Spaniards are known colloquially as 'los conos', indicating Mexican surprise at the word's prevalence in Spain.

 

'Cono' is significantly milder than its English equivalent, 'cunt', and therefore closely mirrors the similarly mild and omnipresent French term 'con' (of which more later). 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'.

 

'Wedge' and 'cunt', however, seem unlikely associates, as Jane Mills explains: "I know what a cunt looks like, and the word 'wedge' doesn't sort of spring to mind!" (Kerry Richardson, 1994). The 'wedge'/'cunt' link actually rests on their shared cuneiform shape: 'cuneus' led to both 'cuneiform' and 'cunt', with both words describing wedge-shaped triangular formations. 'Cuneiform' (from the Latin 'cuneformis' and the French 'cuneiforme') has the variants 'cuniform', 'cuneoform', and 'cuneal' (from the Latin 'cunealis').

 

The Latin 'cuneat'/'cuneate' and 'cuneare' both also derive from 'cuneus', and are the sources of the modern 'coin', whose variants include 'coing', 'coign', 'coigne', 'quoin', 'quoyne', 'coyne', 'coynye', 'coigny', 'coignye', 'coyn', 'quoyne', and 'kynge'. Tim Healey proposes that there may be an ancient pun at work between 'coin' and 'cunt' - the French 'bijou' means both 'jewel' and 'vagina', recalling Inga Muscio's vaginal term "anatomical jewel" (1998), and, as 'cunt' and 'coin' are etymologically linked by 'cuneus', a similar double-entendre is possible in English. Indeed, the French phrase 'petit coin' is a euphemism for 'cunt', and, furthermore, 'coin' is a euphemism for 'conceive' and 'coiner' can refer to a man who impregnates a woman.

Thus, 'cuneiform', 'coin', and 'cunt' share the same etymological origin: 'cuneus'. The connection between 'cuneus' and 'cunt' is 'cunnus' (Latin for 'vagina'), 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.

Cunnilingus connection

Euphemistic variants of 'cunnilingus' include 'cunnilinctus', 'cumulonimbus', 'cunning lingus', 'Colonel Lingus' (t-shirt slogan), and "Canni langi" (Michelle Hanson, 2003). It is often comically confused with 'cunning linguist' and was evoked by the song and album (The Memory) Kinda Lingers (1982). Viz has created the copnvoluted euphemisms "cumulously nimbate" and "cumulonimbulate" (Roger Mellie, 2005). 'Cunnus' also occurs in the phrase 'cunnus diaboli', mediaeval "cunt-shrine[s]" known as 'devilish cunts' and defined by Barbara G Walker as "Sacred places associated with the world-cunt [that] sometimes embarrassed Victorian scholars who failed to understand their earlier meaning" (1983).

 

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'). 'Cunctipotent', meaning 'all-knowing' or "having cunt-magic" (Barbara G Walker, 1983), is also derived from 'cunnus', and links sex to knowledge in the manner discussed earlier. 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 slang term 'cunnifungus' ('diseased vagina') also derives its prefix from 'cunnus'.

Dutch: From Cun to Cunt

The Greek 'kusos', 'kusthos', 'konnos', 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', and influenced . 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 Higher German 'kotze', and the Icelandic 'kunta' (or 'kunt').

 

The Old Dutch 'kunte' later developed into the more Latinate Middle Dutch 'cunte' 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 (2002), leading to Lee Carter's 'uncut' pun "live and unKutt" (2002). 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" (1961), 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" (1947) 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.

Case Study: Topographical and Hydrographical Metaphors

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'. Similarly, 'cuniculus', also from 'cunnus', means 'passageway', and was applied to Roman drainage systems. 'Konnos', the Greek for 'vagina', is derived from 'cunnus' and the Sanskrit 'cushi'/'kunthi', meaning 'ditch', as both vaginas and ditches are channels for water. The Spanish 'chocha' ('lagoon') is another vaginal metaphor. The Russian 'kunka' describes two hands cupped together carrying water. 'Cut', a further term meaning 'water channel', is a recognised euphemism for 'cunt', though is not etymologically related to it.

 

The vaginal water channel allusion is replicated by the River Kennet in Wiltshire, as Kennet was originally Cunnit: "At Silbury Hill [the river] joins the Swallowhead or true fountain of the Kennet, which the country people call by the old name of Cunnit and it is not a little famous amongst them" (William Stukeley, 1743). Adjacent to the river is the Roman settlement Cunetio, also spelt Cunetione, Cunetzone, Cunetzione, and Cunetiu (though now known as Mildenhall). "The name ['Cunetio'] must be left unresolved", insist ALF Rivet and Colin Smith (1979), though its origin, like Kennet's, is the Celtic 'kuno'.

 

The rivers Kent (formerly Kenet) and Cynwyd share Kennet's etymology, and, as Michael Dames explains, Kennet's link to 'cunt' is readily apparent: "we may yet rediscover the Kennet as Cunnit, and the Swallowhead as Cunt. The name of that orifice is carried downstream in the name of the river. Cunnit is Cunnt with an extra i. As late as 1740, the peasants of the district had not abandoned the name [...] The antiquity of the form is clearly shown by the Roman riverside settlement called Cunetio - their principal town in the entire Kennet valley" (1976).

Cunt as a Proper Noun

The earliest 'cunt' citation in the Oxford English Dictionary features the word as a component of a London streetname: circa 1230 in Southwark, there was a street called Gropecuntelane (though variants of the name include Groppecountelane, Gropecontelane, and Gropecunt Lane). The street was part of the 'stews', the Southwark red-light district, though its name was not confined only to London. There was also a Gropecuntelane in Oxford (later renamed Magpie Lane), a Grapcunt Lane in York, a Cunte Street in Bristol (later renamed Host Street), and a Rue Grattecon in Paris.

 

London's Gropecuntelane was later shortened to Grope Lane, subsequently became Grub Street, and is now Milton Street. Martin Wainwright cites a Grope Lane in York, perhaps a sanitised form of Grapcunt Lane, which was further sanitised to Grape Lane "by staid Victorians who found the original Grope - historically related to prostitution - too blatant" (2000). Other 'cunt'-related placenames include Coombe and Kennet, discussed earlier, the evocative Ticklecunt Creek, and the fictitious "Cunt Hill" (Robert Coover, 1983). In Barcelona there is a restaurant called Bar Cuntis, and there is a town in northern England called Scunthorpe (Who Put The *@!+ In Scunthorpe?, asked Empire in 1993).

