Sunday, October 23, 2005

Quaint am I?

Since I've been called quaint, and because I'm a clever bastard who knows this kind of shit, I thought you might like to know that quaint once meant cunt.

The word quaint, possibly from the Latin for 'known', has also been used in historical times in much the same way as cunt and probably had a similar pronunciation. A notable early use of quaint was from Chaucer in his Miller's Tale "Pryvely he caught hir by the queynte".

Did you know Grape Street in London was once called Grope Cunt Street for obvious reasons?

Good word cunt. Very little has been written about it. The longest account so far published is an entry in Hugh Rawson's Dictionary Of Invective, in which he calls 'cunt' "The most heavily tabooed of all English words" (1989).

'Cunt', while essentially a gynaecological term, is now more often uttered as a swearword; it is rarely employed in its literal, anatomical sense, and is instead found in abusive ('fucking cunt'), misogynist ('you cunt!'), and pornographic (cunt.com) contexts.

'Cunt' is a short, monosyllabic word, though its brevity is deceptive. Like many swearwords, it has been incorrectly dismissed as merely Anglo-Saxon slang, as the anonymous Ode To Those Four-Letter Words cautions:

"friend, heed this warning, beware the affront
Of aping a Saxon: don't call it a cunt!"

'Cunt' is not strictly a slang term; like other 'four-letter words', it was originally standard English and was deliberately marginalised in favour of polysyllabic alternatives. Thus, 'cunt' was replaced with 'vagina' and 'pudendum', 'crap' gave way to 'excrement', and 'piss' was surpassed by 'urine'.

The prefix 'cu' is one of the oldest word-sounds in recorded language. It is an expression quintessentially associated with femininity, and is the basis of 'cow' ('female animal'), 'queen' ('female monarch'), and, of course, 'cunt' ('female genital'). The word's second most significant influence is the Latin term 'cuneus', meaning 'wedge', from which comes 'cunnus' ('vagina').

A 1972 supplement (edited by RW Burchfield) to the Oxford English Dictionary, the foremost authority on English etymology, clarifies the word's commonest contexts as the two-fold "female external genital organs" and "term of vulgar abuse". At the heart of this incongruity is our culture's negative attitude towards femininity. 'Cunt' is a primary example of the multitude of tabooed words and phrases relating to female sexuality, and of the misogyny inherent in sexual discourse.

So now you know.

But if you want the complete low down, go here.

Category: English Language_

13 Comments:

Blogger Span Ows said...

My God Gavin!...this is.....WONDERFUL stuff!!! Apart from the original swipe at me (I said your blog was great by the way (!!!!) but added that it started off being a...a...bit of a cunt!!

I find it very hard to say this word or even write it...just not me you know but a VERY good piece...I was aware of the cuneus/ wedge thing but not really gone into it that deeply...as the bishop said to the actress.

Sun Oct 23, 12:19:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Span Ows said...

P.S...two great links here..the one to my post (thanks) and the one to Matthew Hunt...really good...I'm going back there now for a better look.

Sun Oct 23, 12:22:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Thank you! You won't call me quaint again in a hurry!

Sun Oct 23, 03:08:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

However I reserve the right to post crap as I see fit!

Sun Oct 23, 03:44:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Ken Crabshaw said...

I hope my wife doesn't find this - I called her "quaint" recently, in all innocence...

Wed Oct 26, 05:08:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Welcome Ken! English is a wonderful language. The more you know, the better it gets!

Wed Oct 26, 05:25:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Six Years Late said...

testing

Tue Mar 21, 01:24:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

1, 2, 3...

Tue Mar 21, 03:48:00 PM GMT  
Blogger Mat said...

Thanks a lot for linking to my cunt site! Much appreciated.

Sat May 13, 03:47:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Sperestillan said...

Blimey! LOL! I never knew that about the word 'quaint'!
I love it.

Mon Aug 07, 01:40:00 PM GMT+1  
Anonymous Will said...

Nice piece, and quaintly topical what with the fuss the septics are making right now over Ms. Fonda's little C-word lapse. No, not "Chaucer".

I guess a few people would think twice about calling someone a "berk" in polite society, if only they knew what it meant.

Sun Feb 17, 02:22:00 AM GMT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutally facinating.
I'm becoming quite a fan of your blog, dear.
Keep faith,
Clara

Sun Oct 19, 02:10:00 PM GMT+1  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Thanks Clara. Which other bits do you like?

Wed Oct 22, 03:20:00 PM GMT+1  

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