Lexicon Valley

The OED Gets All C-Wordy. You Should Too.

Among the Oxford English Dictionary’s list of “new word entries” for March 2014 are the following four adjectives:

  • cunted
  • cunting
  • cuntish
  • cunty

In what has turned out to be a rather cunt-happy month at the OED, these “subentries” were added as well:

  • cunt lapper
  • cunt-bitten
  • cunt-sucker

If cunted sounds crude, it nevertheless has a place in a lexicon that comfortably embraces labels like cocksucker, dickhead, and even asshole. The fact is that much of modern English has been influenced by writers like Shakespeare, whose Malvolio slyly spells out C-U-N-T in Twelfth Night, and Chaucer, who used the more quaint-looking queynte. As New York-based journalist Lauren Davidson noted recently, “[I]t really does seem only fair that if Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, James Joyce and D.H. Lawrence—a bunch of old white men—could use it rather joyfully, why shouldn’t we?”

Indeed, why shouldn’t we? But the c-word, as those with delicate sensibilities might call it, has long been held as The single WORST word you can ever say, particularly around a woman!!! It ostensibly gathers the most hateful aspects of misogyny into a single brief syllable, an aggressive and demeaning attack that oppresses women the world over. Oh, horror!

Such a display of woman-hating power is remarkable given how many of us are quite happy to let loose with a cunty war cry. Because let’s be serious. Cunt is a bloody great word. It’s short, sharp, and sweet. It’s the perfect antidote to airy nonsense about the yoni goddess tending nature’s most sacred flower garden, or whatever cringe-worthy descriptions of the vagina are now in vogue. It can be used scornfully or with great affection. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, it’s a homophone: I have a cunt, Piers Morgan is a cunt.

But the best part about the word cunt is that, when used correctly, it can help women channel an anger that is invigorating and necessary. There are few greater pleasures than playing with the mouthfeel of a good cunt and all its variations. It can be stretched out long, emphasizing the uhhhh sound for maximum impact: “Cuuuuuuuuuuuuuunt,” you might yawn in the morning, after the alarm interrupts you from that Very Important Dream about Zach Galifianakis.

It can be short and staccato, for those moments when you stub your toe, say, or accidentally flip on The Footy Show: “Stone the cunted crows! Make the cuntishness stop! I can’t cunting handle it anymore!”

It can be used in a bored and withering fashion: “Don’t be so cunty, Mummy. You’re dreadfully dull. Besides, all the other cunts are wearing them.”

In fact, the only thing offensive about cunt is that women have been denied the proper use of it for so long. How has a word that warehouses such ferocity and power, that is so uncompromising in its phonetics, and whose imagery touches on the mysterious and the untamable, been stolen from women for our own protection?

Why is it not okay to call someone a cunt—or to even write the word in a newspaper—but it’s okay to throw around the word pussy? Pussy is a way to call people—men, mainly—weak. It’s used to feminize a man, turning him into the worst thing he could possibly be—a woman. Pussies cry and “act like girls.” They’re corruptible and passive. And, come to think of it, pussy is a homophone too. Weak blokes are pussies. Real blokes fuck pussies.

Is that what we want?

It all fits neatly into the stereotypical view of femininity, the one that’s used as an insult on sporting fields and other male-dominated social codes. Come on, you pussies! Quit your crying! You throw like a girl! Man up. Somehow it’s okay to diminish women as a group by using us to emasculate men, reducing them to our lowly, weak status. That’s just cunted, mate.

I dream of the day when women are all linguistic cunt lappers, wrapping our mouths around wonderfully descriptive insults and verbally satisfying outbursts of rage. We let the patriarchy take a word that represents a core part of many of us and turn it into something degrading, the most horrible thing you could ever be made to think about and the most vicious thing you could ever be called. As Davidson points out, cunt’s “early origins were technical rather than obscene” and only later was it “(re)branded negatively.”

There’s a long and honorable tradition of reclaiming weaponized words, from ethnic and racial slurs to homophobic insults. Cunt was ours to lose. It’s time we took it back.