 

There is a cocktail called a Cunt Pump, and Graeme Donald cites another form of 'cunt' used as a proper noun, this time in mediaeval surnames, two of which predate the OED's earliest citation: "Early records mention such female names as Gunoka Cuntles (1219), Bele Wydecunthe (1328) and presumably promiscuous male sporting names such as Godwin Clawecunte (1066), John Fillecunt (1246) and Robert Clevecunt (1302)" (1994). Explaining that "Any part of the body which was unusual [or] remarkable was likely to provide a convenient nickname or surname for its owner" (1988), James McDonald cites the further example of Simon Sitbithecunte (1167, again predating the OED). Other 'cunt' names include those of the male witch Johannes Cuntius, the make-up artist Gabreil DeCunto, the actress Lilia Cuntapay, the producer Loredana Cunti, the director Sol Cuntin, the actor John Dacunto, the actor Richard Acunto, the director Luciana Rodrigues Dacunto, the drag-queen 'Maxine DeLaCunt', and the pseudonymous director 'Ima Cunt' ('I'm a cunt', similar to Craig Brown's "amacunt" from 1999).

 

The surname Kuntz has a tantalising phonetic similarity to 'Cunts', and is especially notable in the case of WD Kuntz, whose 'cunt' connection is compounded by his position as a gynaecologist. In a similar vein, Matthew Norman quotes a letter from Archibald Clerk Kerr: "[I have] a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that his name is Mustapha Kunt ['Must have a Cunt']. We all feel like that [...] but few of us would care to put it on our cards" (2003). Tom Conti has received the same treatment: Gareth McLean wrote that "Conti should probably enter the vernacular as a term of abuse" (2003), owing to its similarity to 'cunt'. The surname Kant is commonly confused with 'cunt', as Mark Lawson discovered to his cost on a live television programme: "My error was not to have known that the Philosopher Immanuel Kant's surname is habitually pronounced by academics to rhyme with "punt"" (2003).

Legal issues

Terence Meaden suggests that legal suppression of 'cunt' constituted "a series of vicious witch hunts encouraged by an evil establishment wishing to suppress what amounted to apparent signs of Goddess beliefs" (1992), and, indeed, there was a Japanese goddess Cunda, a Korean Goddess Quani (the Tasmanian 'quani' means 'woman'), a Phoenician priestess Qudshu, a Sumerian priestess Quadasha, and, in India, a goddess known variously as Cunti-Devi, Cunti, Kun, Cunda, Kunda, Kundah, and Kunti, worshipped by the Kundas or Kuntahs. These names all indicate that 'cunt' and its ancient equivalents were used as titles of respect rather than as insults (as does the Egyptian term, 'quefen-t', used by Ptah-Hotep when addressing a goddess). 'Kunti', the name of an Indian goddess, is also an Indonesian term used to describe a mythical female vampire, abbreviated from 'kuntilanak'.

Proper names

My own surname, Hunt, also has associations with 'cunt'. I have lost count of the number of times I have been called Mike Hunt ('My Cunt') or Isaac Hunt ('I's a Cunt'). The Mike Hunt pun can be traced back as early as the nineteenth century: "The dance was followed up by an out-and-out song by Mike Hunt, whose name was called out in a way that must not be mentioned to ears polite" (FLG, 1841). Designers Morag Myerscough and Charlotte Rawlins turned 'Mike Hunt' into a neon sculpture titled Has Anyone Seen Mike Hunt? (2004), when they were asked to illustrate the letter 'c' for a British Library exhibition. Maev Kennedy reviewed the sculpture in an article headlined Library Show For Word Rhyming With Hunt: "C, after all, is almost unique in having its own word. The C-word. The hardest word of them all" (2004). Mike Hunt is also the name of an American publishing house. An Australian magazine feature on the c-words was subtitled An Article About Mike Hunt (Rhonda Pietin, 2001).

 

In Australian slang, Mike Hunt is extended to Michael Hunt, which explains why Michael is Aussie slang for 'cunt'. The phrase is found in the Australian drinking toast Mich Hunt's Health (1731):

 

"Here's a Health to Mich. Hunt,
And to Mich. Hunt's Breeches;

And why may not I scratch Mich. Hunt,
When Mich. Hunt itches".

 

'Hunt'/'cunt' comparisons are many and varied: I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue has been introduced as "the show that is to panel games what James Hunt is to rhyming slang!" (John Naismith, 1998); in Head On Comedy a joke was made about "William Hunt" (Pati Marr, 2000); and the "rhyming slang potential" (Gareth McLean, 2001[a]) of 'Mr Hunt' has been commented upon. 'Colin Hunt' is another rhyming 'cunt' euphemism: "Colin Hunt, the perpetual office joker in The Fast Show, is evoked. That's all they are, really. A bunch of Colin Hunts" (Charlie Catchpole, 2001). Smut has a comic strip called Kevin Hunt, with the slogan "YOU GET THE GIST" (2001) implying the pun in the name. Kirsty Allsopp demonstrates how easy a 'Hunt'/'cunt' slip-up can be: "I had to stand outside a house and say, "Welcome to The Great House Hunt!" [though instead] I said, "Welcome to The Great House C[unt]!" I was so embarrassed!" (Polly Hudson, 2003).

 

The Viking invader King Canute's name was originally spelt Cnut, an anagram of 'cunt' in the manner of French Connection's FCUK. FCUK and Cnut are both tabooed words with their respective middle letters reversed, the difference being that FCUK was a deliberate reference to 'fuck' whereas Cnut was an accidental reference to 'cunt'. This accidental reference may explain why Canute has now replaced Cnut, in an attempt to elongate the word and thus disguise its similarity to 'cunt'. French Connection initially insisted that the similarity between FCUK and 'fuck' was merely coincidental, though they soon dropped their false modesty by pressing charges against the rival Cnut Attitude clothing brand.

