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Cunt ( //) is a word that primarily describes the female genitalia, and is widely considered to be vulgar. While there are literally hundreds of pejorative terms used for male genitalia, none of them are considered by feminists to be on a par with cunt as a vulgarity. The earliest citation of this usage in the 1972 Oxford English Dictionary, c 1230, refers to the London street known as Gropecunt Lane. Scholar Germaine Greer has said that "it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock."
Cunt is also used as a derogatory epithet referring to people of either sex. This usage is relatively recent, dating from the late nineteenth century. Reflecting different national usages, cunt is described as "an unpleasant or stupid person" in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, whereas Merriam-Webster has a usage of the term as "usually disparaging and obscene: woman", noting that it is used in the U.S. as "an offensive way to refer to a woman"; the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English states that it is "a despicable man", however when used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it can convey a positive sense of the object or person referred to.
The word appears to have been in common usage from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century. After a period of disuse, usage became more frequent in the twentieth century, in parallel with the rise of popular literature and pervasive media. The term also has various other derived uses and, like fuck and its derivatives, has been used mutatis mutandis as noun, pronoun, adjective, participle and other parts of speech.
The etymology of "cunt" is a matter of debate, but most sources consider the word to have derived from a Germanic word (Proto-Germanic *kuntō, stem *kuntōn-), which appeared as kunta in Old Norse. Scholars are uncertain of the origin of the Proto-Germanic form itself. In Middle English, it appeared with many spellings, such as coynte, cunte and queynte, which did not always reflect the actual pronunciation of the word. There are cognates in most Germanic languages, such as the Swedish, Faroese and Nynorsk kunta; West Frisian and Middle Low German kunte; Middle Dutch conte; Dutch kut; Middle Low German kutte; Middle High German kotze ("prostitute"); German kott, and perhaps Old English cot. The etymology of the Proto-Germanic term is disputed. It may have arisen by Grimm's law operating on the Proto-Indo-European root *gen/gon "create, become" seen in gonads, genital, gamete, genetics, gene, or the Proto-Indo-European root *gʷneh₂/guneh₂ "woman" (Greek: gunê, seen in gynaecology). Relationships to similar-sounding words such as the Latin cunnus ("vulva"), and its derivatives French con, Spanish coño, and Portuguese cona, or in Persian kun (کون), have not been conclusively demonstrated. Other Latin words related to cunnus are cuneus ("wedge") and its derivative cunēre ("to fasten with a wedge", (figurative) "to squeeze in"), leading to English words such as cuneiform ("wedge-shaped").
Ȝeue þi cunte to cunnig and craue affetir wedding.
(Give your cunt wisely and make (your) demands after the wedding.)
The word "cunt" is generally regarded in English-speaking countries as unsuitable for normal public discourse. It has been described as "the most heavily tabooed word of all English words", although this has been disputed.
Some feminists of the 1970s sought to eliminate disparaging terms for women, including "bitch" and "cunt". In the context of pornography, Catharine MacKinnon argued that use of the word acts to reinforce a dehumanisation of women by reducing them to mere body parts; and in 1979 Andrea Dworkin described the word as reducing women to "the one essential – 'cunt: our essence ... our offence'".
Despite criticisms, there is a movement among feminists that seeks to reclaim cunt not only as acceptable, but as an honorific, in much the same way that queer has been reappropriated by LGBT people and the word nigger has by the black community. Proponents include Inga Muscio in her book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence and Eve Ensler in "Reclaiming Cunt" from The Vagina Monologues.
The word was reclaimed by Angela Carter, who used it in the title story of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories; a female character described female genitalia in a pornography book: "her cunt a split fig below the great globes of her buttocks".
Germaine Greer, who had previously published a magazine article entitled "Lady, Love Your Cunt", discussed the origins, usage and power of the word in the BBC series Balderdash and Piffle. She suggested at the end of the piece that there was something precious about the word, in that it was now one of the few remaining words in English that still retained its power to shock. Greer also alludes to the fact that the word vagina, which is considered the non-vulgar term, was a Latin name given by male anatomists for all muscle coverings, meaning "sword-sheath". She considers it contentious as cunt has no such meaning, it simply refers to the entire female genitalia (she also mentions that vagina is applied purely to the internal canal).
