Etymology of the C-word

15 Feb

"Oh no you didn't!"

For me, the c-word is the most vile word in the English language. It is more acceptable to say fuck than the c-word. In fact, as you will notice, I can’t even bring myself to type it out. I cringe at the sound of it, while the image of a filthy and diseased sphincter fills my mind. It rhymes with the words “punt”, “blunt” and “stunt”. Yet, these three words don’t send me searching for the exits. So clearly, the problem with the c-word does not stem from the sound of it but from its long history of usage as a symbol of misogyny and as a term of rebuke.

So in order to help me understand my revulsion to the word, I went in search of its origins. It was with great hesitation that I Googled the word. I had enough sense to put “etymology” in front of it which steered me towards the more academic websites and I managed to avoid being inundated with porn. My search led me to William Gordon Casselman’s interesting essay “A Blunt History of the Word C**t“. It was no surprise to find that in Chaucer’s England, the c-word was not obscene and that in other cultures other forms of the word were meant to celebrate and glorify women, not disparage them.

There’s a small movement to take back the c-word, but I’m not sure how successful it will be. I think the movement to take back the Swastika to its Eastern religious roots  has a better chance. So, how do you feel about the c-word?


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