 

King Cnut, known as Cnut the Great, was one of several Danish Cnuts, including St Cnut. His name now prompts predictable double-entendres, such as this from Simon Carr: "John Prescott made King Canute gestures with his hands. Or, more accurately, King Cnut gestures (I'm glad I'm not dyslexic)" (2003). Two Private Eye cartoons have drawn upon the humorous potential of Cnut: one by McLachlan (2002) depicts a man in a French Connection t-shirt looking at a historical waxwork labelled "cnut", and another by Mike Barfield (2003) includes "CNUT" in a collection of offensive anagrams. A split-second reference occurred in an advertisement for Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, when the final frame read "C NUT" (2002). In Believe Nothing, Rik Mayall played a character called Adonis Cnut, leading another character to ask him: "may I call you A Cnut?" ('may I call you a cunt?'; Claire Hinson, 2002). A Daily Star feature on the programme somewhat missed the point with the headline You Cnut Be Serious, using Cnut as a pun on 'cannot'.

Euphemism

The euphemistic Spoonerism 'cunning stunts' ('stunning cunts') relies not on rhyme but on a reversal of the initial letters, a trick later imitated by Kenny Everett's "dangerously named" (Mark Lewisohn, 1998) comedy character Cupid Stunt, a Spoonerism of 'Stupid Cunt'. 'Cunning Stunts' is also the name of a female theatre-group and an advertising agency, and Metallica released a DVD titled Cunning Stunts in 1997. A 'Cunning Stunts' t-shirt is also available.

 

Another 'cunt' Spoonerism is Cunny Funt ('Funny Cunt'), the title of a Smut comic strip. Richard Christopher cites two further 'cunt' Spoonerisms (both of which are rather sexist): "What's the difference between a magician and a chorus line? - The magician has a cunning array of stunts [thus the chorus line has a stunning array of cunts]" and "What's the difference between pigmies and female track stars? - Pigmies are cunning runts [thus female track stars are running cunts]" (199-).

 

'Cunt' is known euphemistically as 'the monosyllable', 'the bawdy monosyllable', 'the divine monosyllable', and 'the venerable monosyllable', though, paradoxically, its earliest forms (such as 'cunte', 'cunnus', and 'kunta') were all disyllabic. Germaine Greer's CuntPower Oz lists a page of 'cunt' synonyms under the heading The Divine Monosyllable and Jonathon Green's Slang Down The Ages features a similar selection of vaginal slang terms headed The Monosyllable. Artist Jason Rhoades created a deluxe lambskin-bound book/sculpture titled Birth Of The Cunt (2004), in which he listed various 'cunt' synonyms.

 

'Constable' (pronounced 'cuntstable') is a further 'cunt' euphemism, due to the phonetic similarity of its first syllable. William Shakespeare uses it in Alls Well That Ends Well (1601[a]): "From below your duke to beneath your constable, it will fit any question", and, more recently, 'thingstable' has become a recognised euphemism for 'constable', acknowledging the 'cunt' link. The bawdy comedy film Carry On Constable is a pun on the c-word, with its phrase "silly constable" further emphasising the joke (Gerald Thomas, 1960). Ned Ward has reversed the syllables of 'constable' to create "stablecunt" (1924), and 'constable' has also been rendered as 'cunt stubble' and 'cony-fumble'.

 

Another euphemism for 'cunt' is 'the big C': "the big "C". No, I'm not talking Cancer. I'm talking Cunt" (Anthony Petkovich, 199-). The phrase was used as the headline for an article about 'cunt' by Joan Smith (The Big C, 1998), however it is also the name of a shopping centre and garage in Thailand. Similar terms are 'red c' ('red cunt', a pun on 'Red Sea') and 'open C' ('open cunt'). Even 'C' in isolation has also been used as a substitute for 'cunt', as in "the Cs of Manchester United" (Paul Wheeler, 2004) - a phrase which is seemingly innocuous yet also readily understood as an insult.

 

A handy two-birds-with-one-stone euphemism for both 'fuck' and 'cunt' is the phrase 'effing and ceeing' (thus, 'Woking FC' officially stands for 'Woking Football Club' though has also been extended to 'Woking Fucking Cunts'). 'Cunt' has also been combined with 'cock' to produce the portmanteau word 'cuntock' ('labia'), with 'men' to produce 'munts', with 'gut' to produce 'gunt', with 'twat' to produce 'twunt', with 'twat' and 'wanker' to produce 'twankunt', with 'arse' to produce 'carse', with 'bastard' to produce "custard" (Roger Thomas, 1994), with 'penis' to produce "Cunis" (Walter Cairns, 2003), with 'prick' to produce "prant" (ACJ Scott, 2003), and with 'fuck' to produce Peter Sotos's Cuntfuck (in Total Abuse, 1999).

 

'Cunt', in print, is often censored as 'c***', though 'c...', 'cxxt', 'c---', '___t', 'c__t', 'c nt', 'c_nt', 'c-nt', 'c*!@!', 'c**t', 'c*nt', '*unt', '*@!+', 'c#@t', and '****' have also been used. Ruth Wajnryb notes the print media's coy treatment of the word: "CUNT has retained its shock-and-horror capacity. A good test of this is how a word is treated in the media. Most print media still baulk at printing CUNT, resorting to the rather quaint convention of asterisk substitution" (2004). Using other characters, especially asterisks, to replace letters (often vowels), serves to accentuate a word's obscenity, drawing attention to its unprintability.

 

Matthew Parris once called 'cunt' "a word beginning with 'c', which I couldn't possibly repeat" (Rod Liddle, 2001), and in keeping with this is the commonest 'cunt' euphemism: 'the c-word'. Simon Carr reports, however, how his children confuse 'the c-word' with "the K-word" (2001). He also quotes their confusion over 'cunt' itself: "Mummy, clint! That's a rude word, isn't it? Clint!". Ruth Wajnryb writes "the 'SEE'-word" (2004), to distinguish it from the hard 'c' sound of 'cunt'.

 

If 'cunt' can be a 'c-word', can 'cock' be one, too? Sex And The City seems to think it can (Nicole Holofcener, 2000):

 

"his big, beautiful cock."
"We're using the c-word now?".