Cunt has been attested in its anatomical meaning since at least the 13th century. While Francis Grose's 1785 A Classical Dictionary of The Vulgar Tongue listed the word as "C**T: a nasty name for a nasty thing", it did not appear in any major English dictionary from 1795 to 1961, when it was included in Webster's Third New International Dictionary with the comment "usu. considered obscene". Its first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1972, which cites the word as having been in use since 1230 in what was supposedly a London street name of "Gropecunte Lane". It was, however, also used before 1230, having been brought over by the Anglo-Saxons, originally not an obscenity but rather a factual name for the vulva or vagina. Gropecunt Lane was originally a street of prostitution, a red light district. It was normal in the Middle Ages for streets to be named after the goods available for sale therein, hence the prevalence in cities having a medieval history of names such as "Silver Street" and "Fish Street". In some locations, the former name has been bowdlerised, as in the City of York, to the more acceptable "Grape Lane".
The word appears several times in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (c. 1390), in bawdy contexts, but it does not appear to be considered obscene at this point, since it is used openly. A notable use is from the "Miller's Tale": "Pryvely he caught her by the queynte." The Wife of Bath also uses this term, "For certeyn, olde dotard, by your leave/You shall have queynte right enough at eve ... What aileth you to grouche thus and groan?/Is it for ye would have my queynte alone?" In modernised versions of these passages the word "queynte" is usually translated simply as "cunt". However, in Chaucer's usage there seems to be an overlap between the words "cunt" and "quaint" (possibly derived from the Latin for "known"). "Quaint" was probably pronounced in Middle English in much the same way as "cunt". It is sometimes unclear whether the two words were thought of as distinct from one another. Elsewhere in Chaucer's work the word queynte seems to be used with meaning comparable to the modern "quaint" (curious or old-fashioned, but nevertheless appealing). This ambiguity was still being exploited by the 17th century; Andrew Marvell's ... then worms shall try / That long preserved virginity, / And your quaint honour turn to dust, / And into ashes all my lust in To His Coy Mistress depends on a pun on these two senses of "quaint".
By Shakespeare's day, the word seems to have become obscene. Although Shakespeare does not use the word explicitly (or with derogatory meaning) in his plays, he still plays with it, using wordplay to sneak it in obliquely. In Act III, Scene 2, of Hamlet, as the castle's residents are settling in to watch the play-within-the-play, Hamlet asks Ophelia, "Lady, shall I lie in your lap?" Ophelia replies, "No, my lord." Hamlet, feigning shock, says, "Do you think I meant country matters?" Then, to drive home the point that the accent is definitely on the first syllable of country, Shakespeare has Hamlet say, "That's a fair thought, to lie between maids' legs." In Twelfth Night (Act II, Scene V) the puritanical Malvolio believes he recognises his employer's handwriting in an anonymous letter, commenting "There be her very Cs, her Us, and her Ts: and thus makes she her great Ps", creating an unwitting pun on "cunt" and "pee". As Pauline Kiernan writes, Shakespeare ridicules "prissy puritanical party-poopers" by having "a Puritan spell out the word 'cunt' on a public stage". A related scene occurs in Henry V: when Katherine is learning English, she is appalled at the "gros, et impudique" words "foot" and "gown", which her teacher has mispronounced as "coun". It is usually argued that Shakespeare intends to suggest that she has misheard "foot" as "foutre" (French, "fuck") and "coun" as "con" (French "cunt", also used to mean "idiot"). Similarly John Donne alludes to the obscene meaning of the word without being explicit in his poem The Good-Morrow, referring to sucking on "country pleasures".
