The Impressive History of Cunt

The brilliant Twitter account Whores of Yore now has a blog and it’s a corker. I want to draw your attention to a beautifully written and research essay on the history of the word “cunt”.

“A Nasty Name for a Nasty Thing” goes into incredible detail on the linguistic origins of the word and it’s usage over the last 800 years, in literature and everyday life. There’s so much I’d love to quote but here’s a glimpse.

​Cunt, however, predates both these terms and derives from a Proto-Indo-European root word meaning either woman, knowledge, creator or queen, which is far more empowering than a word that means ‘I hold cock’. Plus, cunt means the whole glorious goodie bag; inside and outside. There’s no need to split pubic hairs when it comes to cunt. Words like ‘vulva’ and ‘vagina’ are linguistic efforts to offer sanitised, medicalised alternatives to cunt. And if that wasn’t enough to sway you over to team cunt, in 1500 Wynkyn de Worde defined ‘vulva’ as ‘in English, a cunt’ (Ortus vocabulorum, 1500).

​Cunt is not slang; cunt is the original.

I learned a lot reading this essay, like how “flapdoodle” is a euphemism that dates to 1683 and that “vulva” isn’t such a great term because it origins still focused on the womb. It talks about GropeCuntLanes, which were historically places of sex work and it also lets me know that “quaint” is not as quaint as you’d think – it’s another euphemism for cunt.

Just go and read the whole thing.

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There was a time when I hated the word cunt. I’d only ever heard it used in derogatory or cruel ways, like the time at a school disco that a boy crushed my good time by coming up to me and saying “God you’re an ugly cunt.”  I never used it to swear as a teen or in my 20s and I always felt dirty hearing it, perhaps because it had so many negative, nasty connotations.

The word is often used in a misogynist context and for many women, it’s irredeemable.

But I learned to love the word one day in the late 90s with my husband and our friend. On a whim, we decided to say it at every opportunity that day, peppering the conversation with it, deliberately shouting it, relishing the percussive force of the word.

“Let’s go to the beach, ya silly CUNT!”

“Geez, where’s ya indicator CUNT?”

“This cunting ice cream is a delicious cunt of a cunt.”

It felt like such a transgressive thing to do and it made us laugh a lot. And by the end of the day, it had totally lost its meaning as well as its taboo. I felt like I’d exorcised the demons of this feared curse and seen it for what it was – just another bunch of sounds we call a “word”.

Later, when I’d entered the realms of porn, I came to properly appreciate “cunt” as a feminist, erotic descriptor. Nothing else did as good a job of describing female genitals. Cunt is both sexy and linguistically glorious and I use it all the time in my writing. There’s something totally carnal about it; it avoids the flowery language of romance novels and lays bare the basic reality of female sexuality. When you talk about cunts and fucking or licking a cunt, there’s no pretending that women aren’t horny, or ravenous, or orgasmic, or lustful. When you do it the right way, your cunt knows and it responds without needing to care about manners or beauty standards or any of that distracting shit. A cunt is honest and a cunt knows, a cunt wants and seeks out pleasure without shame or apology.

And I wholeheartedly support reclaiming it as a feminist word because, as Kate at Whores of Yore writes, “Cunt is the original.”

Have at it, ya cunts.

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