 

There are many other words beginning with 'c' which have also occasionally been called 'the c-word', usually for comic effect. THe following is a representative selection. "Ah, the c-word: context" (Tom Shone, 1994); "the c-word - class" (Dea Birkett, 2001); "the 'C' is for 'Campbell', but we're a bit wary of using the c-word on air" (Abiola Awojobi, 2001); "they said the C word. Cut" (The Sun, 2003); "try to avoid mentioning the crowd [because] they hate the C-word here" (Charlie Wyett, 2002); "he was anxious to avoid the c-word: 'corporate'" (Annie Dunkinson, 2003); 'creativity': "you may recognise the real creators by the fact they seldom use the c-word" (Susannah Herbert, 2003); "the real unknown is the 'C' word, corruption" (Tim Butcher, 2003); "whether the c-word crossed his vivid lips. [...] What [Alex] Ferguson cannot be allowed to do is call a referee's assistant a "cheat" as he apparently did" (Henry Winter, 2003); 'comprehensive': "their party is still in thrall to the c-word" (Daily Telegraph, 2003); 'Christian': "President [George] Bush may slip the C-word into his press conferences" (John Adamson, 2003); 'clay': "A devotee of the C-word" (Grace Glueck, 1996); 'capitalism': "Capita [...] reckons the C-word could double the size of its business" (Andrew Cave, 2003); "the C word is never far away [...] the collonial past lives on" (Michael Henderson, 2000); "Smiths is looking distinctly like a conglomerate. [...] The dreaded C word is enough to smash any company's rating" (Neil Bennett, 2000); 'caravan': "What annoys park-home owners about the "C" word is [the implicit] rootlessness that it carries" (Christopher Middleton, 1999); "the dreaded "c" word: avoid [...] consolidation" (Edmond Jackson, 2001); "Don't mention the C word. These are not conservatories" (Jon Stock, 2001); "the dreaded c-word, complacency" (Rob Steen, 2001); "never ever using the c-word: child" (Allison Pearson, 2001); "The labour party conference was abuzz with the C word. [...] Compulsion is back on the agenda" (Liz Dolan, 2003); "they wouldn't even allow the c-word - chainsaw" (Jamie Graham, 2001); 'chips': "People come in and ask for [fries] and we have to tell them that we use the 'C' word not the 'F' word here" (Simon Brooke, 2004); 'challenging': "Blue Circle slipped the "c" word into yesterday's trading statement" (Ben Potter, 1999[a]); "conglomerate. [...] the much-unloved "c" word" (Ben Potter, 1999[b]); "thrown the c-word back into the mix - convergence" (Greg Howson, 2004); "the C-word so often fallaciously slung at him: caricature" (Peter Bradshaw, 2002); "I'm gonna say the c-word [...] Clarkson!" (Katie Tyrll, 2003); "Predicting the effects of London's upcoming C-word (Congestion Zone)" (John Hind, 2003); "avoid the c-word [...] and rule out compensation" (Neil Collins, 2004); "I'm reclaiming the c-word [...] I deliberately use the word conspiracy" (Rose George, 2003); 'constitution': "we won't be hearing too much about the c-word" (Kevin Marsh, 2004); 'compulsion: "it seems he is not going to shun the "C" word" (Patience Wheatcroft, 2004); "Like "culture," another high-profile C-word these days, "community" is admittedly a catchall" (Doreen B Townsend Center for the Humanities, 1999); 'cocaine': "[Ed Giddins] is always going to be [the] player who was done for the big 'C' word" (Marcus Armytage, 1999); 'championship': "Stevie Craigan is running scared of an ear-bashing from John Lambie for mentioning the 'C' word" (Andy Devlin, 2001); 'crash': "We don't mention the C-word" (Tim Ross and David Gordois, 2001); "uttering the C word - as in "choke"" (George Kimball, 2004); "isn't that Italian "champagne"? No, no, please don't mention the C-word" (Johnny Morris, 2003); 'Curle': "Carlton Palmer banned the C-word" (The Sun, 2004); "censorship [...] talk of the C-word" (Rachel Donadio, 2004); 'condom': "The 'C' word has come out of the closet" (Dick Thompson, 1988); "Cellulite. The "C" word" (Fiona Phillips, 2004); 'comradely': "an exceedingly rare [Tony] Blair use of the c-word" (Andrew Rawnsley and Gaby Hinsliff, 2004); "conservation [...] I saw the "c" word" (Alistair McGowan, 2003); "choice [...] both parties were obsessed with the same c-word" (Peter Barron, 2004); "it was the "C" word that was on everyone's lips. Mr Clinton had charisma" (Patrick Barkham, 2004); "the dreaded "C" word is doing the Washington rounds again. [...] people are saying it out loud. Carter" (Mark Hosenball, 1989); and "[He] looked like someone who didn't even know what the C-word might be. Confidential? Cocoa?" (Simon Hoggart, 2003). Lastly, Mark Mason's novel The C Words (2005) discusses 'commitment', 'coupledom', and 'children'.

 

The most frequent word, other than 'cunt', to be termed 'the c-word', is 'cancer': "The C-words Cancer and Comedy" (Allen Klein, 1998) and "students talk about the Big C word. They don't mean Cancer. They mean Commitment" (John Allen Lee, 1998). There have been several books about cancer whose titles include references to 'the c-word': The C-Word by Elena Dorfman (1993), The C-Word by Jean Taylor (2000), and A Lighter Look At The "C" Word by Steve Gould (1997).