By the 17th century a softer form of the word, "cunny", came into use. A well known use of this derivation can be found in the 25 October 1668 entry of the diary of Samuel Pepys. He was discovered having an affair with Deborah Willet: he wrote that his wife "coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con my hand sub su coats; and endeed I was with my main in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also...."
Cunny was probably derived from a pun on coney, meaning "rabbit", rather as pussy is connected to the same term for a cat. (Philip Massinger: "A pox upon your Christian cockatrices! They cry, like poulterers' wives, 'No money, no coney.'") Because of this slang use as a synonym for a taboo term, the word coney, when it was used in its original sense to refer to rabbits, came to be pronounced as // (rhymes with "phoney"), instead of the original /ˈkʌni/ (rhymes with "honey"). Eventually the taboo association led to the word "coney" becoming deprecated entirely and replaced by the word rabbit.
Robert Burns used the word in his Merry Muses of Caledonia, a collection of bawdy verses which he kept to himself and were not publicly available until the mid-1960s. In "Yon, Yon, Yon, Lassie", this couplet appears: "For ilka birss upon her cunt, Was worth a ryal ransom".
James Joyce was one of the first of the major 20th-century novelists to put the word "cunt" into print. In the context of one of the central characters in Ulysses, Leopold Bloom, Joyce refers to the Dead Sea and to
... the oldest people. Wandered far away over all the earth, captivity to captivity, multiplying, dying, being born everywhere. It lay there now. Now it could bear no more. Dead: an old woman's: the grey sunken cunt of the world.
Joyce uses the word figuratively rather than literally; but while Joyce used the word only once in Ulysses, with four other wordplays ('cunty') on it, D. H. Lawrence used the word ten times in Lady Chatterley's Lover, in a more direct sense. Mellors, the gamekeeper and eponymous lover, tries delicately to explain the definition of the word to Lady Constance Chatterley:
If your sister there comes ter me for a bit o' cunt an' tenderness, she knows what she's after.
Henry Miller's novel Tropic of Cancer uses the word extensively, ensuring its banning in Britain between 1934 and 1961 and being the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grove Press, Inc. v. Gerstein, 378 U.S. 577 (1964).
Samuel Beckett was an associate of Joyce, and in his Malone Dies (1956), he writes: "His young wife had abandoned all hope of bringing him to heel, by means of her cunt, that trump card of young wives."
In referring to a woman, cunt is an abusive term usually considered the most offensive word in that context and even more forceful than bitch. This is particularly true in America, where the word is solely used referring to women or sometimes even a rather feminine man, while in the UK and Ireland, the word is an insult which can be used for anyone, much akin to calling someone a bastard or wanker. In the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the central character McMurphy, when pressed to explain exactly why he doesn't like the tyrannical Nurse Ratched, says, "she's something of a cunt, ain't she, Doc?" It can also be used to imply that the sexual act is the primary function of a woman. During the UK Oz trial for obscenity in 1971, prosecuting counsel asked writer George Melly "Would you call your 10-year-old daughter a cunt?" Melly replied "No, because I don't think she is."
Frederic Manning's 1929 book The Middle Parts of Fortune, set in World War I, is a vernacular account of the lives of ordinary soldiers and describes regular use of the word by British Tommies. The word is invariably used to describe men:
And now the bastard's wearin' the bes' pair slung round 'is own bloody neck. Wouldn't you've thought the cunt would 'a' give me vingt frong for 'em anyway? What's the cunt want to come down 'ere buggering us about for, 'aven't we done enough bloody work in th' week?
Whilst normally derogatory in English-speaking countries, the word has an informal use, even being used as a term of endearment. Like the word fuck, use between youths is not uncommon, as exemplified by its use in the film Trainspotting, where it is an integral part of the common language of the principal characters.
The word is sometimes used as a general expletive to show frustration, annoyance or anger, for example "I've had a cunt of a day!" and "This is a cunt to finish".
