The ‘C’ word

We all know which four letter word I’m talking about, just from the initial letter.  I think that it has come into prominant use in the age of the Internet, but it is in fact, a very old word.  The Oxford English Dictionary cites uses going back into the middle ages.  There was a Gropecuntelane in Oxford (I wonder what went on there?) and a suggestively named hill called Cuntelowe, in Warwickshire.  The word was even included in people’s names, such as Robert Clevecunt, and Bele Wydecunthe.

Since the early middle ages the word was used in books up to the middle of the 18th century, but by the time that Dr Johnson was writing his dictionary it was considered by many to be vulgar, and fell out of use in published works until the 1960s.  Could the introduction of mechanised printing presses also have allowed the introduction of censorship?

Since the 1960s the word has fallen into increased use, particularly on electronic media cannot be easily censored.

So starting this history once more.  The word was considered acceptable to use, even in a bawdy setting; then “society” considered that the word wasn’t acceptable.  And finally…well “society” tollerates its use, but still considers it unacceptable.

Today, I most definately have to consider my audience before using the word.  It’s inconceivable that I will be able to get away with visiting Oxford and asking a stranger for directions to Gropecuntelane.  In fact I could probably list below the people who I could say the word to.

Women tend to be more offended by its use than men.  The word is ‘hard’ and coarse in a way that the word “cock” isn’t.  Call a man a “cock” and it’s a jokey insult.  Call a woman a “cunt” and, well…  The same could be said when using “stud” and “slut”.  Again, the woman takes the harder, more negative name.  I think that it is a bit more than that though.  Refer to a man’s “cock”, and one is treating it with friendly regard.  Many women would like their genitals to be treated with the same respect.  And that word doesn’t cut the mustard.

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