Newspapers' efforts

Newspaper headlines often use the phrase 'the c-word' to pun on other contentious terms beginning with that letter: "the phrase 'the c-word' is sometimes deliberately used to mean something else, while exploiting the intertextuality of the original meaning" (Ruth Wajnryb, 2004). The most common example of this is 'Christmas', which, like 'cancer', can be seen as an alternative 'c-word'. The 2001 headline Don't Mention The C-Word, for example, is about the removal of the word 'Christmas' from secular greetings cards. In the article, Richard Littlejohn asks, rhetorically: "Who, exactly, is offended by the C-word?". He has fun inventing phrases such as "Father C-word", "C-word Eve", and "C-word Day", all attempts to highlight the absurdity of banning the word 'Christmas'. Less festively, he also bemoans the culture of liberalism, 'political correctness', and 'Guardianistas' (in other words, his usual targets), asking: "How on earth do you describe these New Scrooges? Difficult, I know. But try the other C-word". As if that wasn't enough, Littlejohn went on to essentially repeat himself two Christmases later, in another article also headlined Don't Mention The C Word ("the dreaded C Word [...] Christmas", 2003). Catherine Bennett, in an article also headlined Don't Mention The C-Word, also criticised the censorship of "Christmas" (2003). Tim Rider's article C-Word Ban (2004) was also about the contentiousness of 'Christmas': "They do not want any mention of what they call the C-Word because they are worried it will offend followers of other faiths" (2004), as was the article Merry C-Word (2004) which urged readers to say 'Christmas' despite its controversy: "darn the consequences and don't mince words". Yet another article, headlined Just Don't Mention The C-Word (2004) also concerned the festive season: "Ditch the dreams of a white Christmas".

 

Other headlines punning on 'the c-word' include The C Word ("celebrity") by Stephen Fry (199-[a]), The C Word ("Competition - the sisterhood's final hurdle", 2003) in The Sydney Morning Herald, Just Don't Mention The C Word ("crowd") by Charlie Wyett (2002), The C Word ("cellulite") by Diane Taylor (2002), Calling The C-Word The C-Word ('censorship': "You've got to admire a man who's willing to call the c-word the c-word") by James Poniewozik (2002), The Other C-Word ("cunnilingus") by Susanna Forrest (2005), Confidence Is Growing As Cookson Banishes 'C' Word ("eliminating the hated "c" word [...] conglomerate") by Andrew Clark (1999), Like It Or Not You Are Going To Hear The C-Word A Lot ("Choice") by Peter Riddell (2004), Salmond Dares To Use The C-Word ("coalition") by Kenny Farquharson (1999), My Shame At Falling Victim To The Dreaded C-Word ("choking") by Matthew Syed (2002), The C Word ("colleagues") by Martin Waller (1998), and Conservative Candidates Told To Avoid The C Word ("Conservative") by Andrew Grice (2001).

 

Though the word 'cunt' is printed by some newspapers, it never appears in a large font size, and is therefore never used in headlines. Thus, while articles about 'cunt' may include the word itself in the body-text, their headlines rely on asterisks or euphemisms instead, as in Last Taboo Broken By Sex And The C*** (1999). Other examples include I Heard Maureen Lipman Say The C Word! by Catherine Bennett ("to urge an audience to shout "Cunt" seems like a real treat", 2001), C-Word Flak Leads Hoffman To Tears (John C Ensslin, 2004), and CU President Says C-Word Is Used As Term Of Endearment by Kevin Vaughan (2004).

 

American newspapers are much more cautious about references to swearwords in general, and 'cunt' in particular (practically the only exception being The Village Voice, which used the headline Cunt Candy Factory for an article by Tristan Taormino about "disembodied replicas of porn stars' famous bits [moulded into] plaster cunts" in 2005). As we shall see later, not only is 'cunt' a taboo in America, but discussion of this taboo is also a taboo in itself. Thus, while a few British newspapers print 'cunt' in full, and all British newspapers gleefully use the phrase 'the c-word' to describe any word starting with that letter (as in the examples above), American newspapers often refuse even to print 'the c-word', let alone printing 'cunt' itself.

A significant example of this is Lisa Bertagnoli's article headlined You C_nt Say That (Or Can You?), written for the Chicago Tribune newspaper in 2004. Bertagnoli's article identified a phenomenon she termed "linguistic bleaching", suggesting that 'cunt' is changing its linguistic value through cultural repetition. She argues that, with the word's creeping presence on cable television and in general conversation, it is becoming an increasingly neutral term in casual speech. However, her article, and its (by British standards, quite mild) headline, were considered too strong by the Chicago Tribune editors, who decided at the last minute to remove it while the newspaper was actually being distributed. The article had already been printed, so the section in which it appeared was physically removed from the newspaper, though some early copies could not be recalled and the newspaper's censorship of itself was viewed with both scorn and humour by American media commentators. The scandal was inevitably dubbed "C_nt-gate" [sic.] (Walter Burns and Hildy Johnson, 2004).

 

However, none of the commentators who criticised the Tribune actually used the word 'cunt' themselves. In a radio report about the scandal, for example, Bob Garfield referred to "a word beginning with 'c' and rhyming with 'shunt' [...] the dirtiest [word] in the English language" (Brooke Gladstone, 2004). Lisa Bertagnoli herself, the author of the suppressed article, sees the word as "something vile and hurtful, to be reclaimed", and maintains that women of her generation are not offended by the word: "I say that to my friends; I refer to a part of my body by that word. No big deal". By contrast, she admits that the typical response from older women is somewhat less accepting: "oh, my God. Shocking. Never use that word. Vile, repulsive. I would faint if somebody said it to me".

Historical pejoration

An affectionately disguised variant of 'cunt' is 'cunny', whose variants include 'cunnie', 'cunicle', and 'cunnikin'. 'Cunny' is derived from 'cony' (also spelt 'coney'), which meant 'young rabbit' and was also a slang term for 'vagina'. William Shakespeare hinted at this second meaning in Loues Labour's Lost (1588), juxtaposing 'incony' with 'prick' ('penis'): "Let the mark have a prick in't [...] most incony vulgar wit!".

 

'Cony' can be traced back to the Middle English 'cunin' and 'cuning', the African 'coning', and the Old French 'conin'. Related are 'conyger' ('meaning 'warren' and also spelt 'conynger', from the Middle English 'conygere'), the Anglo-Latin 'coningera' and 'conigera', and the Latin 'cunicularium'. The word also appears in Old French, as 'conniniere', 'coniniere', 'coniliere', and 'connilliere'.

 

In an effort to minimise the scurrilous impact of 'cunny', 'cony' was phased out and the meaning of 'rabbit' was extended to animals both young and old. To retain the influence of 'cunny', the rhyming alternative 'bunny' was substituted. Spanish and French provide strikingly similar examples: the French 'connil' ('rabbit') was phased out due to its proximity to 'con' ('cunt'), and replaced with the alternative 'lapin'. The Spanish 'conejo' means both 'rabbit' and 'cunt', and the similar Spanish term 'conejita' ('bunny girl') provides another link between the two elements.