Australians have a habit of pairing the word with another to give a more specific meaning such as "cunt-rash" (literally, a visible disorder of the female genitalia; normally a general insult). The phrase "sick cunt" or "mad cunt" is sometimes used as a compliment by such sub-groups as surfers or the metal/hardcore music scene, although the term originated within immigrant groups who combined their use of the term "sick" with what they saw as a typically Aussie expletive.
A modern derivative adjective, cuntish (alternatively, cuntacious), meaning frustrating, awkward, or (when describing behavior) selfish, is increasingly used in England and has begun to appear in other countries, including Scotland and Ireland.
The word "cunty" is also known, although used rarely: a line from Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette is the definition of England by a Pakistani immigrant as "eating hot buttered toast with cunty fingers," suggestive of hypocrisy and a hidden sordidness or immorality behind the country's quaint façade. This term is attributed to British novelist Henry Green.
"Cunted" can mean to be extremely under the influence of drink and/or drugs.
In this sense the word is used to describe crude excess. An example of 'cunt' used as a simile to express an intense condition of bawdy, belligerent, antagonistic, or drunken behaviour, would be to describe another (or oneself) as behaving 'like a cunt'. This characterisation can be further qualified; 'like a total cunt', implying that the state of being like a cunt can have greater extremes: 'like a total shit fuck bastard cunt', for example. Such syntax though is rare.
An example in modern film script evoking 'cunt' as a simile of crude excess, and used with frank effect, is the 2000 British Film, Sexy Beast, Directed by Jonathan Glazer. In the film Don Logan, played by Ben Kingsley, arrives at the home of ex-con Garry 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone) by taxi, and as he steps from the car delivers his opening line; "Gotta change my shirt, it's sticking to me. I'm sweatin' like a cunt".
In gay slang the term is used to describe something or someone being extremely original, impressive, or fantastic in regard to style (fashion or music) or demeanor. Both "cunt" and "cunty" are used interchangeably, often in adjective form. Originating in Ball culture, the term was popularized by the song "Cunty (The Feeling)" by drag performer Kevin Aviance. 1
Theatre censorship was effectively abolished in the UK in 1968; prior to that all theatrical productions had to be vetted by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. This relaxation made possible UK productions such as the musical Hair and Oh! Calcutta!. But "cunt" was not uttered on a British stage for some years.
Broadcast media, by definition, reach wide audiences and thus are regulated externally for content. To minimise not only public criticism but also regulatory sanctions, policies have been developed by media providers as to how "cunt" and similar words should be treated. In a survey of 2000 commissioned by the British Broadcasting Standards Commission, Independent Television Commission, BBC and Advertising Standards Authority, "cunt" was regarded as the most offensive word which could be heard, above "motherfucker" and "fuck". Nevertheless, there have been occasions when, particularly in a live broadcast, the word has been aired outside editorial control:
However "cunt" has crossed over from accidental to purposeful use:
In the United States the broadcast use of "cunt" is still rare; nevertheless, the word has slowly infiltrated into broadcasting:
On 6 December 2010 on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, James Naughtie referred to the British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt as Jeremy Cunt; he covered this up explaining it as being a cough but still ended up giggling over his words while announcing the rest of the items in the next hour. A little later Andrew Marr referred to the incident during Start the Week where it was said that "we won't repeat the mistake" whereupon Marr slipped up in the same way as Naughtie had. The use of the word was described by the BBC as being "...an offensive four-letter word..."
The word has few, if any, recorded uses in mainstream cinema prior to the 1970s, the first possibly being in Carnal Knowledge (1971) in which Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) asks, "Is this an ultimatum? Answer me, you ball-busting, castrating, son of a cunt bitch! Is this an ultimatum or not?" Its subsequent use has been limited to films restricted to adult audiences, such as The Exorcist (1973) in which Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) addresses the butler, Karl (Rudolf Schündler): "Cunting Hun! Bloody damn butchering Nazi pig!" and Taxi Driver (1976) in which Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) describes himself as "A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up."
