|Jack Collins (_blackjack_)
Post Number: 825
|Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 9:03 pm: |
I did a paper on this very subject in college. The short version is that most of our "dirty" words were originally standard-usage words. The primary catalyst for their "dirtification" was the rise of Protestantism, and Puritanism in particualr, in the 17th and 18th centuries. There was a shift from condmenation of spiritual sin to physical sin, and as such any discussion of base anatomical function became taboo, as did the associated language. The word "belly" was even considered obscene for some time.
You can still see the contrast between English and languages like French and Spanish. Sexual and anatomical language is not considered nearly as taboo in those countries, while blasphamy is much more condmened.
This is a gross oversimplification, but that's the basic jist.
Post Number: 858
|Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2003 - 1:11 pm: |
Again, posted by our favorite author of the moment, Michel Faber, to a mailing list I'm on ...
The etymology of the word "cunt" as a jibe. Gorgeous stuff for the erotic geek.
My thanks to Cedric Barfoot, who has sent me, off-list, a huge file copied from the OED tracing the etymology of 'fuck' (both
noun & verb) and 'cunt'. For those interested, I have re-copied this material and converted it into deformatted PC-friendly
text below (after my sign-off).
OED confirms my sense that the words 'fuck' and 'cunt' were not used as insults or intensifiers until the 20th century. (It's
a poignant reminder of how low the reputation of the word 'cunt' has sunk, when we see the dignified, no-nonsense reference in
Lanfranc's Cirurg, a 15th century medical textbook: "In wymmen the necke of the bladdre is schort, & is maad fast to the
OED still fails, however, to answer the question, When did this shift away from exactitude occur? All the earliest examples
cited for the lazy misuse of 'fuck', 'fucking' and 'cunt' are from just one 1929 text, 'Middle Parts of Fortune' by F.
Manning. (The citation 'God fuck...' from Joyce's 'Ulysses', 1922, seems to me more ambiguous in its intended meaning than OED
suggests) But surely the mysterious Mr Manning was not single-handedly responsible for the shift into misuse? 'Middle Parts
of Fortune' would seem to be a memoir of military life, and as such it presumably records speech that was common among
soldiers during World War I. This would tie in with Lesley Hall's comments as follows:
> Didn't D H Lawrence use these words in _Lady
> Chatterley's Lover_ exactly because he felt they were
> being used as common swear words (by the 1920s)and
> wanted in a sense to rescue them (as Mellors rescues
> Connie)? Or am I conflating Lawrence's reasons with
> Richard Hoggart's defence - at least in his intro to
> the transcript of Regina vs Penguin Books - in which
> he drew attention to the lazy and routine use
> of 'fucking' as an intensifying adjective, especially
> in the Army?
The lack of citations pre-1929 really is very intriguing. We can verify that the shift has not yet occurred by the 1890s, and
we can assume that it is in place shortly after the Great War (by which time Lawrence is writing 'Lady Chatterley' and Manning
is writing 'Middle Parts of Fortune'). Could it be that one of the lesser-known effects of the First World War was to put
legions of young men under such intolerable stress that the traditional intensives and insults no longer seemed potent enough
to express their anger/frustration? And were the words 'fuck', 'fucking' and 'cunt' chosen because of the intense sexual
loneliness/desire of doomed, homesick soldiers in the trenches? (The Eros/Thanatos tension?)
Forgive me if such speculation seems far-fetched, but it does strike me as strange and significant that this linguistic shift
coincided with this catastrophic mass slaughter of young Englishmen.
[ME. cunte, count(e), corresponding to ON. kunta (Norw., Sw. dial. kunta, Da. dial. kunte), OFris., MLG., MDu. kunte: Gmc.
*kunt n wk. fem.; ulterior relations uncertain.]
1. The female external genital organs. Cf. QUAINT n.
Its currency is restricted in the manner of other taboo-words: see the small-type note s.v. FUCK v.
[c1230 in Ekwall Street-Names of City of London (1954) 165 Gropecuntelane.] a1325 Prov. Hendyng (Camb. Gg. I. 1) st. 42
Yeue i cunte to cunnig and craue affetir wedding. c1400 Lanfranc's Cirurg. 172/12 In wymmen the necke of the bladdre is
schort, & is maad fast to the cunte. c1425 Castle of Perseverance (1904) 1193 Mankynde, my leue lemman, I my cunte thou
schalt crepe. 1552 LYNDESAY Satyre Procl. 144 First lat me lok thy cunt, Syne lat me keip the key. a1585 POLWART Flyting
with Montgomerie (1910) 817 Kis the cunt of ane kow. c1650 in Hales & Furnivall Percy's Folio MS. (1867) 99 Vp start the
Crabfish, & catcht her by the Cunt. 1743 WALPOLE Little Peggy in Corr. (1961) XXX. 309 Distended cunts with alum shall be
braced. c1800 BURNS Merry Muses (1911) 66 For ilka hair upon her c - t, Was worth a royal ransom. c1888-94 My Secret Life
VII. 161, I sicken with desire, pine for unseen, unknown cunts. 1934 H. MILLER Tropic of Cancer (1935) 15 O Tania, where now
is that warm cunt of yours? 1956 S. BECKETT Malone Dies 24 His young wife had abandoned all hope of bringing him to heel, by
means of her cunt, that trump card of young wives.
transf. and fig. a1680 LD. ROCHESTER Poems on Several Occasions (1950) 28 Her Hand, her Foot, her very look's a Cunt. 1922
JOYCE Ulysses 61 The grey sunken cunt of the world. 1928 D. H. LAWRENCE Lady Chatterley xvi. 296 If your sister there comes
ter me for a bit o' cunt an' tenderness, she knows what she's after.
2. Applied to a person, esp. a woman, as a term of vulgar abuse.
1929 F. MANNING Middle Parts of Fortune I. viii. 159 What's the cunt want to come down 'ere buggering us about for,
'aven't we done enough bloody work in th' week? 1932 ^ÑG. ORWELL^Ò Coll. Essays (1968) I. 88 Tell him he's a cunt from me.
1934 H. MILLER Tropic of Cancer (1935) 28 Two cunts sail in Americans. 1956 S. BECKETT Malone Dies 99 They think they can
confuse me... Proper cunts whoever they are. 1965 V. HENRIQUES Face I Had 69 ^ÑWhat d'you think you're doing, you silly
cunt?^Ò the driver shouts at her.
1680 ANON. in Rochester's Poems on Several Occasions (1950) 36 Fam'd through the World, for the C--nt-mending Trade. 1868
Index Expurgatorius of Martial 32 A satire on Baeticus, who was a priest of Cybele, and a cunt-sucker. 1891 FARMER Slang II.
230/2 Cunt-struck, enamoured of women. 1923 J. MANCHON Le Slang 97 Cunt-hat,..chapeau de feutre. 1965 F. SARGESON Memoirs of
Peon, ii. 28 We were all helplessly and hopelessly c...struck, a vulgar but forcibly accurate expression.
“A lady who has a secure seat is never prettier than when in the saddle, and she who cannot make her conquest there, may despair of the power of her charms elsewhere.” - THE MANNERS THAT WIN, 1880