 

The similarity of 'cony' to 'cunny' is echoed by the relationship between 'count' and 'cunt': "It is a likely speculation that the Norman French title 'Count' was abandoned in England in favour of the Germanic 'Earl' [...] precisely because of the uncomfortable phonetic proximity to cunt" (Geoffrey Hughes, 1991). Indeed, as early as 1572 a direct and bawdy comparison between 'Earl' and 'Count' was made by Stephen Valenger:

 

"Well ay thie wyfe a Countes be yf thou wilt be an Earle;
[...] All Countesses in honour her surmount,
They haue, she had, an honourable Count".

Phonetic similarities

The phonetic similarity of 'Count' to 'cunt' is so striking that accidental obscenities abound: Gordon Williams notes that, "[during] a Restoration performance of Romeo and Juliet [an actress] enter'd in a Hurry, Crying, O my Dear Count! She Inadvertently left out, O, in the pronuntiation of the Word Count [...] which reduced the audience to hysterics" [sic., throughout] (1996).

 

An election edition of Have I Got News For You once ended with the words: "So, for our winners: the chance to go to Michael Portillo's constituency and see the count. For our losers: the chance to retype that sentence without the spelling mistake" (Paul Wheeler, 1997). An identical instance occurred when the first 'O' of a fake cinema sign was lower than the rest of the text: "THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO" (Marquee Meltdown!, 1998). Linacre Lane cites 'Count Of Monte Cristo' as a Scouse insult, adding dryly: "The first word is often intentionally mispronounced" (1966). In the 1990s, a sign in a Japanese railway station advertised 'Discunt Tickets', a misprint of 'Discount Tickets'. Like 'count', 'countdown' also has comic potential if its 'o' is removed, as we shall see later.

 

In Cockney rhyming slang, 'John Hunt', 'James Hunt', 'Billy Hunt', 'Joe Hunt' (abbreviated to 'Joey'), 'Flingel Blunt' (abbreviated to 'flingel'), 'back to front' (abbreviated to 'backter'), 'Bargain Hunt' (abbreviated to 'bargain'), and 'Charlie Hunt' (abbreviated to 'Charlie') are all euphemisms for 'cunt'. This last example, 'Charlie Hunt', is especially significant, as its abbreviated form 'Charlie' has entered the common vernacular as merely a term of mild reproach. The expression 'proper Charlie', for example, is used frequently without causing offence, as its connection to 'cunt' has been forgotten. A good example of this is a newspaper profile of Charlie Watts headlined Proper Charlie (2000), and 'proper Charlie' was the inspiration for An Improper Charlie (2005), a Sight And Sound article by Roger Clarke.

Other Cockney rhyming slang 'cunt' euphemisms are 'eyes front', 'Grannie Grunt', 'groan and grunt', 'gasp and grunt', 'growl and grunt', 'sharp and blunt', and 'National Front'. 'Sir Anthony Blunt' (abbreviated to 'Anthony Blunt' and 'Sir Anthony') was a further rhyming slang 'cunt' euphemism, leading to James Blunt being known as "Cunty Blunty" (Q, 2005). The Cockney pronunciation of 'cunt' was evocatively captured by Clark Collis ("You cahnt!", 2001) and Irvine Welsh ("CAHHNNTTT", 2002), and by the headline Facking Cants ("You like the word cunt, huh?"; Anita Crapper, 2005).

Cockney rhyming

'Grumble and grunt' is another Cockney rhyming slang phrase meaning 'cunt'. It has been abbreviated to 'grumble', though this abbreviation is frequently a reference to pornography, so-called because heterosexual porn includes images of vaginas ('grumble and grunts'). In this pornographic sense, 'grumble' has been extended to form 'grumble flicks' ('porn films'), 'grumble vids' ('porn videos'), 'grumble bee' ('indecisive porn consumer', a pun on 'bumble bee'), 'grumbled' ('caught in the act of masturbation', a pun on 'rumbled'), 'grumblehound' ('constant seeker of porn'), 'grummer' ('porn magazines'), 'grumbleweed' ('weak from excessive masturbation'), 'grumble in the jungle' ('porn found in the woods', a pun on 'rumble in the jungle'), 'grumbelows' ('sex shop'), 'grumbilical chord' ('connecting lead for porn TV channels', a pun on 'umbilical chord'), and 'humble grumble' ('cheap porn').

 

'Sir Berkeley' and 'Lady Berkeley' are also Cockney rhyming slang for 'cunt', albeit rather more tangentially. The 'Berkeley'/'cunt' connection stems from the rhyming slang term 'Berkeley Hunt', abbreviated to 'Berkeley' and also known as 'Berkley Hunt', 'Berkshire Hunt', 'Burlington Hunt', and 'Birchington Hunt'. It is from this that the mild insult 'berk' (or 'burk', and the Australian 'burke') is abbreviated, thus, "when [people] say 'You're a right berk', what they're actually saying is 'You're a right cunt', which is much more obscene" (Kerry Richardson, 1994). In this sense, 'berk' is similar to 'Charlie', as both are common, mild insults whose origins as rhyming slang for 'cunt' have been forgotten.

 

Like rhyming slang, limericks also rely on rhyme for their effect:

'There was a young squaw of Chokdunt
Who had a collapsible cunt'.

Slang

In backslang, 'cunt' is 'tenuc' and 'teenuc' (the extra letters being added to facilitate pronunciation), and 'cunt' in pig Latin is 'untcay'. Anagrams of 'cunt' include the Latin term 'tunc', the Viking King Cnut, and Jake and Dinos Chapman's Ucnt (2003). A feminist pressure-group called 'Cunst', an anagram of 'cunts' and a pun on 'kunst' (German for 'art') campaigned in 1996 against male domination of the Turner Prize.