Saturday Night Fever (1977) was released in two versions, "R" (Restricted) and "PG" (Parental Guidance), the latter omitting or replacing dialogue such as Tony Manero (John Travolta)'s comment to Annette (Donna Pescow) "It's a decision a girl's gotta make early in life, if she's gonna be a nice girl or a cunt." This differential persists, and in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Agent Starling (Jodie Foster) meets Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) for the first time and passes the cell of "Multiple Miggs", who says to Starling: "I can smell your cunt." In versions of the film edited for television the word is dubbed with the word scent. The 2010 film Kick-Ass caused a controversy when the word was used by Hit-Girl because the actress playing the part was Chloë Grace Moretz who was only 11 at the time of filming.
In Britain, use of the word "cunt" may result in an "18" rating from the British Board of Film Classification. Ken Loach's film Sweet Sixteen was given an "18" in 2002, ensuring that young people of the age depicted in the film were unable to view it legally, because of an estimated twenty uses of "cunt". The BBFC's guidelines at "15" state that "the strongest terms (for example, 'cunt') may be acceptable if justified by the context. Aggressive or repeated use of the strongest language is unlikely to be acceptable." The 2010 Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll was given a "15" rating despite containing seven uses of the word. The film that has the utmost[specify] uses of the word is the Gary Oldman independent picture "Nil By Mouth." 
In their Derek and Clive dialogues, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, particularly Cook, arguably made the word more accessible in the UK; in the 1976 sketch "This Bloke Came Up To Me", "cunt" is used approximately thirty-five times. The word is also used extensively by British comedian Roy 'Chubby' Brown, which ensures that his stand-up act has never been fully shown on UK television.
Australian stand-up comedian, Rodney Rude frequently refers to his audiences as "cunts" and makes frequent use of the word in his acts, which got him arrested in Queensland and Western Australia for breaching obscenity laws of those states in the mid-1980s. Australian comedic singer Kevin Bloody Wilson makes extensive use of the word, most notably in the songs Caring Understanding Nineties Type and You Can't Say "Cunt" in Canada.
The word appears in American comic George Carlin's 1972 standup routine on the list of the seven dirty words that could not, at that time, be said on American broadcast television, a routine that led to a U. S. Supreme Court decision. While some of the original seven are now heard on US broadcast television from time to time, "cunt" remains generally taboo except for on premium paid subscription cable channels like HBO or Showtime.
The 1977 Ian Dury and The Blockheads album, New Boots and Panties used the word in the opening line of the track Plaistow Patricia, thus: "Arseholes, bastards, fucking cunts and pricks", particularly notable as there is no musical lead-in to the lyrics.
In 1979, during a concert at New York's Bottom Line, Carlene Carter introduced a song about mate-swapping called Swap-Meat Rag by stating, "If this song don't put the cunt back in country, I don't know what will."  The comment was quoted widely in the press, and Carter spent much of the next decade trying to live the comment down. However use of the word in lyrics is not recorded before the Sid Vicious' 1978 version of My Way, which marked the first known use of the word in a UK Top Ten hit, as a line was changed to "You cunt/I'm not a queer". The following year, "cunt" was used more explicitly in the song "Why D'Ya Do It?" from Marianne Faithfull's album Broken English:
Why'd ya do it, she screamed, after all we've said,
Every time I see your dick I see her cunt in my bed.
The Happy Mondays song, "Kuff Dam" (i.e. "Mad fuck" in reverse), from their 1987 debut album, Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), includes the lyrics "You see that Jesus is a cunt / And never helped you with a thing that you do, or you don't." Biblical scholar James Crossley, writing in the academic journal, Biblical Interpretation, analyses the Happy Mondays' reference to "Jesus is a cunt" as a description of the "useless assistance" of a now "inadequate Jesus". A phrase from the same lyric, "Jesus is a cunt" was included on the notorious Cradle of Filth t-shirt which depicted a masturbating nun on the front and the slogan "Jesus is a cunt" in large letters on the back. The t-shirt was banned in New Zealand, in 2008.