 

The euphemism 'see you next Tuesday' utilises each letter of 'cunt' individually, with 'see you' sounding like 'c u', and 'n t' being the respective initial letters of 'next' and 'Tuesday'. The online group PrideTShirts sells 'See You Next Tuesday' t-shirts, and See You Next Tuesday (2005) is also the title of an album by Fannypack. See You Next Tuesday is also the title of a play adapted from the film Le Diner De Cons, thus both the play and the film have 'cunt'-related titles. Ruth Wajnryb's book Language Most Foul was retitled C U Next Tuesday when it was published in the UK in 2005. Similar to 'see you next Tuesday' is "see you in Toledo" (Brooke Gladstone, 2004), though in this case the letter 'n' is provided by a contraction of 'in'.

'Cunt' acronyms

  • "Carlton United Network Television" (British Comedy Awards, 1999)
  • CharlieUncleNorfolkTango (novel by Tony White, 1999)
  • "Completely Unbearable Neo-Trash" (Sharon O'Connell, 2000)
  • "Cuddly Uncle Ned's Trio" (John Spencer, 2001)
  • "Combined Unified Now Team" (Trailervision's C.U.N.T., 2001)
  • 'Civilian Under Naval Training' (military)
  • 'Can't Understand Normal Thinking' (military, and t-shirt slogan)
  • "Can't Use Normal Thinking" (Anthony Barnes, 2006)
  • "Chicks United for Non-noxious Transportation" (Kathy Catrib's zine C.U.N.T., 1995)
  • 'Cambridge University New Testament [Society]' (apocryphal)
  • Catholic University News And Times (University College, Dublin magazine, 1978)
  • 'Coventry University Netball Team' (unintentional)
  • "Campaign for the Uses of the Night Train" (unintentional; Private Eye, 2006)
  • "Creeps Unveiling New Trends" (Stephen Fry, 199-[b])
  • "Creating Unnecessary New Terminology" (Paul Wheeler, 2003)
  • Consciousness Understanding 'N' Trust (video by Oriana Fox, 2004)
  • "Concentration, Understanding, Nous, and Tenacity" (Mark Mylod, 1997).

Almost an acronym is the "Kuwait Union for New Teachers", abbreviated to 'KUNT'. This spoof organisation placed a classified advertisement in the Kuwait Times: "Teacher? New to Kuwait? Then you need the Kuwait Union for New Teachers. Become a KUNT, your friends can be KUNTs too" (2001). They have also printed the text onto a t-shirt.

This example, 'KUNT', can perhaps be regarded as a sly joke by an English-speaking writer in Kuwait. Similarly, embedded within an article by Sally Vincent is the line "Point A moved to point B to point C until" (2003), which is probably an intentional reference. There is no ambiguity whatsoever surrounding "-cunthorpe", a deliberate truncation of the Humberside town Scunthorpe on the back cover of a book by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (1995).

Likewise, when a knight in Thomas Heywood's Wisewomen Of Hogsdon (16--) declares, in Latin, "Nobis ut carmine dicunt", he is described as "a beastly man" to highlight the embedded obscenity. 'Cunt' also appears surreptitiously in 'cuntur', the original Peruvian term for 'condor', and in the Latin terms 'producunt' and 'nascuntur'. Phonetically, it is contained within otherwise innocent words such as 'country', 'applicant', 'significant', and 'replicant' (hence Sadie Plant's From Viruses To Replicunts in On The Matrix, 1996).

No Offence

A To Z: The Cunt Lexicon

The sheer extent of the 'cunt' lexicon supports Scott Capurro's assertion that it is "plainly the most versatile word in the English language" (2000). Its versatility is demonstrated by the following 'cunt'-related words and phrases:

  • 'Army Service Cunts' ('Army Service Corps')
  • 'big cunt' ('large vagina')
  • 'bucket cunt' ('large vagina')
  • 'bushel cunt'/'bushel-cunted' ('large vagina')
  • 'c and c'/'c and c shows' ('clips and cunts': television programmes consisting of extracts from other programmes ['clips'] with minor celebrities ['cunts'] as commentators)
  • 'CGI' ('Cunt Gap Index', 'measurement-scale for vagina sizes')
  • 'CHODA' ('Cunt Hair On Da Ass')
  • 'cooint' ('vagina', Yorkshire variant of 'cunt')
  • 'cow-cunt' ('large vagina')
  • 'cunker' ('cunt')
  • 'cunch' ('cunnilingus', 'combination of 'cunt' and lunch')
  • 'cunnimingus' ('performing cunnilingus on a diseased vagina', combination of 'cunnilingus' and 'minger')
  • 'cunnylicious' ('attractive vagina', combination of 'cunnilingus' and 'delicious')
  • 'cunshine' ('pornographic images printed on highly glossy paper')
  • 'cunt and a half' ('very idiotic')
  • "cunt-arse" ('idiot'; Verne Graham, 2005)
  • 'cuntbag' ('idiot')
  • 'cuntbitten' (infected with venereal disease')
  • 'cunt book' ('in the bad books')
  • 'cunt bread' ('vaginal yeast infection')
  • 'cunt bubble' ('vaginal fart')
  • 'cunt buster' ('erection')
  • 'cunt butter' ('vaginal fluid')
  • 'cunt cap' ('military hat')
  • 'cunt carpet' ('pubic hair')
  • 'cunt-collar' ('pussy whip')
  • 'cunt cock' ('clitoris')
  • 'cunt cork' ('tampon')
  • 'cunt-cuddling' ('masturbation')
  • 'cunt-curtain' ('pubic hair')
  • 'cunt down' ('pubic hair')
  • 'Cunt Dracula' ('idiot')
  • 'cunted' ('drunk')
  • 'cunteen' ('something unpleasant, in a quantity of between thirteen and nineteen')
  • 'cunt-eyed' ('narrow-eyed')
  • 'cunt face'/'cuntface' ('ugly')
  • 'cunt-faced' ('shit-faced')
  • 'cunt fart' ('vaginal fart')
  • 'cunt for hire' ('prostitute')
  • "cunt-fucked" ('vaginal sex'; Jim Goad, 1994[d])
  • 'cunt guff' ('vaginal fart')
  • 'cunt-hair' ('hair's breadth')
  • 'cunt-hat' ('felt hat')
  • 'cunt-hatred' ('misogyny')
  • 'cunthead' ('idiot')
  • "cunthood" ('femininity'; Jim Goad, 1994[c])
  • 'cunt hook' ('car used to attract women')
  • 'cunt-hooks' ('fingers')
  • 'cunt-hound' ('sex-obsessed')
  • 'cunt-house' ('venue populated largely by women')
  • 'cunt hunt' ('on the pull')
  • 'cuntikin' ('little cunt')
  • 'cuntinental' ('patron of an outdoor British cafe')
  • 'cunting' ('fucking')
  • 'cuntino filet with white sauce' ('cunnilingus')
  • 'cuntion' ('gumption')
  • 'cuntish' ('stupid')
  • 'cunt-ist' ('heterosexual man'; Jeffrey Merrick and Bryant T Ragan, 1996)
  • 'cunt-itch' ('sexually aroused')
  • 'cuntitude' ('bad attitude')
  • 'cunt juice' ('vaginal fluid')
  • 'cuntkin' ('little cunt')
  • 'cunker' ('vagina', euphemism for 'cunt')
  • 'cunt-lap' ('cunnilingus')
  • 'cuntlashed' ('very drunk')
  • 'cunt-leg' ('penis')
  • 'cuntlet' ('little cunt')
  • 'cunt-licker' ('cunnilinguist')
  • 'cuntlifters' ('old ladies' knickers')
  • 'cunt light'/'C-light' ('pornographic film lighting')
  • 'cunt-like' ('vaginal')
  • 'cuntlines' ("The surface seams between the strands of a rope", a variant of 'contlines'; Clifford Ashley, 1944)
  • 'cuntmeat' ('women')
  • "cunt-mutilation" ('vaginal mutilation'; Jim Goad, 1994[e])
  • 'cuntock' ('idiot'; abbreviated to 'ock')
  • 'cuntocks' ('labia'; abbreviated to 'ocks')
  • 'cunt of all cunts' ('incredibly stupid person')
  • "cunt-palaces" ('attractive vaginas'; Raymond Stephanson, 2004)
  • 'cunt-pensioner' ('pimp'; abbreviated to 'cp')
  • 'cunt pie' ('vagina')
  • 'cunt positive' ('liberal feminist')
  • "cunt-pounding" ('sexual intercourse'; Media News, 2005)
  • 'cunt-power' ('female energy')
  • 'cunt-rag' ('sanitary towel')
  • 'cunt-rats' ('tampons')
  • 'cunt ruffler' ('provoker of women')
  • 'cunt rug' ('merkin')
  • 'cuntryside' ('large vagina')
  • 'cunt's blood' ('idiot')
  • 'cuntsman' ('womaniser')
  • 'cunt smoke' ('no problem')
  • 'cunt scratchers' ('hands')
  • 'cunt-screen' ('pubic hair')
  • 'cunt-shop' ('knocking shop')
  • 'Cunts In Velvet' ('City Imperial Volunteers')
  • 'cuntsmith' ('gynaecologist')
  • 'cunt splice' ("Two [rope] ends side spliced together, with a gap between the two parts", a variant of 'cont splice' and 'cut splice'; Clifford Ashley, 1944)
  • 'cunt-stabber' ('penis')
  • 'cunt-stand' ('sexually aroused')
  • 'cunt-starver' ('errant ex-husband')
  • 'cunt-sticker' ('penis')
  • 'cunt-stirrer' ('penis')
  • 'cunt-stretcher' ('penis')
  • 'cunt-struck' ('sex-obsessed')
  • 'cunt stubble' ('constable')
  • 'cunt-sucker'/'cuntsucker' ('cunnilinguist')
  • 'cunt-teaser' ('prick-teaser')
  • 'cunt-tickler'/'cunt tickler' ('moustache')
  • 'cunt torture' ('sadomasochistic sex')
  • 'cunt trumpet' ('cunnilingus')
  • 'cunt-up' ('mistake')
  • 'cuntuppance' ('punishment for male infedility', a pun on 'come-uppance')
  • 'cunt wagon' ('passion wagon')
  • 'cuntwank' ('meaningless sex')
  • 'cunt warren' ('cunny-warren')
  • 'cuntweep' ('vaginal fluid')
  • 'cunty' ('idiot')
  • 'cunty booby' ('confusion')
  • 'cunty chops' ('beard')
  • 'Cunty McCuntlips' ('idiot')
  • 'decunt' ('withdraw the penis from the vagina')
  • 'dirty cunt' ('unclean vagina')
  • 'doss cunt' ('stupid idiot')
  • 'double-cunted' ('large vagina')
  • 'dumb cunt' ('stupid idiot')
  • 'eyes like sheep's cunts' ('hangover')
  • 'full cuntal lobotomy' ('male sexual arousal', a pun on 'full-frontal lobotomy')
  • 'get some cunt' ('male sexual gratification')
  • 'go cunt up' ('go wrong')
  • 'ICBM' ("Inter Cuntinental Ballistic Missile": 'penis'; Roger Mellie, 2005)
  • 'KFC' ('Knob Filled Cunt')
  • 'kipper's cunt' ('very smelly')
  • 'LC' ("LOW CUNT" and "LAP CUNT"; James VanCleve, 19--)
  • 'mouth like a cow's cunt' ('talkative')
  • 'petit-cunt' ('petit-bourgeois idiot')
  • 'pox-ridden cunt' ('diseased vagina')
  • 'RCH' ('Red Cunt Hair', 'hair's breadth')
  • 'scabby cunt' ('diseased vagina')
  • 'siffed-up cunt-hole' ('diseased vagina')
  • 'silly cunt!' ('stupid idiot')
  • 'sluice-cunted' ('large vagina')
  • 'smelly cunt' ('malodorous vagina')
  • 'stinky cunt' ('malodorous vagina')
  • 'sweet cunt' ('lovely vagina').

Source: MatthewHunt.com

 

{Tanya Pretorius' Bookmarks: Feminism, Cunt, Mathew Hunt's etymology}


 
 

Creative Commons Licensespacerarmadilly logo
The parts of this website that are my own work,
are licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Tanya Pretorius' Bookmarks | [fetsiboomsticks@gmail.com]

   


New
Home
About me

Email me
Infoholism
South Africa
Language
Computers
Eclectic
Feminism
Teaching
Writing
Columnists
Books
Art