The word has been used by numerous non-mainstream bands, such as Australian band TISM, who released an extended play in 1993 "Australia the Lucky Cunt" (a reference to Australia's label the "lucky country"). They also released a single in 1998 entitled "I Might Be a Cunt, but I'm Not a Fucking Cunt", which was banned. The American grindcore band Anal Cunt, on being signed to a bigger label, shortened their name to AxCx.
More recently, in 2012, the word appears at least 10 times in Azealia Banks' song 212. She is also known to refer to her fans on Facebook as "kuntz". Banks has said she is "tired" of defending her profanity-laden lyrics from critics, saying they reflect her everyday speech and experiences.
The 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the first video game to use the word, only once (along with being the first in the series to use the words "nigga", "motherfucker", and "cocksucker"), used by the British character Kent Paul (voiced by Danny Dyer), who refers to Maccer as a "soppy cunt" in the mission "Don Peyote".
In the 2008 title Grand Theft Auto IV by Rockstar North and distributed by Take Two Interactive, available on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, the word, amongst many other expletives, was used by James Pegorino after finding out that his personal bodyguard, who had turned states, who exclaimed "The world is a cunt!" while aiming a shotgun at the player.
Deriving from a dirty joke: "What's the difference between a circus and a strip club?"- "The circus has a bunch of cunning stunts...", the phrase cunning stunt has been used in popular music. Its first documented appearance was by the English band Caravan who released the album Cunning Stunts in July 1975; the title was later used by Metallica for a CD/Video compilation, and in 1992 the Cows released an album with the same title. In his 1980s BBC television programme, Kenny Everett played a vapid starlet, Cupid Stunt, and in 2005 comedian Al Murray has hosted a British television comedy game show, Fact Hunt.
There are numerous informal acronyms, including various apocryphal stories concerning academic establishments, such as the Cambridge University National Trust Society.
The name "Mike Hunt" is a frequent substitute; it has been used in a scene from the movie Porky's, and for a character in the BBC radio comedy Radio Active in the 1980s. "Has Anyone Seen Mike Hunt?" were the words written on a "pink neon sculpture" representing the letter C, in a 2004 exhibition of the alphabet at the British Library in collaboration with the International Society of Typographic Designers.
As well as obvious references, there are also allusions. On I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, Stephen Fry once defined countryside as the act of "murdering Piers Morgan". In Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, Donna and Gaz are perusing erotic novels when they come across The Count of Monte Cristo; Gaz helpfully informs Donna that 'it doesn't say Count'. Similarly, in an episode of Spaced, Sophie tells Tim that she can't see him as there's been a misprint on the title of one of the magazines she works on – Total Cult. In all these uses, the audience are left to make the connection.
Never in the House did I use the word which comes to mind. The nearest I came to doing so was when Sir Winton Turnbull, a member of the cavalleria rusticana, was raving and ranting on the adjournment and shouted: "I am a Country member". I interjected "I remember". He could not understand why, for the first time in all the years he had been speaking in the House, there was instant and loud applause from both sides.
Several celebrities have had their names used as euphemisms, including footballer Roger Hunt, actor Gareth Hunt, singer James Blunt, and 1970s motor-racing driver James Hunt, whose name was once used to introduce the British radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue as "the show that is to panel games what James Hunt is to rhyming slang".
A canting form of some antiquity is berk, short for "Berkeley Hunt" or "Berkshire Hunt", and in a Monty Python sketch, an idioglossiac man replaces the initial "c" of words with "b", producing "silly bunt". Scottish comedian Chic Murray claimed to have worked for a firm called "Lunt, Hunt & Cunningham".
The word "cunt" forms part of some technical terms used in seafaring and other industries.
Margolis, Jonathan (November 21, 2002). "Expletive deleted". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2002/nov/21/britishidentity.features11. Retrieved 2008-06-09.Ethnic slurs are regarded as the taboo ... Nigger is far more taboo than fuck or even cunt. I think if a politician were to be heard off-camera saying fuck, it would be trivial, but if he said nigger, that would be the end of his career.
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